The Great Neck Library approved a maximum $15,000 expenditure to hire a consultant to address ''planning for the future.'' At an Aug. 2, special meeting of the library's board of trustees, the hiring of a consultant was approved. The board also addressed the possibility of changing the date of the annual library election.
Library board vice president, Elayne Bernstein, read the proposal to hire an independent consultant, Dr. Manuel London, at a fee not to exceed $15,000. The job is to provide a written survey of library association members, as well as to conduct focus groups.
When trustee Steven Glaser spoke of the existing public support of the library and questioned the need for a professional consultant, Ms. Bernstein referred to the ''history'' and stated the need, this time, for a survey done by someone from the outside. Mr. Glaser also questioned if this survey was ''germane'' to the issues at hand.
Dr. Schwartz discussed further support for such an independent survey, stating that the survey will produce a list of priorities, a need that has surfaced through ad hoc committee meetings. He also said he has been told that the consultant's fee is a very modest one for such a project, and that the consultant is reportedly highly regarded in his field.
Trustee Joyce Klein voiced support, saying that she had discussed the issue with a staff member of the Port Washington Library, and they had conducted such a survey on their own, an action that they now regret.
Trustee Marietta DiCamillo expressed ''fiduciary'' concerns, and questioned why only two, and not the usual three candidates were interviewed. She also said that the ad hoc committee had no time for discussion on this issue. ''This is taking the cart before the horse,'' she said, also noting the importance of a professional search for a consultant, not using personal recommendations and hearsay.
Library Director Christine Salita explained that the survey and focus group analyses will provide information for the ad hoc committee. She further reported that when a survey was last done, several years ago, ''the survey was skewed to get a certain response,'' and this will not happen with an independent consultant.
Resident Rebecca Gilliar spoke of concern that the process was so impersonal, and she asked the board to put together a plan before any consultant is hired.
From the ad hoc committee, Shirley Samansky noted that the committee had suggested hiring a computer expert to help the library understand future needs. This, she said, should be the basis of any work. Dr. Schwartz said that he is an expert in this field, and that the library has two staff members who handle such technological issues.
Former board member Ralene Adler voiced environmental concerns, and Ms. Bernstein said that environmental concern was a ''given.'' However, Ms. Bernstein could not guarantee that the footprint of the main library building would remain the same. She did state that the wetlands would not be touched. Ms. Klein said that with so many environmentalists in Great Neck, this should not become an issue.
Ms. Adler also broached the subject of moving the children's room downstairs to a separate wing, but Dr. Schwartz did not answer.
Ms. DiCamillo asked for a board meeting, without a consultant, to discuss the issues of future plans and a consultant.
Ms. Salita addressed the issue of space and building, stating that all of the staff members have asked for more space, though she did say that using space more efficiently may be an answer.
When questioned, Ms. Salita also stated that the work of the consultant would probably be completed by June, 2000.
Ms. Gilliar asked to speak again, but, citing the time, Dr. Schwartz called for a vote. The consultant proposal passed, with all but Ms. DiCamillo voting in favor. Later in the evening Ms. Gilliar stated that the issue had been ''railroaded'' through, since not everyone had enough time to speak and the vote came before all questions could be addressed.
Bringing the subjects up only for discussion, not for a vote, Dr. Schwartz said that the policy and by-laws committee had made two recommendations. First, they asked for a change in the proxy ballot, to take identification off the ballot, using the double envelope process as is used in the general elections.
Second, he addressed the annual meeting and election date change recommendation. Based on a Great Neck League of Women Voters study, he suggested changing the date from late January to the third Tuesday in November.
Mr. Glaser noted that November would make it difficult for college students. He felt there was nothing wrong with the status quo.
Ms. DiCamillo echoed his thoughts, but said that the May date already utilized for school board, and school budget and library budget votes was worth considering. Ms. Klein said that such a change would have to be discussed with the board of education. Dr. Schwartz felt that there could be confusion with the May date, as voters in the school district election must be citizens, whereas those voting in the library election, library association members, need not be citizens.
Ms. Adler produced a petition with 300 signatures asking for the May date, stating that it would save taxpayer money, as the 1999 library election cost ''over $26,000.'' As well, the date is ''inclusive of college students and senior citizens.''
Dr. Schwartz referred to the by-laws and said that such a petition, with over 100 signatures, requires the library to call for a ''special meeting'' (an election), before November. Both Ms. Adler and resident Marianna Wohlgemuth stated that this was not their intent, nor is it the intent of those signing the petition to cause any extra expense such as a special election. Ms. Wohlgemuth said if a special election must be called because of the petition she would withdraw her name, as would others who signed the petition. Dr. Schwartz stated that the board will have to consult with their attorney regarding this matter.
At this point, no action is scheduled on this issue.