Great Bend Public Library Director Harry Willems told the GBPL board he’d left his leather motorcycle jacket at home for Monday’s meeting, an apparent reference to the negative reaction he received from the City Council earlier this month.
“I’m not the bad boy that I appeared to be at some point. I’m a librarian!” he said.
Willems was reprimanded by Great Bend City Council members after a 20-year-old ash tree in the library parking lot was cut down because it blocked the view to a new Central Kansas Library System sign. CKLS is located in the basement of the library, and Willems is also director of the multi-county library system. The building and parking lot at 1409 Williams St. are owned by the city.
Willems returned to the subject Monday during his monthly report of events and happenings.
“The big news – my decision to remove the tree,” he said. “It was quite simple. The tree was blocking one whole side of (the new CKLS sign).” Willems said he worked with the Beautification Committee and picked out a replacement tree at Northview Nursery that the library would pay for.
“It was very simple. The tree was in the way,” Willems repeated. “We will put in something better.”
The negative reaction included police officers coming to the library parking lot – and running the tags of a CKLS employee who photographed them, the director continued.
“Everything we do, we do for the benefit of the citizens,” he said. “We do a really good job.” Willems also reported that the library has counted 11,000 visitors a month so far this year, and he expects those numbers to go up in the summer. That makes it the most visited city attraction, he suggested.
“The reaction was – it was what it was, and I didn’t appreciate it,” he said. “I’m over it and I hope the City is over it.”
It is unclear what will happen next. “I would just as soon the Beautification Committee work with Norhview,” Willems said. “They may want the City to take care of it.”
Officers elected; Sumer Reading Program in the works
In other business, the library board elected its new officers, with Dr. Bill King continuing as president, Derinda Bussman as vice president and Rose Kelly as secretary. Marla Davidson agreed to take over as treasurer. Other board members are Colleen Newman, Karen Ekberg and Krista Smith.
The board extended recognition to Jerri Collins, who has worked at the library for 15 years, and noted that Romona Newsome, technical services supervisor, will retire at the end of the month. She has worked at the library for 25 years.
Newsome reported that plans are being made for the Summer Reading Program. This year’s themes add a fitness component. Adults who sign up will count minutes of exercise as well as minutes of reading.
The board approved a proposed budget which will go to the Great Bend City Council in a few weeks. Willems noted that most of the money from the city “goes right back to the city,” whether it is employee salaries or other local purchases. “The money is part of Great Bend and what we do is always for the benefit of the citizens of Great Bend, and I hope people realize that.”