By GUY LAMOLINARA
Acknowledging that "we have not done as well as we should to make equal opportunity a reality," Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, during a March 18 hearing before two House subcommittees, emphasized that the Library of Congress has made "fundamental changes, particularly in recent months."
Dr. Billington spoke before subcommittees of the Committee on Post Office and Civil Service and the Committee on House Administration regarding the progress the Library has made in its hiring policies.
The hearing came in the wake of LC reforms instituted after a federal district court judge issued a partial summary judgment Aug. 14 in Cook v. Billington, an LC black employees class action lawsuit, whose origins go back to 1975.
Basing her findings on 1979-88 data, Judge Norma Holloway Johnson found that LC hiring system was so "subjective" as to lend itself to discriminatory effects against African-American applicants for professional and administrative positions.
She prescribed no remedies. But on Jan. 7, 1993, she ordered attorneys for the Library, and the Justice Department (representing LC), to meet weekly to negotiate a settlement. They are still doing so.
In an effort to improve day-to-day operations, the Librarian said he would appoint a Deputy Librarian, "who will act as a chief operating officer, and ... a special assistant, who will help me focus continuous attention on both diversity and affirmative action."
The Librarian also announced acceptance of a $1 million gift, which will be used to fund an affirmative action education program aimed at developing leaders in the field of librarianship.
In addition, the Library has recently undertaken a reorganization that upgraded Human Resources into a service unit whose head will report directly to Dr. Billington, "thus providing a higher profile to all personnel programs" at LC.
The Library has also had in place since 1991 an affirmative action Professional Development Program for 14 people to give women and minorities the necessary training to increase their upward mobility, and the EXCEL program, which helps women and minorities already in the professional ranks of the Library gain broader experience so they can qualify for higher level positions. The Library also annually provides $1,200 in tuition support to 70 LC employees seeking postsecondary education.
The hearing was chaired by Rep. William L. Clay (D-Mo.), a founder of the Congressional Black Caucus. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), although not a member of either subcommittee, was invited to participate in the hearing; she is a former chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
"I have come today to give you an accounting of the Library's performance," said Dr. Billington. One of the "fundamental changes" the Librarian noted was LC's October 1992 reorganization. Human Resources, which previously was a part of the now abolished Management Services unit, has itself been upgraded to one of the Library's nine service units. The heads of the units report directly to Dr. Billington, thus giving Human Resources a higher profile in the institution's management structure.
Significant progress has been made at the very top of the Library's management structure. Of the nine service unit heads, three white males were already in their positions when Dr. Billington took office in 1987. Of the six hires he has made, three are African-American, three are white; of the six, three are male and three are female.
The Library has also taken "critical steps" to ensure that new, more objective standards govern the three stages of the Library's hiring process:
* initial screening of applications for those that meet minimum qualifications,
* assembling of a ratings panel that ranks the applications according to qualifications and experience, and
* interviewing of the top applicants by the selecting officer.
Dr. Billington also directed that a Library-wide working group be formed to "make recommendations on key human resources matters. We plan to implement 19 of the [group's] recommendations for supervisory training and development."
Other changes are being made based on the reports of two outside consultants under contract to review personnel practices. Of their 48 recommendations, 39 are being implemented, and the other nine are under discussion.
"Today, in the opinion of our outside consultants, our revised competitive selection process is fair and legal. ... Policy and procedures at every stage of the process have been clarified. Training is under way for [200 ratings panelists]," the Librarian told the committee.
He acknowledged that "achieving equity and diversity at all levels will take longer than I originally thought." Dr. Billington said he believes that sufficient progress "will require remedies beyond those that I have outlined here. But I also suggest that we have made a genuine break with the past. ... We will move ahead on all fronts."
Statistics were the focus of questions from Del. Norton: "Has the Library used or used in the past goals and timetables [for hiring more minorities] based on an availability analysis?" she wanted to know.
Denise Banks, LC's Affirmative Action officer, said that although the Library had not done this, "what we have done is conduct analyses of underrepresentation by occupational category and series and grade."
According to Del. Norton, "The usual second step is analysis of availability, driven by goals and timetables, to assist management in recruitment." She said it was not possible to set realistic goals for correcting underrepresentation without first determining how many qualified applicants could realistically be expected to apply for vacant positions.
For example, said Dr. Billington, "to take only the central profession of library science, a bare 6 percent of those currently enrolled in major library schools are minorities compared to 12 percent 20 years ago."
The "Multi-Year Affirmative Action Plan for 1992-1994" is "the most comprehensive plan in Library history, which was developed with the help of our Affirmative Action coordinator, after negotiations with the Library's three labor unions, in July 1991," Dr. Billington said in his statement for the record. He also emphasized that "the plan contains a statistical profile of the Library's work force. Comparing the makeup of employees in several Library occupational series with those of similar local or national labor pools, the plan identifies the underrepresentation of minorities and women in certain LC occupations and grade levels."
The plan "shows us the size of the deficit that we have inherited and are determined to reduce," he said.
Ms. Banks added that the Library has also begun an assessment of employee attitudes at LC "to help improve our understanding of diversity in the workplace."
Dr. Billington also noted LC's Targeted Recruitment Office, recently established to increase the pool of qualified minorities for Library positions. Further, he said, LC holds managers responsible for achieving affirmative action goals-one of the four "critical elements" in annual job performance evaluations.
On May 13, 1992, the Management Team recommended an immediate across-the-board hiring freeze, with exceptions only in cases of positions of "critical" importance. The freeze was instituted for budgetary reasons. On Nov. 24 Dr. Billington ordered that all competitive hiring in administrative and professional positions be curtailed. "I reviewed the procedures in place and the changes made so far and asked . . . that all competitive hiring be stopped," he said in his statement.
Between Aug. 14 and Nov. 24, 14 administrative and professional positions were filled. All but two positions were filled by internal candidates. Of the 14, nine were white females, three were white males, and two were black males.
The Library plans to begin posting professional and adrninistrative positions, under its new procedures, during the week of March 22.
Changing the subject, Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-Fla.) took LC to task for hiring several consultants who were later employed as permanent staffers.
As the hearing room's clock buzzer signaled to those on the panel that votes were being taken on the House floor, the committee began to wrap up business. Dr. Billington assured the Congress members that "you have my commitment" that the Library will correct past practices as soon as possible. "I personally do not see bringing equity and recognition of American diversity to the workplace as a legal burden but as a moral necessity and as an opportunity to develop that enhanced human talent we will need to realize the new service opportunities that lie ahead for the Library of Congress."
The panel then adjourned, to reconvene March 24 with testimony from LC's union presidents; Howard Cook, the chief plaintiff in Cook v. Billington; and the consultants brought in to advise the Library on its personnel procedures.