WOBURN - Ward 4 Alderman Joseph Demers earlier this week admitted the library shakeup proposed at the outset of this month by Mayor Scott Galvin is tellingly drastic.
Advancing for a final vote a Home Rule Petition that will end lifetime Library Board of Trustee appointments and place the library’s top manager under the direct supervision of the mayor’s office, Demers and the rest of his City Council colleagues share one unified opinion: the library’s hired and elected leaders brought such radical repercussions upon themselves.
“Drastic times call for drastic measures, and given the seriousness of the situation with the library…I support this legislation,” said Demers during the City Council’s virtual meeting on Tuesday night.
In a unanimous vote taken on the same day that the public library’s top two managers resigned to protest the legislation, the City Council wholeheartedly agreed that Mayor Scott Galvin is completely justified in trying to return some semblance of normalcy to the Pleasant Street facility.
The only voice of dissent on Tuesday night was Ward 1 Alderman Joanne Campbell, who though agreeing lifetime appointments to political positions have no place in Woburn, believes the Library Board of Trustees should retain some official say over future library directors.
According to Campbell, who earlier this month described the library setup with its own management board as akin to the School Committee’s authority over the city’s education department, it might be appropriate to give the Library Board of Trustees a confirmation role in the library director hiring process.
Under such an arrangement, the mayor would still vet all candidates and recommend a finalist, but the trustees would be able to confirm or block that selection.
“I’d like to give a little more authority to the trustees,” she said. “What I’d like to see is the mayor appoint and remove the director…but [future director selections] would go to the trustees to approve or deny.”
Sidelined over the past eight months as a series of library controversies raged over internal labor disputes, the alleged ill-treatment of longtime library advocacy groups like the Friends of Woburn Public Library, and finally questionable attempts to block citizen access to expense reports and other public records, Campbell’s peers had little sympathy for the plight of the trustees.
“I support the legislation as written. I agree with the mayor as the appointing authority of the library [director],” responded Ward 6 Alderman Edward Tedesco. “The library is not a separate entity. It’s another department within the city, so I don’t see why they should be treated any differently.”
“I echo everything Alderman Tedesco says,” later chimed in Ward 5’s Darlene Mercer-Bruen. “This is in line with everything else we do in the city and it’s long overdue.”
Eventually, even Campbell conceded that in light of the alleged leadership mishaps at the library, the City Council and mayor had an obligation to hold the trustees and its managers accountable. Though still believing a confirmation process was a healthy compromise to protect against the mayor’s office gaining too much sway over the library, Campbell told her colleagues she would not let that concern stand against a broader and necessary reform package.
“Even though I believe the trustees should have some say in picking the library director, I will support this legislation tonight,” the Ward 1 alderman said.