Five candidates to become the director of the parish’s library system will be interviewed Saturday by an ad hoc committee of the East Baton Rouge Parish Library Board of Control, according to Mary Stein, the library system’s co-director.
The five applicants are:
- Barry Bradford, director, Tangipahoa Parish Library system.
- Mary Cosper LeBouef, director, Terrebonne Parish Library system.
- Adam Brooks, director, community development for Hernando County (Fla.) government and library service manager for the Hernando County Public Library.
- Sandra M. Cooper, director, Sonoma County (Calif.) Library.
- E. Spencer Watts, director, Mobile (Ala.) Public Library.
One candidate — Cooper — is expected to face questions about a California grand jury report that accused her of providing “innacurate, misleading or incomplete information” to the members of the Sonoma County Library Commission, the body that oversees the county’s library system.
The Sonoma County Grand Jury acts as a civil “watchdog” that oversees agencies such as the library and investigates complaints against them, according to information on the California courts website.
The grand jury’s report stemmed from a complaint questioning Cooper’s “ability” to manage, the report says.
In the report, the grand jury found evidence that Cooper edited minutes of meetings to make them more flattering to herself, held up furniture purchases for library branches, and did not keep employee reviews up to date.
Cooper said the complaints were motivated by angry union members seeking an advantage in negotiations with library management.
“We have had to negotiate with the union almost constantly over the last three years due to takeaways,” she said. Cooper blamed falling revenue for cutbacks that union members blamed on her. Some of the other complaints were a result of the library commission’s decision to close on Mondays and two evenings per week to save money, she said.
“I have become a lightning rod for that decision even though it was not my decision,” Cooper said Wednesday.
According to a July 9 story in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, several of the library commissioners called the report one-sided and reiterated their support for Cooper.
“I have never felt my job was in danger,” Cooper said Wednesday.
If she were to be named director of the East Baton Rouge Library system, Cooper would be taking a significant pay cut: She earns about $150,000 as the director of the Sonoma County Library.
The salary of the East Baton Rouge Parish Library Director is between $72,388 and $100,202.
Cooper said the low salary was an issue that she considered.
“I decided not to let it stop me from being a candidate at this point,” she said. She pointed to the ongoing city-parish salary study, which is expected to be completed in December.
Other candidates agreed.
E. Spencer Watts, director of the Mobile Public Library, called the salary “not appropriate” for the level of responsibility said his understanding was that it was still being discussed.
On July 25, the Metro Council rejected a proposal from the Library Board of Control to increase the pay scale of the position to $115,000 to $160,000.
The director position had been advertised with a starting salary “above $100,000” in the hopes that the request would be granted.
Some candidates dropped out of the running due to the salary issue, said Dan Bradbury, of Bradbury Associates/Gossage Sager Associates, the search firm hired to recruit a new director.
There were originally seven semifinalist candidates, but two dropped out late in the process, he said. One indicated that it was due specifically to the salary issue; the other for personal reasons, Bradbury said.
Two of the three Library Board of Control members who will be conducting the interviews said the salary issue had an impact on the applicant pool.
“I think we have lost several strong candidates based directly on the salary matter,” said Stanford O. Bardwell, Jr., who heads the ad hoc committee. “I think it would have been nicer to have a larger pool.”
Fellow board member Tanya Freeman said the board would have to work with the applicants they have.
“These look very strong on paper,” she said.
Of the three candidates interviewed by The Advocate on Wednesday, all cited the library system’s budget, number of branches and funding as a reason the position is attractive.
Each of the five candidates comes from library systems that are significantly smaller in terms of the size of their budgets and number of branches and employees when compared with the East Baton Rouge Library system, according to information provided by Stein.
The five candidates are vying to replace David Farrar, who left the system late last year. Since Farrar left, Stein and Patricia Husband have been serving as co-directors.
Each of the five will have an approximately 45-minute interview over Skype, Stein said. The interviews will be open to the public and will take place at the main library on Goodwood beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday.