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Audit calls for changes at Salt Lake City library

Published July 17, 2012 7:16 am

Government • Morale much improved even as report calls for giving director more say.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

An audit of Salt Lake City's library system in the wake of the October departure of controversial Director Beth Elder makes no less than 33 recommendations — most of which are aimed at improving management and communication.

The 50-plus page document by the national firm Management Partners praised the library for its service and noted its popularity with residents. But it also highlighted management woes under Elder, as well as communication breakdowns that led to an unclear decision-making process and provoked an employee revolt.

The audit will be presented Tuesday to the City Council at noon at City Hall, 451 S. State St., and to the Library Board at 2 p.m. at the Main Library, 210 E. 400 South.

The picture painted by the audit team of the management problems is stark — if the recommendations are any barometer. For example, Recommendation 1 reads: "Clarify decision-making roles of the Library Board, library director, executive leadership team and line managers."

The audit also makes clear that morale at the library is much improved under interim Director Linda Hamilton, a Salt Lake County manager who is expected to leave in November when a permanent director is appointed.

"There is now more transparency and less fear and distrust of executive management that was experienced with the previous leader," the audit states. "However, in interviews and focus groups it became clear there is still considerable hurt and anger on the part of staff, managers and board members."

Brooke Young, a member of the Library Employees Organization board, said conditions at the library are much improved, but the staff remains on edge because they know Hamilton soon will be replaced.

"There is a lot in the audit that we've all been talking about," she said Monday.

Much of the meat in the report surrounds mid-management structure and a suggestion that the library change its present system to a more streamlined affair in which the director makes more decisions.

Any reorganization of the library's mid-management system would be a "big change," Young said. "I definitely hope a new director doesn't come in and make that canon."

All the audit's points will have to be rehashed when a new director is named, she added.

Kevin Werner, library board president, said the board pressed for an audit upon Elder's exit so that a new director would have access to its findings.

The audit also will be instructive to the City Council.

"We'd been talking about an audit for a year or more. With Beth Elder's resignation, it gave us a chance to look backward and forward," Council Chairman Soren Simonsen said. "It's timely for the library board and the council to see where we are and where we're going."

But former library board member Mark Alvarez, who voted against conducting the audit, said the speed with which it was approved — the same day as Elder's resignation — was too fast. He would rather have "given the library time to heal" before pressing for an audit.

csmart@sltrib.com

What's next

P The library audit will be presented Tuesday to the City Council at noon at City Hall, 451 S. State St., and to the Library Board at 2 p.m. at the Main Library, 210 E. 400 South.