Library governing board dissolves workplace climate committee

Chair Cynthia Chestnut asked if the issue gender-neutral bathrooms had been resolved during Thursday's Alachua County Library District Governing Board meeting.
Chair Cynthia Chestnut asked if the issue gender-neutral bathrooms had been resolved during Thursday's Alachua County Library District Governing Board meeting.
Photo by Glory Reitz

The Alachua County Library District (ACLD) Governing Board voted 3-2 on Thursday to permanently dissolve the ad hoc committee it formed last year to look into the library workplace environment.  

The three-part motion also asked for the union to work with library employees to address “any and all workplace improvements,” and for library director Shaney Livingston to work with the union and bring to the board any policy recommendations, including bathroom notifications at branches and the district headquarters. 

“I think the board made a mistake in developing an ad hoc committee,” said Governor Ken Cornell, who is also a county commissioner. 

Become A Member

Mainstreet does not have a paywall, but pavement-pounding journalism is not free. Join your neighbors who make this vital work possible.

The board created the “Library Climate Committee” in August 2023 in response to anonymous employee complaints read in a meeting during citizen comment. Because the committee was a new venture for library staff and community members to figure out, it took about four months to assemble a list of appointees and settle on a meeting date. 

On Dec. 14, four days before the committee was scheduled to have its first meeting, the governing board met and voted to postpone the committee until March at the earliest.  

Livingston, the library director, had brought up a concern that the committee’s purpose was not clear enough and that its meetings could turn into a “griping session.” 

Cornell agreed with Livingston in December, adding his own concern that Alachua County and its library district are under attack from the state Legislature. His motion, which passed 4-1, was to postpone the committee until after the legislative session is over, and to create a survey for all ACLD employees. Cornell said he did not want to activate a committee looking for a problem where there was not one. 

Ken Cornell made a three-part motion at Thursday's Alachua County Library District Governing Board meeting.
Photo by Glory Reitz Ken Cornell made a three-part motion at Thursday’s Alachua County Library District Governing Board meeting.

A week ago, the library district sent out a notice of a special meeting to discuss the unfinished business of the ad hoc committee. 

Chair Cynthia Chestnut had asked to discuss the ad hoc committee and whether the issue of gender-neutral bathrooms had been resolved. One of the complaints that led to the committee’s formation was that library administration had poorly communicated how the state’s Safety in Private Spaces Act would be enacted in library bathrooms, and how ACLD would accommodate employees. 

Livingston told the board Thursday that the district has been looking into accommodation options and researching what the cost impact would be for those different options. She said if the headquarters branch were to add an additional restroom on the first and third floors, it would cost $127,000, or half that for only one additional restroom. 

Last week, several appointees who were meant to be on the ad hoc committee came together with other interested community members and anonymous library staff for an unofficial meeting. Governor Mary Alford said she warned the members in a one-way email that if they were to meet they needed to resign their positions on the committee. 

Livingston told the board she only received three resignation emails from committee appointees. The potential violation of Sunshine laws arose in Thursday’s meeting, and Cornell said it was yet another reason the committee needed to be dissolved. 

Alachua County NAACP President Evelyn Foxx, who had been appointed to the committee in August, told the governing board there had been a lack of communication between the committee’s formation and cancellation. She said attendees of the unofficial meeting did not realize the committee was still active and had not ever had a first meeting to receive a briefing on Sunshine law. 

Governor Marihelen Wheeler said the four months between the committee’s formation and its first scheduled meeting allowed too much time for negative feelings to stew, and for more concerns to gather than the committee was initially intended to address. 

About 20 community members attended the Thursday meeting, ranging from union representatives to members of the library board of trustees.
Photo by Glory Reitz About 20 community members attended the Thursday meeting, ranging from union representatives to members of the library board of trustees.

Several attendees of the unofficial meeting came to Thursday’s meeting to tell the board the union cannot help employees who are at the managerial level and to clarify that they did not want to attack Livingston personally. 

Several union representatives from the Alachua County branch of the Communication Workers of America also spoke at the meeting, encouraging library employees to bring complaints to their union and emphasizing that the union has a strong relationship with Livingston. 

Brad McClenny, ACLD’s public relations manager, said the library is maintaining a “no comment” policy until the board has settled discussions on the workplace. 

Governors Marihelen Wheeler, Ken Cornell and Leanetta McNealy voted in favor of the motion, with Governor Reina Saco absent. 

Alford said she could not support the motion because it does not provide a path for managerial staff to bring their complaints. 

“I believe that the committee still has work to do,” Alford said. “This committee was never about attacking our library director. It was, as many people have already stated, a place to do some creative thinking with the public, who are users of the library and who are the ones who brought these concerns to us.” 

Chestnut agreed as the second dissent, saying that the governing board cannot leave an issue purely to the union if the public brings it to the board. She said if the board dismisses potential problems now, the issue will continue to come back. 

“You could dismiss it today,” Chestnut said. “But I assure you it’s coming back tomorrow because something is wrong. People have some feelings out there that there are some problems.” 

Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Elizabeth Jenkins

Upon moving to G-ville, my son pointed out his favorite branch library. I readily connected & became friendly with several employees. As my grandchild grew, her parents (both teachers) & I were very much “at home” in that branch. NOW, there is a totally different atmosphere & I don’t recognize anyone, but there is something else going on & I don’t perceive a restroom issue–which might be a problem(?). I have only been to the main headquarters library, a few times, and my friend was transferred there, but she disappeared. I seldom frequent my local branch–just doing the drive-thru, when possible. Even during the Pandemic restrictions, other patrons & I would stand in long lines chatting while our HOLDS were retrieved. The clerk knew us by our faces & many times my son would pick-up & return my requests, bc she knew him, also.
SOMETHING has happened, but WHAT IS IT????


Managerial employees have multiple ways to complain about workplace concerns. A new channel is not necessary.


Tax the people that use the Library. Not the 90 per cent that doesn’t.