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For All You Untrustworthy Low Level Employees

This story about the library budget crisis in Miami-Dade County, Florida is quite a read. A librarian formerly employed by the county criticized the library director, who allegedly responded with a “heated monologue” in which he said that without him the library system would be, um, in a bad condition.

Since this is a family blog, you’ll have to read the article to get the actual comment. The director denies it, though.

Not that there isn’t some strangeness going on. Despite losing tens of millions of dollars in funding over several years, the director “signed off on two staffers jetting to Milan in March for a cultural exchange,” which was “paid for by grants and county programming funding.” Nice work if you can get it.

As the offended and critical librarian put it, “I have a problem with that as a taxpayer…if my child doesn’t have a book and they’re sending these people to Europe.”

But it’s probably important for Miami to have a “cultural exchange” with places like Milan. You wouldn’t want to have a cultural exchange with somewhere unpleasant to visit, after all.

The most amusing moment, and the one in which I lost all confidence in the director, was his attempt at a defense. He denies the basis of the complaints and then says, “You realize this is a low-level employee you’re getting information from.”

My eyes widened at that one. It certainly says a lot about the relationships that must exist between the director and his staff, most of whom must be “low-level employees.”

Think about this in context, though. People shouldn’t rely on the information from a low-level employee like a librarian when he complains about the library director. That level of employee, after all, isn’t high enough up the food chain to matter at all.

On the other hand, everyone else in the county is invited to rely upon the information skills of the reference librarians, the same low-level employees. So the attempt to dismiss this complaint by this particular method of character attack ends up smearing the entire reference operation of the county libraries as well.

So we shouldn’t trust information from people trained to find information. That’s an encouraging lesson for a library director to spread.

Another perspective might be that if you get information from people trained to find reliable information, then that information might be reliable.

Maybe not in this situation, and people should be considered innocent until proven guilty, but trying to dismiss complaints because they come from people trained to find information because they’re “low-level” isn’t a very effective way to convince most people.

I’m not convinced, anyway.

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Comments

  1. me says:

    It sounds like the director could use some leadership training and probably some training on media relations. I will say that I’m interested in the actual order of the quotes from the director in relation to where they are posted in the story.

    Did the “low-level employee” comment come before or after the employee decided to surmise about the food vendors becoming the saviors of the library system. If the comment is in the context that the employee wasn’t involved in any of the discussions or decision making on whether or not to partner with the food vendors I think that makes a difference.

  2. Midwest SciTech Librarian says:

    Well I think someone should alert Pope Francis of the situation. According to the library director, Santiago, he “pays for his own parking”!!!! If that’s not enough to start the canonization process to sainthood, what is? Maybe that’s why he wants to keep the exchange program running with Milan. It’s only a 3 hour train-ride away from Rome (in case he gets the call)

  3. G.B. Miller says:

    Sounds like the director is the perfect guv’ment employee…when all else fails, apply misdirection to a low level flunkie.

  4. Hugh says:

    As a former county employee in Miami-Dade county you can be assured that most department directors are political hacks and usually a friend or relative of the mayor, county commissioners, lobbyists, deputy mayors, and other high ranking county officials, and almost all of them are from designated minority groups. Few have ever done the grunt work for the county and if they have they have totally forgotten their roots and what it’s like to be a lower ranking employee. The county abandoned hiring the best qualified employees for promotional positions decades ago after most of the white non-Hispanics moved out of the county for points north all throughout America. The cultural exchange trip to Milan was and is a bad joke and the library director’s comments don’t surprise me one iota. Perhaps the director needs some much more scrutiny from the local newspapers to expose even more dubious actions on his part? We all need a good laugh down here.

  5. Jessica B. Barton says:

    The “low-level employee” comments remind me of the caste system in India. There are plenty of “low-level employees” at libraries, because those were the only positions available at the time. There are also a lot of educated folk that happen to work those “low level employee” jobs, just because the job is lame doesn’t mean the person has no skills. There is however a lots of politics at libraries that go behind closed doors. The job promotions are very rare to non-existent on top of it and the pay is so low that it would be impossible to have a sustainable living income from it. These type of comments from a director simply shows the ignorant and arrogant attitude of a Director who shouldn’t be in the business of serving the “general public” if he believes his own staff is below his feet. Some have forgotten their humble-beginnings obliviously. :)

    My library on the other hand. There’s a lot of rumor-spreading, clicks and gossiping at my place you’d think it was filled with celebrities or something. There’s also a lack of communication as well as equal opportunity for those looking for better job positions. The management in the place could be better as well. Most of the time they spend in the offices chit-chatting off tax-payer’s money and living it large. Correct me if i’m wrong, but is this how a library is suppose to be in the following below?

    1. Non-staff inside staff only areas
    2. Gossiping/Rumor-Spreading/Personalizing statements that results in defamation of character
    3. Rudeness
    4. Poor Communication
    5. Lack of general rule enforcement in all staff areas. Refer to note 1.
    6. Heavy plays of perks and favoritism
    7. Laziness
    8. Volunteer/Other-Staff performing higher-duties without equivalent pay to those duties.
    9. Cluttery/Dusty/Dirty environments.

    Are there any libraries out there that are ran right anymore, or are they all an endless void of tax-payer money going to waste?

    • Minks says:

      I thought this post was interesting. I do feel that some libraries are plagued by the issues you have pointed out while others struggle to keep things under control and yet others run a tight ship.

      A few points really caught my Eye… starting with number 6… heavy plays of perks and favoritism. Devils advocate here, but favoritism SHOULD go to those that earn it. If you work extra hard, have the right attitude, and are a model employee then you SHOULD get perks bestowed upon you. Favoritism exists and should.

      Number 8 just really sounds like “It’s not my job” complainers. The people that are willing to occasionally work above their pay grade are the ones that end up with favoritism. I guess there is a line there somewhere. Hard to discern.

      Number 9 can be totally based on personal preference/opinion. Seriously, I don’t see germs until they are the size of chihuahuas. Does that make me messy? …oh… I guess it does.

  6. Charity says:

    That low-level employee comment made me raise my eyebrows. I mean, seriously? This director sounds like he has little to no relationship with the employee.

  7. I love it when strangers are able to nail down the obvious when those in the middle of the fray are oblivious.

    See the memos that verify the details.

    Google: scribd julio granda

    Click on Library Master Concessionaire Proposal

    Click on Collections, then Library Marketing Pro Bono

    Julio was an intelligent and savvy Manager of the Urban Affairs Department and had been the library’s liaison to the County Commission until that Department was dismantled due to the budget cuts of 2011 when 250 staff were laid off.

    Former County Manager Merrett Stierheim asked for his name and plaque to be removed from the wall of that department after Julio was transferred to be the Manager of Access Services – overseeing all circulation functions at the Main Library.

    There’s a reason that MDPLS did not win the Sterling Award back in the mid 2000s – this administration stopped listening to front line staff. It’s been loyalty over competence as the administration has aged in place. Loyalty over competence parallels the County Mayor’s office.

  8. Eyewitness says:

    What the director is accused of saying he said. I was in that meeting and what he said was the talk of all the low-level employees afterwards. Has always had a massive ego and now is quite frustrated to be working for a mayor with an even bigger ego. Several of the low-level librarians and many community activists are working hard to try to salvage what they can of what once was one of the finest library systems in the nation. The director and mayor are just looking out for themselves. The mayor is determined to decimate a library system which services a community with millions who still use it and costs the average property owner $20 bucks a year. Yet at the same time, he’s working hard to build yet another sports stadium (soccer this time) that only a small percentage of the community will ever be interest in visiting or be able to afford the exorbitant tickets for.

    • Barton says:

      Directors and Mayors are not invisible of being fired, de-promoted or removed from their jobs. They go unchallenged most of the time because those who’d speak up about it would loose their jobs and the general assumption that those in these positions are doing their jobs. Lots of money wasters in the mix who blow the tax payer’s hard earn money on junk.

      No different than a greedy corporation really. It’s difficult to remove money-wasters and rats when there’s rats supporting other rats. I’ve witness a similar situation where a building is falling apart with physical damages and brilliantly money is going down the pipe-lines each year. It’s time to start cutting the $90,000 a year fat from the top for once.