Library board plans for leadership transition

Nov. 17—The Cullman County Public Library Board has finalized discussions regarding the library director salary and made plans for recruiting a permanent replacement for interim director Josie Harrington.

Harrington announced her resignation earlier this month as the library board made plans to begin a public search for potential candidates to fill the director position. In her resignation letter Harrington lists, among several other concerns, what she described as a "low salary" of $57,000 annually as one of the driving factors in her decision to step away from the library system.

With only two weeks remaining until Harrington's resignation date of Dec. 1, the board looked to Cullman County Administrator/CFO John Bullard to clear up any lingering confusion over the director's salary in hopes of quickly launching a search for a permanent replacement.

Bullard said the Cullman County Commission has adopted a standardized pay scale which he said, "is designed to reward longevity," which also incentivizes employees who have earned college degrees. A 5% increase is given to employees with an associates degree and a 10% increase to those with a bachelors degree or higher. Because library directors are required to have a Masters of Library Science or Masters of Library Science and Information Studies degree, Bullard said the true starting salary for the position would be roughly $62,700.

He also said the county offers a yearly pay increase of 3.14%. The last several years the county commission included a cost-of-living-adjustment in addition to the standard step increase. Bullard said without calculating for cost-of-living increases, the director could expect a salary more than $70,000 within five years.

"That's why it may start out a little lower than what the average is, but the intention is to move people up," Bullard said.

Board member Drew Green asked Bullard if there was any flexibility if an exceptionally qualified candidate was found. Bullard said the commission has approved these types of considerations in the past, which would make a slight increase possible in theory. However, he said he believed it wouldn't be likely due to the past two directors starting at the standard base rate, even with years of experience.

Harrington's resignation letter also included a small staff operating on a limited number of hours and "concerning statements by county commissioners" as contributing factors in her decision to leave. She expanded on those statements following Thursday's board meeting.

Until she offered her resignation, Harrington had planned to step back into her previous position as assistant director, which has remained vacant since she took on the current leadership role in August. She said the ongoing discussions over the director salary has made it impossible to recruit a permanent replacement, leaving Harrington responsible for the duties of both positions.

"This unfortunate back and forth with the salary has made it to where a person — unfortunately, me in this case — has had to do the position of two people, the assistant director and the director," Harrington said.

While Harrington said the recent wave of statewide challenges primarily against books featuring LGBTQ content did not factor into her resignation, she clarified it was statements made by Cullman County Commissioner Garry Marchman in support of removing these types of books that gave her pause.

"The one [concerning statement by county commissioners] in particular I'm referring to is Marchman's comment of not feeling that there should be any LGBTQ things anywhere in the library. I feel that it shows he doesn't support his constituents and I feel that it also shows a lack [of support] for the community that require the library," she said. "I mean there's a huge percentage of this population in Cullman that rely heavily on the library, and so saying that anyone shouldn't feel welcome here or anyone shouldn't be able to find material that's relevant to them or suggesting that these people shouldn't be here is hurtful honestly."

The board agreed to post the director position to a number of nationwide job recruiting websites such as ZipRecruitor and Indeed as well as Harrington agreeing to post the position to library specific sites she is a member of before her final date.

Board member Brenda Scott said former library director Max Hand had expressed a willingness to serve as interim director until a permanent replacement can be found. A special-called meeting was set for Nov. 27 for the board to formally meet and discuss this possibility with Hand.