Joint group meets to talk library issues

MARSHALL – Members of a joint committee tasked with resolving issues related to the Marshall-Lyon County Library seemed to find some common ground at their first meeting on Thursday. However, the discussion’s progress was slowed by questions about the legal rules of Minnesota’s regional library systems.

The group will meet again next week. Meanwhile, Marshall City Administrator Ben Martig said he would seek more information from the Marshall city attorney.

The committee, formed of members of the Lyon County Board, the Marshall City Council and the Marshall-Lyon County Library Board, met early Thursday morning to discuss a memorandum of understanding proposed by city council member Glenn Bayerkohler. Bayerkohler had brought the memo before the city council earlier this month, saying that both the city and county needed to be included in talks about MLCL’s decision to leave the Plum Creek Regional Library System.

“We’re all partners,” Bayerkohler said. Consultation was especially needed, because leaving Plum Creek had significant legal and financial ramifications for both the city and county.

Bayerkohler’s memo of understanding proposed actions including that the library, city and county update the 1987 agreement between them; that the three entities seek amendments to state law that establish conflict resolution processes for regional library systems; and that MLCL re-join Plum Creek and continue to negotiate conflict resolution. If that doesn’t work out, the memo said, the joint committee should work out what to do next.

“Something needs to be done. I think we all agree on that, or we wouldn’t be here,” said Marshall City Council member Mike Boedigheimer.

However, committee members said, a lot of the proposed memo’s suggestions depended on MLCL being accepted back into Plum Creek. Boedigheimer asked if state law gave regional library systems the power to reject applicants, or expel member libraries.

“I think we need to know, absolutely,” he said.

“I’m not sure state law provides all that much guidance,” Bayerkohler said. Existing terms don’t cover much more than outlines for participation in regional systems, he said.

Martig said he had been in e-mail contact with Plum Creek Director Mark Ranum about the possibility of MLCL re-joining the system. Martig said Ranum informed him that the Plum Creek board of directors would have to decide whether to accept MLCL, as it would a new member library. He also didn’t know what terms the board members may set for MLCL’s membership.

MLCL board president Gwen Sturrock said that was a concern for the board. On one hand, there was a possibility that MLCL could be required to stay with Plum Creek a set amount of time, or be stuck with unfavorable or punitive terms. There was also no guarantee that Plum Creek board members would accept MLCL back. However, Sturrock did support the idea of pushing for updates to state statutes governing regional library systems.

Bayerkohler also highlighted the need to have some kind of conflict resolution policy or checks and balances for regional library systems. But, committee members said, there would be no point in talking about that unless MLCL was a member of a regional library in the first place.

“We can’t resolve something if we’re not a party to the transaction,” Boedigheimer said.

Martig said he would speak to the Marshall city attorney to try and find some answers to some of the group’s legal questions.