Special Meeting of the Board of Library Trustees
October 27, 2020
Zoom virtual meeting
Committee Members Present:
Carlo Fassi, BOLT Chair
Mario Payne, Trustee
Celia Nass, Trustee
Virginia Berg, Trustee
Donnie Horner, Trustee
Fernando Meza, Trustee
Guy Anderson, Trustee
Jill Dame, Trustee
Steve Eagerton, Trustee
Committee Members Absent:
Matt Swanson, Trustee
Ronnie King, Trustee
Marc Hardesty, Trustee
Others in Attendance:
Tim Rogers, Library Director
Julie McNeil, Deputy Director
Gretchen Mitchell, Deputy Director
Ray Albury, Assistant Director for Facilities Management and Planning
Chet Price, Manager, Safety and Security
Jim McCain, Office of General Counsel
Antonio Nichols, FL Department of Health
Tawanda Washington, FL Department of Health
Tristan Denmark, Clerk of the BOLT
Call to Order
Chair Fassi called the meeting to order at 10:02am after calling the roll.
Chair Fassi started the meeting by reminding attendees that he would be hearing discussion and comment from Board members only, as the special meeting was called to discuss the Library’s pandemic response plan due to the Mayor’s mask mandate expiring at 5pm today. He said that at the urging of staff, we are considering a policy written up by the Office of General Counsel requiring masks at all Jacksonville Public Library locations. He said the FL Department of Health reminds us that we are still in a national emergency and they urge us to follow the CDC guidelines on masks. Chair Fassi said he has been in constant contact with Director Rogers throughout the pandemic, and that in the roughly four months since the current mandate was enacted, there have been around 15 people system-wide who have been asked to leave the Library due to non-compliance.
First Call for Public Comment
There were no members of the public present.
Jacksonville Public Library’s Pandemic Response Plan Going Forward
Chair Fassi introduced Director Rogers to begin the discussion about the policy. Director Rogers gave information on the Mayor’s mask mandate that is expected to expire today if it is not renewed, and they have worked with the Office of General Counsel to create a policy that mirrors the language in the Mayor’s proclamation and will continue the policy that has existed since May. Director Rogers said the briefing sheet outlines the specifics of the policy, including Library staff being responsible for enforcement, and an exemption for first responders when addressing an emergency. There is also an ADA accommodation, which is consistent with the Mayor’s order.
Director Rogers said that the last three paragraphs were added to address the Friends of the Library store at the University Park Branch, as they are exempted and the Library will not be enforcing the mandate there; same goes for Bayless Park. The policy also has a sundown date, so if it is enacted tonight (if the Mayor allows his proclamation to expire) it will be in effect until November 30th, unless the Board decides at the regular November 19th meeting to extend it; same with the December meeting.
Director Rogers specified that the policy does not implement anything new or make anyone wear a mask who hasn’t already been. He pointed out that the CDC has long stated that wearing masks is one of the best ways to keep the virus from spreading.
Chair Fassi said the Mayor’s office and City Council leadership have been made aware of today’s meeting and know that the Board may pass the policy. Trustee Anderson asked how the next few days of voting in Library facilities will be dealt with, and said he would like statistics of how many people have requested exemptions from wearing a mask. Director Rogers said that voting will be dealt with as it has been thus far, and said that statistics about exemptions and accommodations can be included.
Trustee Dame motioned that the pandemic response policy as presented by staff be adopted; Trustee Payne seconded the motion. Chair Fassi opened the floor for discussion; Trustee Dame pointed out that the November BOLT meeting is in only three weeks, so she would like to suggest pushing the expiration of the policy to the end of December. Trustee Meza asked if staff’s input has been gathered and considered regarding the mask mandate; Director Rogers said it has, and that overwhelmingly staff are in favor of the mandate. Trustee Dame motioned that the policy be amended to expire on December 31st unless otherwise acted upon by the Board; Trustee Payne seconded the motion. Trustees Eagerton, Payne, Anderson, Dame, Horner, Nass and Meza all voted yea; the motion passed unanimously.
Chair Fassi asked Jim McCain from the Office of General Counsel to briefly discuss the Office’s stance on enforcement of the policy. Mr. McCain said the Library is making reasonable accommodations for those with ADA issues, is providing reasonable access, and is dividing Library access from the voting area; therefore, the mask mandate can be enforced in the same way any Code of Conduct issue is enforced. Director Rogers said he felt it was important to discuss the aspect of staff enforcing the mandate, and asked Chet Price to briefly talk about it. Mr. Price said there is a small segment of the population who does not want to comply with the mask mandate, and some of the managers and the security team are concerned that people may be less willing to wear a mask if the Mayor does not extend his proclamation, as they may feel that the Mayor said they ‘didn’t have to’. He said the Board and the Administration should be prepared to field a few complaints. Trustee Anderson clarified that information on the mask mandate is prominently posted at all Library entries; Director Rogers confirmed that it is. Chair Fassi asked if there were any questions or statements for the Florida Department of Health employees, as they need to leave at 10:30am; there were not. Trustee Meza asked if there was any data on the library branches with the incidents of non-compliance; Director Rogers said there was. He read off that there were 53 incidents related to masks, and 30 of those incidents resulted in people being asked to leave the Library for the day. He said that the majority of the incidents and the expulsions were at the Main Library. Trustee Eagerton asked via Chat if disposable masks would be provided to customers who do not have one; Director Rogers confirmed they would be. He said the Florida Department of Health has offered to give the Library 50-60k cloth masks to provide to customers, which is helpful.
Chair Fassi asked for a motion to pass the policy as amended; Trustee Dame motioned and Trustee Payne seconded the motion. Trustees Eagerton, Payne, Anderson, Dame, Horner, Nass and Meza all voted yea; the motion passed unanimously. Chair Fassi thanked the Trustees for making themselves available for a special meeting on this topic. Director Rogers mentioned that the Mayor specifically said he is glad the Library is taking this up, and feels it is something all boards should be doing. Chair Fassi said Council leadership was also in favor of both the Library taking the issue up and also of passing it. Director Rogers thanked the Board, saying the action will make staff feel safer and more comfortable coming to work every day.
Second Call for Public Comment
There were no members of the public present.
The meeting adjourned at 10:33am