Many seem not to care about poor state of city libraries
BY JOSH RESNEK
Mayor Carlo DeMaria is continuing his plan eviscerating the Everett Public Libraries by laying off all of its part-time employees.
Such a move at a time when the libraries could be used to disseminate information and to continue programs during the time of Coronavirus is a step in the wrong direction, according to those familiar with the workings of public libraries.
The libraries have been closed since March 15. The online possibilities have neither been explored nor implemented by the mayor and his management staff during the virus crisis.
The first step in the mayor’s Machiavellian plan was to reorganize the governance structure of the libraries and take control away from an appointed Board of Trustees (in most cases, people who actually use libraries and know what they are for) and place it under his direct control.
This being accomplished, the newly named and reorganized Board of Trustees no longer has any responsibility for the management of the libraries and their role has been relegated to deciding how to spend the interest generated by the Parlin Trust. And, of course, the members of the Libraries’ Board of Trustees, still continue to collect the $2,000 per year stipend for serving on the Board.
In addition, a number of local library advocates believe that the mayor’s appointments to the library trustees of family members, who are collecting their annual stipend for doing, essentially, nothing constitutes a conflict of interest or violation of the prohibition on nepotism here.
Chapter 268A of the Massachusetts General Laws, the state’s Conflict of Interest statute, is optional right? Wrong. It is more than merely a suggestion as to how public officials should behave.
The mayor’s moves forced the then director, a consummate professional librarian, no choice other than to retire, which she did in May of 2019. He then appointed Matt Lattanzi as Acting Director. There is no crime in this other than Lattanzi, considered more a solicitor and adviser to the mayor, has been serving as the head of the library for just over one year. Lattanzi is an attorney. He is not a trained librarian. While other libraries in surrounding cities and towns have been using their staff to maintain their collections and to find innovative ways, in the era of Covid, to make library services more accessible to their patrons, the staff of the Everett Public Libraries, until recently, have been at home.
Despite request from the professional members of the staff to provide services to the community and develop online programs to assist parents that have been forced to become their children’s primary teacher, the library under its present leadership is like a ship without a rudder. While other libraries have been doing yeoman’s service in creating virtual learning experiences, domestic violence awareness programs, hosting virtual resume-writing and job search workshops, Zoom-based book groups, as well as cooking classes and yoga workshops, the staff of the Everett libraries have been left in the lurch.
This is an ongoing failure of public policy and leadership that starts with the mayor and works its way down the organizational chart.
Now the City of Everett has laid off all of the libraries part-time staff. Instead of utilizing those part-time staff members to “hit the ground running” when the libraries finally do reopen by having a full suite of programs, on which so many residents of Everett depend, those part- time staff members have joined the ranks of the unemployed.
Many who are concerned with the future of the city’s library system have asked: “what is the Mayor’s plan”?
In a world where perception is just about everything these days, there is a real cause for concern about where exactly the library is going to morph in the new normal?
If no one is utilizing the libraries – because there is no staff, no scheduled programs, and no newly released books to borrow – then the may- or is free to use the library building as a centerpiece of the redevelopment of lower Broadway. Will it be converted into the lobby of a luxury condominium building, complete with a Starbucks and Zoots dry cleaners?
Only the mayor knows what his plan is, but we can all be assured that the plan will benefit the mayor and not the people of Everett. The residents of Everett should be ever watchful and suspicious of what is going on at City Hall, at least for the next seventeen months.
The city’s libraries are worth saving. They remain one of the pillars of the modern city, for now.