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Tuesday, June 18, 2024 at 9:11 PM

In Dire Straits - Library Closed for a Week to Regroup

Board Chairman Kelli Kelly resigns, as does the last remaining full-time staff member, leaving Library Director and two part-time pages.
In Dire Straits - Library Closed for a Week to Regroup
File photo. Churchill County Library.

During an Emergency Meeting held on May 23, the decision to close the Churchill County Library for a week through May 31 was made. This will give Library Director C.L. Quillen time to train volunteers and work through a contract with Manpower for temporary staffing. 

The last remaining full-time library employee resigned on May 22, leaving Quillen with only two part-time pages going into June. June is typically one of the busiest Library months, with school children out for the summer and the launch of the Summer Reading program. 

Since the beginning of the year, five of the 6.5 library employees have either retired or resigned.

As a result, the library was closed that day without prior notice. A sign was put on the door, and a notification was posted on the Library and County Facebook page. However, parents were already arriving for Storytime. 

“I pulled up with my children to drop them off to volunteer for story hour like they do every Wednesday. All of the library kids and their library grown-ups were on the lawn. We all came all the way there to find that the library was not open,” said one mother. 

Typically, an average of 90 children ages 0-5 access the children’s programming every week. 

Civil Deputy District Attorney Jeff Weed said during the emergency meeting that one of the remaining two part-time pages also gave notice to leave.

A member of the public, Katelyn Hansen, a mother who takes her children to the library several times a week, gave public comment at the beginning of the meeting. “You board members were made aware of the problem the library was facing many weeks ago. Instead of facing the facts, you decided to give C.L. more time to fix the problem she has created. She has had enough time… you should be ashamed of yourselves. You have failed the patrons of the library and the community.” 

The emergency meeting follows on the heels of a regular meeting of the Library Board of Trustees held on May 16, where the board approved Quillen’s annual evaluation and step increase with the caveat that they would implement an improvement plan that included mediation with staff, conflict management training, monthly reports at the board meetings from Quillen on the progress of these actions, and a three-month evaluation at the August Board Meeting. 

The August agenda item will allow the board to take administrative action should it be warranted. 

Quillen read a lengthy, prepared statement when asked if she had any input into the situation. 

“I do have rather a lot to say,” Quillen said. “My goals have been to build on what Carol Lloyd had done. My goals were to create a welcoming third space where our community finds books and information that matches a broad variety of interest. Where they have access to new technologies, and this remains a place where the community can come… to a place that is free, and open to everyone…”

She continued, saying that if “all these things were happening, staff had many opportunities to bring it to HR or the board so my alleged behavior could have been addressed and corrected. If my behavior was so egregious it’s really hard for me to imagine why these staff members didn’t go to HR or discuss the issue with board members. Unfortunately, there are no concrete examples or specific instances that have been related to these accusations.” 

Addressing the accusations of being contentious and hostile, Quillen said, “I think there is a misunderstanding of contentious. Not being allowed to do something does not make me contentious. It makes me a protector of library policy and patron privacy.”

A motion to approve the evaluation passed on a 4-1 vote, with Tara Price-Gritzmacher, Jessica Rowe, Ashlee McGarity, and Jo Petteruti voting yes and Chairwoman Kelli Kelly voting no. 

Board members also voted to cut the hours of the library from 55 per week to 48 hours per week for the next six weeks to keep the library open with the few remaining staff available at the time. The library policy requires there to be two staff members in the building when it is open for safety reasons. 

The decision to cut hours will be revisited at the regular board meeting scheduled for June 27.

Immediately following the May 16 meeting, Chairwoman Kelly resigned from the board, effective immediately. “It was clear to me that I am not the best person to lead the board,” she said. 

A special meeting of the Library Board of Trustees will be held on Friday, May 31, 2024, at 3 p.m. at the City Council Chambers, 55 W. Williams, for the four remaining board members to consider the job performance of Library Director C.L. Quillen, including her professional competence. According to the agenda posted last week, the board can take administrative action, which could include terminating Quillen’s employment as the library director. 

A complete agenda can be found at https://www.churchillcountynv.gov/1081/Agendas-Minutes, and public comments can be submitted to [email protected].