In a 4-0-1 vote Wednesday evening, former Chamber of Commerce Chair Carolyn Henry Golphin was recommended by the Library Board of Trustees as the new trustee.
Outgoing Trustee Laura Anderson, the sole dissenting voice, had recommended NAACP activist Elaine Green, who is among those spearheading the move to keep the South Branch library at its present location.
Ignoring Chair Susan Kupfer’s request for unanimity on the vote, Anderson abstained.
The City Council still must confirm the appointment, which is for a four-year term. Trustees are limited to two terms.
Golphin, a 12-year Berkeley resident and marketing director at Skates on the Bay, beat out six other candidates in a process that some say was flawed.
She was among four candidates interviewed by the board July 18. Three other candidates were interviewed Wednesday evening, shortly before the vote.
The city clerk had received applications from two of the three candidates interviewed Wednesday after the advertised July 1 deadline: Ann Chandlers’ was stamped “received July 3” and Abigail Franklin’s was stamped “July 23.”
The board voted at its July 18 meeting to accept both late applications. (It seems that they had anticipated Franklin’s application, since she had called in advance, asking if she could submit it late.)
Berkeleyans Organizing for Library Defense (SuperBOLD) respresentatives, speaking during the public comment period, said the extension for two candidates was unfair and that the application process should be reopened with new deadlines.
After hearing from the three candidates—Mary Lukanuski, a former librarian and software designer whose application was in by deadline, former Councilmember Chandler and retired bond expert Franklin—Trustee Darryl Moore tried to make a motion to delay the decision.
“We have not had time to check all the references,” he said. “It behooves this body to put off the decision-making process.”
Trustee Ying Lee tried to second the motion, which Kupfer said was out of order, given that the decision was scheduled for later in the evening.
Toward the end of the meeting—around 9:30 p.m.—just before the vote to name the new trustee was to come up, Kupfer called for a break. During the break, some remaining members of the audience noticed that the trustees used their time for conferencing.
Kupfer spoke to Trustee Terry Powell separately and she spoke to Trustees Anderson and Lee together.
SuperBOLD member Gene Bernardi pointed out to Kupfer that it appeared as if she were engaged in an improper discussion with a majority of members.
After a few minutes into the break Trustee Moore left the room and Powell left after him, going out into the hallway and around a corner.
Both told the Daily Planet there was no impropriety—Powell said they were talking about Library Foundation members. (It would have been a violation of the state’s open meeting laws had Powell spoken to Kupfer about the selection process and then spoken to Moore about it.)
Bernardi said on Thursday that the trustees’ behavior “looked like something fishy was going on.”
When the meeting reconvened after the 10-minute break, Kupfer asked her colleagues if there was discussion about going forward with the vote.
Moore, who had called for discussion earlier, was silent.
Lee commented that she hoped the decision would be delayed, giving the board more time to check references. It would give the board time to find out more about the candidates, needed because the method of questioning was faulty.
Kupfer had imposed a civil service-like routine in which all candidates were posed exactly the same questions.
Lee said there should have been questions about personnel and union issues, given that the trustees have the power to hire and fire all library personnel, although they generally delegate the function to the library director.
“I ought to know how a potential trustee feels about personnel issues,” she said.
But Trustee Powell disagreed. “There’s no need to be concerned about one issue [the personnel issue],” she said. “I think we have enough information.”
She encouraged the board not to delay the decision, given that the City Council would have to confirm the vote before Oct. 1.
Moore also addressed the question format, saying it was “very limited, like selecting the Pope. We should have been allowed to ask many types of questions. This is not civil service.”
Kupfer defended the format, saying the questions were exactly the same ones used to select the last two trustees.
Moore did not repeat his earlier request to delay the vote. Instead, he said voting that night would “give enough time for the council to deliberate.”
The council, which generally rubber stamps the trustees’ choice, is scheduled to meet twice in September: Sept. 11 and Sept. 18.
Lee did not get a second on her motion to delay the vote.
Golphin was the first choice for all the trustees except Anderson. In addition to her experience as Chamber of Commerce president, she is active with at least 10 other boards, including St. Paul AME Church, the Berkeley Food and Housing Project, and the [UC Berkeley] Chancellor’s Community Partnership Fund.
Moving the South Berkeley Branch
In other library business, the trustees heard a report from architects Noll & Tam about a possible move of the South Berkeley Branch Library to the proposed Ed Roberts Campus on the east Ashby BART parking lot.
A number of members of the public had come to oppose the move. SuperBOLD member Jane Welford presented the board with 575 signatures of South Berkeley library patrons who said the library should stay at its Martin Luther King, Jr. Way and Russell Street site.
Three spaces are available at the proposed Ed Roberts campus, which continues to lack adequate funds to break ground. The campus is to house non profit corporations that serve disabled people. The larger two available spaces at Ed Roberts allow for significant expansion of book collections, but the smallest does not, the architects said.
The smallest site would cost the library about $4 million. The largest would cost $6 million to purchase as condominiums and build the interior of the facility.
The architects also talked about the possibility of setting up kiosks at the Ashby BART station or other sites in Berkeley, where people could make selections from about 500 books with the use of their library card.
The library director was asked to write a Request for Proposals that would address remodeling the other branches, beginning with the current South Branch Library.