Duties of interim BCL director more concentrated on business than books
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula News
Published: July 26, 2013
The interim director hired by the Blanchard Community Library Board of Trustees is already on the job, but the duties of Ned Branch are more concentrated on business than the books on the shelves.
Branch, a resident of Ventura, joined the library July 1. Dan Robles, who had worked at BCL since he was a teenager and served as the librarian for more than three decades, was terminated in April.
BCL Board President Linda Spink said, “For as long as I can remember, the Blanchard Library has been an integral part of our community and has offered resources of incalculable benefit to our citizens. Recently, in an effort to address an array of looming challenges,” the board voted unanimously to hire Branch, who, although not experienced directly in library operations, is just what Spink said BCL needs at this time.
“Ned comes to us with an extensive background in executive management, and we are excited by the kind of skills he will bring to bear on many facets of library operations. “And,” noted Spink, “in this time of change, he will be a much needed asset in helping us move our library forward.”
Branch said his top priorities are those of the board: “They’ve been here a lot longer, live in the community and understand the library. I’m at their beck and call” to implement operational priorities.
He attended Berkeley University and his areas of expertise include corporate administration, marketing, financial aid, accreditation and state and federal compliance, among others. At BCL Branch is going to be busy updating budgets, audits and financial reports, reconciling financial reporting, and creating new policies and procedures or updating same for operations - ranging from purchasing and reporting to job descriptions, personnel policies and a personnel guidebook.
Branch was the CEO of Cascade Education, LLC, which owns and operates a postsecondary career college in Portland, Oregon, until early 2013. Until 2007 he was also a partner in Bryan College, LLC, which owns and operates several campuses.
He started in the field in 1986 when he became the president of Sawyer College in Santa Clara. Branch also helped draft the first set of regulations to interpret and implement the Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education Reform Act of 1989.
At BCL, Branch will also oversee a major re-shelving project later this year that has involved volunteers cleaning out the back areas of the cavernous library building for temporary book storage. The storage area itself is also being spruced up, including new paint. The shelves were donated by Oxnard College, but must be professionally installed to ensure seismic stability.
Branch said he has found library staff to be “fabulous, so most of the energy right now is being focused on the things that support library functions, whether accounting or infrastructure. My job is to make it possible for the people in the front to do their jobs... that’s what it’s all about, making sure they can give service to the patrons of the library.”
Staffing levels will be examined, although it is “too early to tell” if changes are called for. “I know it’s a good team,” said Branch, “but I want to make sure their roles are appropriate and the workloads are all balanced properly. From what I’ve seen on my own,” as well as been told by numerous library patrons, “I’m fortunate to have inherited a great group of people.”
Branch admits that after a 27-year career in the field of post education, “Libraries are a bit new to me,” but “the focus I had was college administration, accounting, human resources and recruitment,” among other experience. “I have a lot of administrative background, stepped into a couple of situations that were clearly troubled that needed to be sorted out.... I guess,” noted Branch, “that’s what the library board found interesting - I’ve been in similar situations, dealt with administrative issues that had to be tackled and set in order.”
Branch will be paid $6,000 a month - approximately Robles’ salary - and $429 monthly in a health benefit, the only benefit offered during the three-month employment agreement. Spink said the board could retain Branch month-to-month if needed.
Branch said he’s been working during the library’s staggered public hours to experience and evaluate firsthand the workings of the library as well as the duties and challenges faced by staff.
He enjoys Santa Paula and had visited the city several times in the past. “Santa Paula strikes me as the quintessential small town where everybody knows everybody else, akin to a town I lived in until I was 13 outside of Memphis - I think if I had counted noses I would have found that half the people within a three-mile radius were cousins.”