Tuesday, April 24, 2024

To our community:

A recent letter to the editor about the Leavenworth Public Library and its Board included a number of inaccurate statements. These statements need to be corrected.

Library Boards are not “naturally political bodies.” Library Board members do not bring political viewpoints to the table. We approve policies, budgets and services intended to meet the needs of the entire community as effectively as possible. To do otherwise is to invite discrimination, to treat certain segments of the community as second class citizens or worse.

The Leavenworth Public Library Board does not have “taxing authority to forcibly confiscate wealth from citizens.” That language is deliberately inflammatory and totally incorrect. The City of Leavenworth is the Library’s taxing authority and has served that role for over 120 years. The Library Board determines an annual budget that cannot exceed a 3.75 mill rate cap established by the elected City Commission in 1986. That cap has not changed in 38 years.

To state that the Library operates with “…no accountability to the public” is an absolute falsehood. Every Mayor of Leavenworth is an ex officio member of the Library Board and receives a packet in advance of every monthly Board meeting. Every packet includes minutes, a list of every check that is written to every vendor, a financial statement with complete accounting for all revenues and expenditures in 62 separate budget line items, draft policies and policy amendments, library use reports, reports from four departments and a host of useful information for review and consideration. Mayors decide to open those packets and attend Board meetings or not. Every Library budget is published in the City of Leavenworth budget document. The Library is audited every year by a third-party company, that report is shared with the City of Leavenworth and folded into their  audit. Every invoice and check is reviewed and signed by multiple Board officers and reviewed by the Board as a whole. These processes reflect a high degree of public accountability.

The Library is not a “cultural choke point”, we do not block, deny or censor free access to lawful information. Our Collection Management Policy makes this very clear:

B. Selections will represent diverse points of view, including some that may be objectionable to some people. Selections are based on the merit of their content as a whole and will not be excluded, restricted, sequestered or labeled due to the origin, background or views of those contributing to their creation. Selections will not be avoided based on anticipated disapproval.

Library Board members approved and support this policy. It reflects the First Amendment, which is not liberal or conservative. It is a fundamental American right that protects everyone’s right to read and access information.

The letter characterized Library Board members as communist stooges, tools of Lenin and bolshevism. This hyperbolic, hyper-politicized language cannot possibly be intended to foster productive collaboration on a Library Board or in any organization. It reflects a scheme that promises to be destructive to the Library and its users.

Thank you,

Pauline Graeber, President of the Board of Trustees