President’s outgoing remarks to KPL board

From Susan Mackey-Kallis, outgoing Kennett library board president

"It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as KPL Board president these last 12 months.

As a Board we settled on 15 goals a year ago in January when I took over as president, with Karen Ammon, Geoff Birkett and Joan Weber as my executive team. Perhaps it was an overly ambition agenda, we managed, however, to complete 7 of those goals and to partially completed another 4. If partial credit counts—and as a college professor I believe in partial credit for my students---that means we achieved 80% of what we set out to do. And we must remember that this grade comes in the face of significant board turnover and the need for the Board to continually respond to lots of public turmoil and questions about the Board’s decision to change the name of the Library. Although that decision was backed by the support of the Library staff and many of our customers we serve, in hindsight, and I’ve said this in print, if I had realized the depth of the attachment to the Bayard Taylor name, particularly from some folks in the Borough, then I would not have supported it. Hindsight however is 20/20 and I urge the new board to do more research before they consider making any decisions about changing the name back. For the record, I like the new name, and I love the new logo and branding campaign.

So regardless, the name change was my regret this past year, what then was I particularly proud of from that list of 12 fully or partially accomplished goals in 2015?   I am proud of the beautiful library makeover that we found money in the budget to make happen under Donna’s able leadership. I am proud of the beautiful new user friendly website, also done under Donna’s leadership. I am proud of the new Strategic plan, “Vision 20/20” that we developed in consultation with the community, staff and board. It is a good blueprint that I believe will serve the Board well through the remainder of this decade. I am also proud that we overtly set and evaluated annual board goals for, I think, the first time in Board leadership, at least from any records from past Library boards that I can find. And I strongly encourage the new board to continue with this practice, as expected in our bylaws.

I am proud of that fact that we are finally making progress on building a new library, from hiring an Owners Representative to oversee the process, to working on an agreement of sale with the Borough to buy the Weinstein lot if all satisfactory conditions to build are met, to completing a feasibility study and agreeing to move forward with a contract for our architect. I am also proud that we have begun the process of thorough and professional budget analysis and review under the able leadership of our outgoing treasurer Joan Weber.

I am proud of the by-law change I championed to have a dedicated Library board member appointed by each of the townships we serve regardless of their ability to financially support the library.

I am particularly proud of the work we have done with fundraising and improved communication. I am proud for example, of the 2014-2015 annual campaign that I led and which brought in over 45K, the most in the history of the library. I am proud of our hire this past year of our wonderful Development Director Maureen Snook who is currently leading the 2015-2016 annual campaign with over 30k in the bank and still counting! I am proud of the channel of communication I have opened up with the Township supervisors for quarterly reports from the President and I am proud of the board’s decision to put abbreviated quarterly financials on our website and to make these reports available to full format to all of the Township supervisors each quarter as well. I am pleased with all of the donor events we held last year and the wonderful work of the library staff to build our database for our e-blast, one of the best ways for our customers and community stakeholders to keep abreast of all of the wonderful events and opportunities happening at the library each week.

In sum, as I said in my 4th quarter statement to the Township Supervisors that went out yesterday, “The Library Board, under my leadership this past year, continued to be dedicated to total transparency, achieving a balanced budget by 2016, supporting and growing our adult literacy program, and improving our communication and community relations.”

I would like to round out my remarks with my heartfelt thanks to all of my fellow board members and the library staff for your support and guidance this year. My philosophy of non-profit leadership, as I stated a year ago January is that my job is simply to facilitate the work of the Executive Committee, the Board, and the Library Director. To the extent that I have been able to do this and then to get out of the way to let Donna and her staff shine then I have succeeded. By the way, on the note of Donna and her staff shining, I know that Donna will report tonight that Library programming is up 13% over 2014, an extremely impressive figure given the library makeover and many of the distractions the library faced last year such as the threat of loss of funding from the Borough and attacks upon the Board’s leadership. Donna and her staff are truly amazing and are on the forefront of 21st century libraries reinventing themselves in the internet age not just because they have to but because they want to, and because they get it, they understand what 21st century communities need to have in order to survive and thrive and they are delivering it in a big, splashy, and substantial way! Thank you John, thank you Ivy, thank you Paul, thank you Dillon, thank you Alex, thank you Debbie, thank you Maureen, thank you Milly, thank you Lupe, thank you Elvie, thank you Filomena, . . .     and most of all thank you Donna for your wonderful leadership of your top notch staff! I really feel that we have all been in the trenches this year (maybe a lot more than I would have hoped) but that we are better for the battles we have fought because they were fought not for ourselves but for the Library and the belief in the important role that KPL continues to serve as a vital community resource.

And finally, I’d like to end on a promised and a word of caution to the future leadership.

First the promise: I know that once again there has been a great deal of board turnover possibly in response to the anticipated change over in board leadership once again this year, like last year when I took over with a new executive team. As I step off of the board and step down from the presidency my promise is to remain a cheerleader for the Library and its successes publically and to share my criticisms of the library and the board, if any, privately.

So often the instinct is to tear down rather than build up when there is a changeover in leadership, you just have to witness the current presidential primary race to see what I mean, but this instinct is, at its core, counter productive. My leadership of the board last year suffered under this instinct of others to tear down rather than support. However, good governance, which many of you know is my bally-wick, means trusting in the process---democracy is messy for a reason---and working to target the problems rather than beating up the people who have been trying to solve them.

I must admit that this is the hardest board I have ever served on or lead and I have served on a number and led a couple. I know how hard it is to lead this organization, in fact it may be that there are structural problems and historical problems with the KPL Board that may make it near impossible to move forward. But I hope that I am wrong. We will certainly see what can be accomplished this year.

Finally the word of caution and a word of encouragement to the new board leadership.

From everything that I hear about the new president’s track record of success in the Borough and the surrounding community, then KPL is in good hands. In fact I expect great things from this board this year. I even heard something about a million dollar board challenge grant which I hope is not just a rumor? I’ve also heard a rumor from board members regarding a few high capacity donors waiting in the wings until the new board leadership takes over? Well, now is your chance to bring these hopes to fruition and these folks out of the wings and onto the stage! I wish you all the best with the important work of leading the current Library and if possible, funding the cost of a new one.

I will close, however with announcing my decision step off the board completely, not just step down as President. My instinct was to step down completely back in December but I was urged by my Pennsbury Supervisors to make my departure temporary, based upon my Fulbright assignment abroad for some months, and then to return in the fall. And while I initially accepting this request from them, and will be eternally grateful for the wonderful support they have provided me as their representative over these past three years, I now feel very strongly, given the recent resignations of my colleagues and friends, Rosa Quintana, Margarita Garay, Doug Thompson and Joan Weber, and the departure this past summer of my colleague and good friend Geoff Birkett, that the wind has gone out of my sails and the twinkle has gone out of my eye. My philosophy is to only commit to something if I can give 100% and I am not certain that this remains true for me with KPL. And with so many of my friends gone, it’s not as much fun any more. Yes I’m willing to admit it, servant leadership is not just something that we do for others, it is something that we do for ourselves as well.

So my word of caution to the Board is to remember to work hard to build relationships with each other and with the community and remember, by all means, even when you disagree about courses of action, to try to fight fair and remember to even try and have fun along the way! Cheers!


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