Common Wealth reignites dialogue on future of Oneida Public Library  

On Dec. 31, 2015 Common Wealth published “Six alternatives to the Oneida Public Library’s $6.12 million expansion.” Within days the post’s commentary helped renew debate surrounding the Special Legislative District Public Library and options that its board of trustees might consider on behalf of its constituents and patrons. 

On Jan. 4, 2016 Pat Albaugh, president, board of trustees at Oneida Public Library (OPL) contacted the author of this blog. Ms. Albaugh offered critical feedback on this blog’s understanding of the OPL plan and its organization within its Special Legislative  District. Her outreach included an offer to discuss questions and provide accurate information. 

Common Wealth provided 10 questions to Ms. Albaugh. Topics ranged geographic representation of the publicly-elected board, loan agreements, accountability measures and performance metrics. 

On Jan. 7, 2016 The Oneida Daily Dispatch featured a guest column,”Compromise, services key to Oneida Public Library’s long-term success.” The column drew both support and opposition. OPL trustee and spokesperson Rick Kinsella responded two days later with his own guest column, “Thoughtful ideas merit response from Oneida Public Library.” 

Kinsella’s remarks included a critical assessment of this blog’s analysis on visitor data as well as a defense of current OPL leadership. He cited several examples of work completed on behalf of the community and OPL services spearheaded by OPL’s current executive director, Carolyn Gerakopoulos.

On Jan. 11, 2016 WUTQ featured an interview with the author of this blog to discuss the Oneida Dispatch columns. Responses to questions concluded that Common Wealth achieved its primary aim: to foster dialogue and raise awareness on an important community issue. Common Wealth maintains, as it did on Jan. 11, that it is not at odds with OPL or its leadership. Its only ask is for increased transparency and communication from OPL as the project moves forward. 

On Jan. 13, 2016 Common Wealth received written responses to the questions submitted to Ms. Albaugh nine days prior. Mr. Kinsella served as the primary author of the response and copied both Ms. Albaugh and Ms. Gerakopoulos. 

Regarding the controversial lawsuit against two neighboring towns, Mr. Kinsella contends the towns of Verona and Vernon have a “ministerial responsibility” to approve the bond resolution approved by a public vote in March 2015. Mr. Kinsella noted how voter turnout was twice the amount 

According to Kinsella, alternatives to a new build were reviewed by a volunteer committee comprised of patrons, business professionals, community leaders and library staff. An alleged audit of 27 potential sites were evaluated against an objective scoring system. When none of the existing sites met the necessary criteria a new build was selected by the committee as the best option. 

On the topic of measurable outcomes, Kinsella cited difficulties and focused more on output-based metrics such as circulation, visits, program and services. Kinsella added, “Programming and services available through a library should be as diverse as possible so that the whole community can find opportunity enjoy and benefit throughout their lifetime.”

Common Wealth has since provided updates and corrections to the original post from Dec. 31. Regardless, Common Wealth maintains that OPL should practice greater transparency and open communication with constituents and community members. This would have been especially valuable as the project’s financial realities changed between 2012 and 2015; in 2012 OPL claimed it would not require public debt to fund the new facility. Lastly, Common Wealth continues to advocate for an outcomes-based approach to programs and services. Common Wealth is not alone in this charge. 

In October 2014, the Aspen Institute released “Rising to the Challenge, Re-Envisioning Public Libraries:
a report of the Aspen Institute Dialogue on Public Libraries
.” Within its executive summary the report states “…becoming more skilled at measuring outcomes rather than counting activities” as a central issue libraries must confront for a long-term, sustainable future. The report goes on to say, “[A focus on community impact] will require libraries to think differently about data and to assess, on
a broad scale, the outcomes they achieve
and the impact they make on the lives of individuals and the community.” 

  

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