By DEREK MOORE
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Critics of Sonoma County Library Director Sandra Cooper packed a meeting Monday night in Sonoma to relay their concerns that the library
system is being poorly run under her direction.
Several speakers at the library commission meeting were critical of Cooper’s decision to close the county’s 13 library branches on Mondays and what they said was her failure to order furnishings that had been paid for by library support groups.
“It’s a continuing and continuing disconnect, and we all want the same thing,” said Daphne Matthews, a librarian at the Sonoma Valley branch for 21 years.
An overflow crowd of about 50 people attended the meeting at the West Napa Street library.
The concerns raised about Cooper mirrored those in a county grand jury report released last week that said she is an “unresponsive” leader who “undermines the spirit” of the 1975 joint powers agreement that created the county’s modern library system.
Toward the end of Monday’s meeting, the commission only took up the procedural issue of who would draft the response to the grand jury. It has 90 days to do so.
The fact the grand jury response wasn’t addressed until 10:30 p.m. disappointed one man who told commissioners it made people question whether “it was deliberate or not.”
Commissioner Mary Evelyn Arnold, who represents the Sonoma Valley, replied that it wasn’t put there “for any nefarious reason.”
The library commission, which has seven members appointed by county supervisors and by city councils in Santa Rosa and Petaluma, meets monthly and has authority over the director’s job.
County supervisors grilled Cooper last week during a budget hearing, with Supervisor Mike McGuire telling Cooper he believed she has been operating the library “like an island.”
Supervisors are calling for a revision of the library’s operating agreement that could give them more oversight of the director’s job, including possibly the power to fire her.
The staff report prepared for Monday’s commission meeting described the “tone” of the meeting with supervisors as “positive.”
Commissioner Helena Whistler, who was appointed by Supervisor Efren Carrillo, complained commissioners were not given notice about the supervisors’ budget hearing last Tuesday with Cooper and suggested the meeting has been mischaracterized.
She said supervisors “were looking for a plan of collaboration and communication. It’s not just a response to the board. It’s keeping the board and public informed.”
The commission’s agenda included how it should respond to the grand jury report. The commission postponed a closed session discussion of Cooper’s job performance.
Dena Bliss, who leads a group called Sonoma County Save our Libraries, told the commission that Cooper had not addressed public criticism of the Monday closures, except to issue an “apologist statement” saying “why it was not possible.”
Robyn Makaruk, chairwoman of the Sonoma Library Advisory Board, said the group was having trouble getting approval to buy furnishings that had been paid for with donations.
Makaruk said “the communication level has been difficult with the director” and Cooper has “somewhat disconnected” from the library support groups.
Last week, Cooper defended her job performance and said she has been the subject of personal attacks. She said supervisors had a “legitimate concern” about her not keeping them informed on what’s happening at the library.
Cooper, who was hired in 2005, is paid a base salary of $150,820, plus $39,829 in benefits.
You can reach Staff Writer Derek Moore at 521-5336 or email@example.com.