BY ART BUKOWSKI
TRAVERSE CITY — Editor's note: Newsmakers 2011 recounts and updates stories that made headlines in the Grand Traverse region during the past year. Today: Trouble at the Traverse Area District Library. To read this series in full as articles are published, visit Record-Eagle.com/newsmakers.
Metta Lansdale wasn't the most popular woman at the Traverse Area District Library, but she and her bosses believe the drama is over.
Lansdale in 2009 replaced Michael McGuire, who retired after 30 years with the library. Her management style and structural changes rankled some employees, and the tension culminated in February when the library board held a meeting to address employee concerns.
It was a tough time, Lansdale said, but she believes the library is headed in the right direction.
"I think that we're really cooking with gas over here," Lansdale said. "We did go through quite a rough spot, but I think that we have a lot of good energy."
The library board also is satisfied that the turbulence tied to Lansdale is a thing of the past, board president Jerry Beasley said.
"We have not had any further demands for attention to this issue," he said. "As far as the board is concerned, we're past that conflict."
In January, retired librarian Sandy Robey gave the board a packet of anonymous complaints from staff members about the board and Lansdale's management style. And former library assistant director Barbara Nowinski, who retired late last year, said in a December 2010 letter to the board that Lansdale micromanaged and demoralized staff, among other things.
After the February meeting, the board commissioned a survey to gauge employee morale, among other items. Some employees weren't satisfied with Lansdale, their coworkers or other issues, the survey showed, but the level of discontent didn't alarm the board.
The board ultimately backed Lansdale, though board members acknowledged she might need to alter the manner in which she deals with employees.
Although it was a relatively tense few months, Beasley is glad the issue was addressed.
"It was stressful for everyone, for the people up front, for the board, and for Metta, certainly. ... It was worth it to go through that process. It was as public as we could possibly make it, and it really helped to calm feelings," Beasley said.
Things aren't all rosy with the district's employees, some say, but employees contacted by the Record-Eagle did not want to be quoted for this story.
It's possible there still may be legal action tied to Lansdale. She drew criticism from some employees and library supporters in January when she fired Margaret Kelly, the library's longtime director of adult services.
Kelly requested mediation after her firing, said her attorney, Jay Zelenock. That process is completed, and a lawsuit could be filed soon if an agreeable settlement isn't reached, he said.