A Need For Patient, Considerate Leadership At The Library

To the Editor:

A former C.H. Booth employee, longtime Booth patron and current practicing librarian, I was delighted to witness so many people turn out to discuss the library’s future at the August 24th focus group meeting. During the 90-minute session, many of the 30-plus people present spoke passionately about the library’s importance to our community and the need for patient, considerate leadership. Patron comments made it apparent that new director Shawn Fields has invited widespread criticism by reportedly making and proposing hasty, ill-advised changes to library personnel and facilities. Numerous people in attendance repeatedly urged Mr. Fields to slow down and listen attentively to library staff and the Newtown community before implementing further changes.

Despite having heard many negative reports about Mr Fields’ behavior and actions, I did witness some heartening themes emerge from Saturday's forum. For example, Mr Fields spent some time discussing his plans to standardize library labor practices and increase library safety through policy development, facilities improvement and staff training. As a former library employee and current patron, I perceive a particularly strong need at C.H. Booth for robust, comprehensive security policies and procedures formulated with the help of trained professionals such as local law enforcement officials.

Although I approve soundly of Mr Fields’ proposal to improve library security, I remain deeply troubled by reports that continue to circulate about some of his other plans. For instance, I heard during the focus group session that he intends to move the reference department to the second floor even though removing all staff presence from the third floor would cause numerous problems, including considerable inconvenience to patrons who wish to use the collections on that level.

During the meeting Mr Fields did not affirm or deny plans to move the reference department. Nonetheless, I feel compelled to join many of my fellow patrons in stating my hope that he will not effect this type of dramatic change without adequate input and support from staff, patrons and other key stakeholders. As he settles into his new library director position, he would do well to work respectfully and patiently with all concerned groups to ensure the continued success of this treasured community resource and its highly competent, award-winning staff.

Sarah Zimmermann

71 Mile Hill Road South, Newtown August 26, 2013

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