Library’s Plan B: Cross Your Fingers We Can Go With Plan A

Received an interesting e-mail from the Friends of Regina Public Library this morning. Apparently there was an RPL board meeting yesterday at which it was revealed that the library board now has no plans to rejuvenate the downtown branch.

From the Friends’ e-mail:

The Regina Public Library Board disclosed it had spent about $400,000 on feasibility and design studies, which became largely useless when the Masons declined to sell their neighbouring building. The work apparently provided no alternative plans, according to the Library Board Chair.

Well, thanks for that. Now the piece on the library I wrote for the upcoming issue is going to look pretty out-of-date.

Also, I’m confused. The board had no alternate plans? None? But back in June of last year — that would be the first time the masons publicly stated they didn’t want to sell their land — library board chair, Darlene Hincks-Joehnk, declared that that’s okay because they have lots of other plans that they can go with.

Don’t believe me? Well, here’s Darlene saying that very thing during a press scrum in June of 2011.

We have many options that we’ve been working on. by Paul Dechene

You know what, I’m beginning to wonder if that concept sketch that was leaked to the interwebs last spring — the one that board chair, Darlene Hincks-Joehnk, assured us over and over again was just a concept and not a final plan — was actually the only plan they’ve ever had.

It couldn’t be that library board chair, Darlene Hincks-Joehnk, wasn’t being entirely forthright with us, could it?

Incidentally, I pulled that audio clip from the podcast episode in which we discuss the library redevelopment. That was Ultrasonic Alarm Call #4: Reboots. There are several more clips in there of library board chair, Darlene Hincks-Joehnk, discussing their many plans for central branch. Definitely worth a listen now.

Update: Oh, forgot to mention this above… it’s also worth pointing out that it seems the library board has cancelled their P3 plan for central branch as well.

Again, from the Friends’ e-mail:

The Friends were happy to hear the Library Board has abandoned a public-private partnership (P3) for the Central Library.  Chairperson Darlene Hincks Joehnck claimed the Friends would never understand P3’s but evidently she understands them well enough to know it is not a good idea for the Regina Public Library.

Without a plan, the Board does not foresee any public consultations over the summer.

Author: Paul Dechene

Paul Dechene is 5'10'' tall and he was born in a place. He's not there now. He's sitting in front of his computer writing his bio for this blog. He has a song stuck in his head. It's "Girl From Ipanema", thanks for asking. You can follow Paul on Twitter at @pauldechene and get live updates during city council meetings and other city events at @PDcityhall.

49 thoughts on “Library’s Plan B: Cross Your Fingers We Can Go With Plan A”

  1. I seem to recall the Masons being shown a couple of other options. And Barb Saylor mentioned in a comment on the post about the leak that “when [she] attended the info sessions and viewed the conceptions, the Masonic Temple was left in situ.”

    It’s either that this was the only option they had, or it was the only option they *wanted* and have decided to pout about it. Either way, not the type of action you want from the people in charge of your public library, I think.

  2. “Hey everyone, let’s spend $400K on a feasibility study for a plan that will only be feasible if the Masons decide to sell their building to us, and then we – what? They won’t? But we pretended to have other options! We said so in public. I guess we’ll just have to do nothing at all. Can we at least continue to underpay the staff?”

  3. Just how incompetent does this board have to be before they are asked to leave? Do we the citizens sit idly by until the institution is completely ruined before some authority intervenes?
    What are we, the people, going to do?
    I know that as Canadians we are not rash people but what does it take before we move to take action to preserve at least some of the worth while parts of our public institutions? I am currently involved in fighting this board and administration as an employee but I would like to know: Does anyone else want to stand up and fight for our communities? What is happening at the Regina Public Library is a canry in the coal mine as far as I’m concerned. If things are allowed to continue then other organizations are going to feel empowered to do as has been done at the RPL. If no one stands up to these abuses and incompetence then the cycle will continue and grow. We the citizens will have no one to blame but ourselves unless we stand up and fight for what we want in our city, province and country.

  4. The Mayor isn’t running again, so there’ll be a new one this fall. I’m not sure if Sharron Bryce is running again, but even if she is and is re-elected, she may choose not to be reappointed to the RPL Board. Most important of all: according to the RPL website, the term of every single Council-appointed member of the RPL Board expires this December. The Board doesn’t need to resign when it can simply retire.
    There’s an opportunity here, if people are willing to take it.

  5. Oh, yes, the Board needs to resign! For misleading the public, for playing games with its staff and for wasting citizens’ money, for starters!

  6. It’s essentially a lame-duck board, and the regular process to replace it begins right after the civic election. Anyone here care to put their names in for appointment? Anyone?

  7. Barb: Where on the RPL site does it mention the terms for board members. Maybe I’m too dim, but I’m looking right now and can’t find anything.

    Also, as for who can/will get appointed to what boards once the new council is elected, here is the text of Michael Fougere’s press release about the event at which he announced his intention to run. This is cut and pasted directly from the pdf I was sent.

    The last line is what’s worth noting….

    Media Advisory

    February 17, 2012
    For Immediate Release

    Michael Fougere to Announce Civic Intentions

    Councillor Michael Fougere would like to invite you to a media conference on Tuesday, February 21 at 11 a.m. in the Umbria Room at the Delta Hotel and Convention Centre.

    At this time, Councillor Fougere will announce his intentions regarding the 2012 Civic Election.

    Media Conference
    Tuesday, February 21, 2012
    11 a.m.
    Umbria Room – Second Floor
    Delta Hotel and Convention Centre
    1919 Saskatchewan Drive
    Regina, Saskatchewan


    For further information please contact:
    Darlene Hincks Joehnck

  8. Paul: see, after each name, although I’d want other confirmation all the dates are aligned.

    I don’t think the board needs a general purge — various members are dedicated and earnest — but certainly an influential few have a twisted sense of public interest.

  9. Paul: click on “About Us” at the top of the homepage; then click on “Board Members & Meetings” in the left-hand column of the “About Us” page; scroll down for the Board members and term expiry dates.
    Re: appointments to the RPL Board, as all the terms are expiring, there will be 7 openings on the Board; when the City advertises for applications to all of its boards and commissions, it will have to mention that number. It’s possible that all 7 current members might apply for reappointment; it’s also possible that some, if not all, won’t. This particular Board has been in position for years, and some of those folks might have had enough. The RPL and its downtown plan or lack thereof can’t fail to be an election issue (Susan Birley, running in Ward 3, is a member of the Friends of the RPL, and I’m sure she’ll bring it up). There’s lots of opportunity to elect people who will take a fresh look at board and commission appointments, so be ready to give them a wide field from which to choose.

  10. Sorry I was so slow; good work, agent w.
    Following on agent w’s comment, it’s always a good idea to have a little corporate memory to carry over on a newly appointed board, but that can be provided by other means than reappointments.

  11. I remain suspicious about all the terms expiring together, but doesn’t have historical copies of that page to compare.

    Oh, and I forgot to mention — in Darlene’s TV interview clips done the day the Masons announced they wouldn’t be selling, the background seems to be the Delta hotel … where she was attending a luncheon for Fougere’s campaign. See (album linked to from his own site) where she’s seated next to him at his table.

  12. (Hmm, it resembles her but I’m realizing I may be judging wrong from a smallish pic.)

  13. agent w: that homogeneous term expiration seemed odd to me, too. Elaine Kivisto is the only member from the pre-2004 RPL Board, and I can’t recall how many years if any she had left when the Board for 2004 was appointed. The rest, if memory serves, have been in there as a bloc for the last 4 terms.

  14. Slight correction: most of the current Board was appointed in June 2004, not the customary January (like the present Chair). You’ll recall that members of the previous Board were pretty much forced to resign, one by one. How that late appointment would affect the term-expiry dates, I don’t know.

  15. (It’s probably her unless he has a doppelganger for a wife.)

    Barb, the last appointment announcements I can find are, from end of 2010 appointing Brown, Lucke, Monson, and Kleisinger, through end of 2012. and, from end of 2009, appointing Hincks Joehnck, Kapoor, and Kivisto, through end of 2011.

    I would expect the latter three were reappointed late in 2011 through end of 2013, but can’t find a document for that on the city web site.

  16. Pretty much the entire current RPL board has been in place since at least September 2004.

    The term limits on the current RPL “About Us” page which state the board terms expire at the end of this year were only updated after pressure was applied by the RPL workers’ Check Us Out blog.

    There are lots of comments on the Check Us Out blog from before that update which point out that the term limits given on the RPL page had already passed.

    This board is “lame duck” but not in the way that you normally think of the term.

  17. agent w: I was going by the Board members’ bios, which are rudimentary, and my admittedly fallible memory.
    LDI: the section of the RPL website dedicated to the Board, agendas, meetings, and Director’s Reports, has been very poorly maintained for years.

  18. Barb: we’re just splitting hairs there about (re)appointment; you’re right in #15 about how long each has been around (and long service can be an asset, in the case of good people).

    It remains troubling to see how some of them seem determined to consider the public (and the employees, and the Masons) as pawns in the Board’s own game.

  19. agent w, we may be splitting hairs, but it’s in a good cause! The main thrust of my initial comment was that there is an opportunity for change, if people want to get out of their armchairs and step up, and your second sentence emphasizes why this is so important.

  20. Wow,they are a complete mess. Can’t figure out what they are doing with the new Central and never-ending labour problems. Time for a change?

  21. The thing that frosts my buns about this debate is that the RPL, whose board is crying poverty when it comes to salary negotiations, just blew $400,000 or so on designing a pipe dream that wasn’t going to work.

    My Dad is a Freemason (former Deputy District Grand Master for those who understand the hierarchy, kind of like deputy Grand Poo Bah), and he told me that the Masons were never contacted until the first artists conceptions were leaked. He also told me that it will be a cold day in Hell before the Masons’ sell the land because they make most of their income selling the parking spaces around the Masonic Temple. Why would they sell that prime land, a prime revenue generator for them?

    One bloody phone call to the Masonic Temple — which for Christ’s sake is NEXT FARKING DOOR — could have saved the RPL $400,000 on feasibility studies on a project that WAS NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN! There should be heads rolling — both in the RPL administration and on the RPL board — for this.

  22. Thankfully, I stumbled upon this article by its official tag “douchebaggery”. I now know better than to search “The Municipal Building Which Provides Access to Information for All”.

    As for the Library Board, well, their term expiry dates have “evolved” over the past few months, so there is no real way to clear that one up until they’re huddled on the loading dock waving goodbye with their thwarted plans to annex the Mason’s building and a chunk of fudge cake clutched in their hands.

    As for Central? I believe Plan “C” is a gigantic Circus Tent.

  23. #25 – Stephen, if you think it’s bad that they couldn’t contact the Masons right next door, imagine how it feels for the vast majority of staff who find out these types of developments from the media, the union’s blog or water cooler conversations with co-workers. Pretty much anywhere that isn’t official internal communication from our “leadership”.

  24. There are a few whisperings that might answer your questions regarding the library board but I have to say upfront that I have no other source to prove this.

    Some of the members of the Library Board had their terms mysteriously extended to the end of this year.

    There have been many good people in the past who have tried to get on the library board (retired librarians and teachers, concerned citizens, loyal library users) but their applications have been turned down. Strange! So, very capable people are standing up but somehow are never chosen. Sounds like a really crappy baseball team.

  25. Barb, some of us are already doing great things and we don’t have to be on officious boards and commissions and positions of authority to do it. We do it by living our lives.

  26. An article just recently appeared on the LP website, with the following interesting quote:

    “We have to go back to square one and start over again,” said board chair Darlene Hincks Joehnck on Wednesday. “There will be public consultation when we have an idea of what direction we’ll be taking. Right now, we don’t.”

    The “public consultation” could mean just manufacturing consent for the board’s next scheme, or something more inclusive; we’ll have to see which.

  27. #4 I agree.
    People need to get more RASHy.
    I’m suprised that #5Barb spared you..,( you too #29).

    Why not the build around the Smith St. corner,get rid of the fugly federal bldg. and still salvage the original 1962 entrance facade, the terrazo stairwell,the glass walls, the basement theatre? The kids library could be kept, or turned into a coffee shop/reading space. There’s still a shit load of completely recycleable still functioning building components in there.Knocking it all down NO.

    What are a citizen’s right to force a retirement of any unwanted CoR board? Election year or not. This has not been a transparent board, but a teflon one.

  28. I just thought, Bernadette, that as a Friend of the RPL and someone who has a very clear idea of what the RPL Board (City Council, etc.) should/shouldn’t be doing, that you’d be a part of the change you want. Nope. The reference to “officious boards and commissions and positions of authority” was the tipoff.
    Ron: #4 clearly states that (s)he is an employee of the RPL and is dealing with that Board, so your remark about my sparing Him/her is puzzling. As to #29 (2,6, 22), I have replied, and my original statement still stands: there’s an opportunity for change here. If you can’t step forward yourself, then throw your active support – not just your good wishes – behind candidates for office whose platforms you can agree with. Do some work; get your hands dirty; get off your butt.

  29. You make the wildest assumptions, Barb. Working outside the system is a necessary part of changing the system. Founding FRPL was necessary to force the RPL Board to drop their plan to close inner-city libraries and the Dunlop, remember?

  30. Dear, dear Bernadette: would you care to detail just what those assumptions are?

    I do indeed remember the founding and the work of the FRPL, but I think that you are giving far too little credit to the Mayor, who changed his mind about the initial proposals as soon as opposition arose, and then steadily worked to put together a library board that would reflect the new agenda. Now that selfsame board is apparently not working to the satisfaction of commenters on this thread, so this fall, there’s a chance to start over. Perhaps this is the next logical step for members of the FRPL; certainly, they’re as free to put themselves forward as anyone else.

    I’m not sure why provincial law puts public libraries in SK under the Dept. of Ed., or why it previously put them under Municipal Affairs, when libraries are pretty much run as though they were local government departments. Other jurisdictions incorporate libraries as part of municipal structure, so why not here?

  31. Quit patronizing me, Barb. You know damned well the only reason Fiasco changed his mind was because of the pressure FRPL placed on him in the first 6 weeks after Cameron announced the proposed changes.

    Mayor Pipsqueak, as he was dubbed by some, could have cared less about libraries then. And, quite obviously, he could care less about our libraries now. He will go down in history as the Mayor who attacked our excellent library system not once, but twice.

  32. #32 (Barb) My understanding is that some very well-known local writers and other community leaders have put their names forward but not been appointed to the Library Board. That speaks to a larger problem in that the process of what happens after you apply – who gets chosen, what criteria are used, how the City ensures that we have a library board that represents the entire community – is a mystery.

  33. @ Writers: as City Council chooses the board members from the applications submitted, and as there is an opportunity to change the composition of City Council from the Mayor on down, it’s very important to get involved in the civic election AND to continue to apply for board positions. Good will, unfortunately, isn’t enough to qualify for board/commission work; it helps to have solid community connections; that’s what’s made the home lottery successful.
    First Nations representation is necessary, as well as multicultural, and if a board applicant has successfully run something in the community, (s)he’ll be taken more seriously. Look at Marian Donnelly, who’s running for Mayor: she’s got credibility as well as connections.

    In complete sincerity, and knowing that I’m singling out 2 of many, it’s too bad that Vanessa Thorson and Seema Goel moved away; I remember the tremendous work they did as members of FRPL. They were excellent spokespersons, as well as petition organizers, and they stayed on message and as far as I saw, never lost their tempers or made the issues more about themselves than about the objective. Big shoes, but they can be filled.

  34. How can it be that the Library has $400,000 to blow on a completely useless feasibility study while it’s employees have gone 2.5 years without a contract. The administration obviously has the money to throw around.

  35. Sorry, I’m a bit late to the party… It’s a hoot, by the way.
    So where did the $400k go? Forgive my ignorance, but I don’t know how much preliminary architectural drawings and consultations cost. Was all that money spent on this one plan or the “many other options” that they were considering? At which point were we lied to? Back when we were told there were “other options” or now?

  36. well this is an interesting conversation and thanks for the free promo Barb – I am running in the next municipal election in Ward 3 and have some insight into the library situation – 1. although there is a limit on the number of years a board member is appointed for (2) there is no limit on how many times they can be reappointed. Previous board members have served for up to 20 years at a time. 2. the feasibility study included an assessment by a library consultant of the needs of the library staff for working space and of the type of spaces required for library functions so hopefully that can be re-used regardless of what the final decision is on a new/redone Central library.

  37. Anytime, Susan; I have been paying attention. Best of luck – and Ward 3 people, get to work to back her.

  38. So much of this has to do with the “character” of the current board and their inability, after all these years,to grasp even the most basic principles and values of a PUBLIC LIBRARY. They fondly pay lip service to “community” and they shun the community.

    Even the City of Regina, when repeatedly greenlighting these investigates and plans, admonished them to get out there and Talk to the People! Your People! Any People for the love of god.

    They must now be relieved that when they had everything to consult about, they didn’t and now there is nothing to consult about so they can’t.

    The Regina Public Library should be a big damn reality show.

  39. #32 hi, you missed the word canary,apologies to #29,I thought officious, was a typo. my bad

  40. #40 Hi,I’m curious about who those 20 yr. members were. Could you mention a few names?

  41. Barb: Re post #34 As someone who covered the RPL branch/Dunlop closure proposal in 04 and 05, I can tell you that Bernie’s closer to the truth. As well, If there is a constant between the problems with the RPL board then and the RPL board now, look no further than than the two City Council appointees — Councillor Sharon Bryce and Mayor Pat Fiacco. In both cases, the board and the administration went seriously off the rails.

  42. Ron #43: I wasn’t quite sure what you were getting at in your earlier comment. I’m glad that you’ve taken up the typo subcontract!
    Mr. LaRose, a correction: ALL of the members of the RPL Board, with the exception of the Mayor, who is a permanent member, and the Director, who acts as the Board secretary, are City Council appointees.
    As you might remember, I served 2 terms on the Board, beginning in 2000. I had plenty of opportunity to observe the influence of 2 Mayors and 2 City Councillors on the operations of the appointed Board. When influence became intervention, I got off the Board. I still stick with comment #34.

  43. #44 Ron – two board members I’m aware of that served twenty years were Merrilee Rasmussen and George Bothwell. Both made remarkable contributions to the library board though and were strong advocates for the library system.

  44. Somebody, presumably a staff member, posted this over on the Check Us Out blog.

    “It’s been a PRETTY BAD Couple of weeks for RPL board and management.

    In this time, they’ve:
    – Treated the union’s Negotiating Team with a level of CONTEMPT and unprofessionalism That Would Be embarrassing to a GRADE SCHOOLER!

    – Made a mistake around stat holidays That Will COST THE LIBRARY THOUSANDS of tax-paying dollars To Have staff come to work on a day When They Would Normally Be off.

    – The Board Chair finally Admitted That THERE IS NO PLAN B with Regards to planning for a new Central Library meaning That $ 400,000 of tax-paying funds Were wasted on a feesability study with nothing to show for it except sketches of a new library located Where the Mason’s building Will Remain .

    – SENT PATRONS INTO THE STREETS by closing the library early JUST as the worst storm of the Year was about to hit Rather Than keep patrons inside Where they Would Be save if the worst were to Happen or at least UNTIL after the storm Passed.

    What else can they MIS-MANAGE?”

    What the hell is going on at the library? And what does that comment about a mistake that will cost taxpayers thousands of dollars on a stat holiday mean? Is the library open on Monday?

  45. The library was indeed open on Monday (July 2). When Canada Day falls on a Sunday, the statutory holiday is to fall on the following Monday, as is mandated by federal and provincial labour laws. Once the scheduling mistake had been pointed out to management by the union, it was decided (by management) to keep the regular Monday schedule, paying all working staff double time and a half, which, as a result, cost the taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars. Spending some time downtown on July 2, however, it was interesting to see the management parking lot virtually empty.

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