Bashaw town council heard a report to clarify whether they have any authority over the public library board or its employees amid a controversy affecting that community. The report was given to council at their Jan. 17 regular meeting of council.
Town Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Theresa Fuller reported back to councillors on the roles and responsibilities of both municipal councils and public library boards amid backlash in the community over the recent release of the Bashaw Public Library manager.
Typically, civic employee hirings and releases are done behind closed doors and newspapers hear little to nothing about such issues. However, the public has submitted letters to the editor to the East Central Alberta (ECA) Review newspaper discussing this issue publicly while numerous comments have appeared on social media about the library manager’s release.
In a phone call to the ECA Review Jan. 19 Fuller noted that councillors, at a previous meeting, acknowledged the community had questions and concerns about the library manager’s release and had been contacting town council with those concerns.
Councillors requested more information on the roles and responsibilities of town council and the library board.
Fuller stated she provided a report to council that included information from the provincial government showing libraries have much autonomy from the municipalities they reside in; libraries are governed by their own act, the Libraries Act, whereas municipalities are governed by the Municipal Government Act (MGA).
While municipalities like Bashaw provide funding for the local library board, such a board also gets provincial funding and has its own volunteer board of directors which can hire its own employees.
Fuller reported to council the library board is a separate governing body.
She also noted, however, there is some discussion in the community about how library board members were recruited; they ultimately have to be approved by a resolution of council too.
The CAO also noted Mayor Rob McDonald and Coun. Jackie Northey are both representatives to the library board, and it was clarified that when attending library board meetings the two act as board members, and when attending council meetings the two act as councillors.
Fuller stated again that she clarified the library manager is an employee of the library board, not the Town of Bashaw.
Further, she explained town council’s primary role with the public library is to examine and approve the library’s annual budget; if councillors have questions or concerns about the library, this is a good time to address those.
The CAO’s report also included a provincial government document that explained the nine roles and responsibilities of municipal councils when it comes to library boards.
Those nine roles and responsibilities included establishing a library board, appointing board members, funding local library service, providing for a library building and equipment, determining the financial review, receiving the library board bylaws, receiving library board reports, participating in regional library systems and appointing members to the regional system board.
Fuller stated councillors had a “lengthy discussion” about their roles and responsibilities with the local library board, and had no concerns with her report. They unanimously accepted it as information.
By Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Jan 31, 2024 at 13:00