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Embattled Salt Lake City Public Library Director Beth Elder doesn't have to wait until month's end to learn her fate she already has a new one-year contract.
The discovery spelled out in Elder's employment contract recently was made by the Library Board, which is holding a closed meeting Wednesday nonetheless to conduct the director's annual performance review.
"She has a continuing one-year term," Library Board Chairman Hugh Gillilan said late Tuesday, quoting from Elder's initial three-year agreement that stipulates the director's contract continues from year to year "absent notice by the library or Elder in writing at least 90 days prior to the end of the three-year term."
That term technically expires at the end of April, meaning Elder has been in the clear for two months.
Despite the renewal, Gillilan says the board can fire Elder at any point in her tenure "with or without cause." Board members will have a chance to weigh in and perhaps take a public vote Wednesday.
Asked if he expected any action in the wake of public criticism, Gillilan said, "I don't know."
Elder, who could not be reached for comment late Tuesday, has been embroiled in a mutiny of sorts by library employees and former managers since late last year after a personnel shake-up that took hold in January.
Longtime employees were forced to reapply for their positions. Many were transferred to different jobs or different branches. A handful retired in protest.
In consecutive board meetings, employees have criticized Elder's leadership, complained of deteriorating morale and insisted many library loyalists won't speak out for fear of reprisal.
In an "all staff" email sent late last month, Elder said the library's overall strategy is sound, but acknowledged making "some tactical missteps."
"I'm responsible for this and I plan to do whatever it takes to fix it," Elder wrote. "It will be my priority to make this right with you, the library's employees."
She pledged to take a hard look at her management style and rebuild morale.
Winner of the 2006 Library of the Year, the city's cultural crown jewel has drawn fire under Elder's direction for squelching dissenting views of the system overhaul. Last month, the library's veteran secretary quit after a supervisor questioned her for her customary role in releasing Library Board minutes to The Salt Lake Tribune.
Since casting a vote of no confidence in Elder last fall, numerous employees have called for her to resign.
"The 'Beth Mess' has taken much energy from the staff and diminished the library's reputation of openness, forward thinking and managerial leadership," library employee Lucy Archer recently wrote to the library employees' union boss.
Gillilan said the board had been preparing to take a vote on Elder's contract when "it dawned on us" that she already was renewed.
So what does the board chairman make of the community uproar?
"It obviously mandates the importance of trying to reconcile the differences that are there for the good of the library," Gillilan says. "It's still a work in progress."