By GAIL FINEBERG
The Library must not only continue to modify its hiring procedures to ensure objectivity but also should "design and aggressively implement an effective affirmative action plan" that should drive all personnel practices at the Library.
So testified two Library consultants March 24 before two House subcommittees, chaired by Rep. William L. Clay (D-Mo.), who is conducting an inquiry into Library personnel practices that failed to end underrepresentation of some minorities in certain job categories, even as Library management works on reforms.
"We think a critical missing component ... is an aggressive affirmative action plan," said Edmund D. Cooke Jr., an attorney at Epstein, Becker & Green.
"The cornerstone of the effort to correct the underrepresentation of protected groups is a strong and dynamic affirmative action program that is integrated with the human resources system," said James W. Morrison Jr., president of Morrison Associates.
Substantial improvement, he emphasized, "will take time."
Asked by the House panel to recommend a deadline for putting a plan into place, the consultants suggested six months.
A Library spokesman said later that Dr. Billington had adopted the six-month deadline as his own -- and had also ordered other remedial steps, despite severe budget pressures and legal constraints. "We're determined to fix this problem," the spokesman said.
Dr. Billington hired Mr. Cooke and Mr. Morrison last fall to assess the "legal sufficiency" of the new competitive selection procedures revised by the Library in response to a partial summary judgment issued by the U.S. District Court on Aug. 14, 1992, in Cook v. Billington, a class acion suit brought by black Library employees whose origins go back to 1975.
Using 1979-1988 data, the court found that the Library's complex three-stage competitive selection process had been so "suffused with subjectivity" as to have had a disparate impact on African American applicants seeking professional and administrative positions (see LC Information Bulletin, April 5). Under court order, settlememt talks are under way among lawyers for the plaintiffs, the Library and the Justice Department (which represents the Library).
"The Librarian and many senior officials have crossed the threshold of awareness and have expressed a commitment to deal forthrightly with the challenge of diversity. ... This is a laudable beginning, but the Library's unique situation requires a very comprehensive, thoroughly professional effort," Mr. Morrison said in his Jan. 29 report.
He warned against allowing any future "confusion" over the Library's affirmative action goals that would lead to staff perceptions that preference in hiring would be given to "less than qualified" women and minorities.
Mr. Morrison also reviewed noncompetitive appointment practices, which he said the Library should use "very sparingly."
Dr. Billington reported March 18 to the Clay subcommittees that LC is implementing 39 of 48 recommendations made by the consultants and is considering the other nine.
The two Clay subcommittees are the Subcommittee on Libraries and Memorials of the Committee on House Administration and the Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Post Office and Civil Service.
Affirmative Action Plan
Mr. Cooke said that the Multi-year Affirmative Action Plan, FY 1992-1994, as agreed to by the Library and three labor unions in July 1991, does not conform to the guidelines of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Labor Department's affirmative action regulations that are enforced by the Office of Federal Contractor Compliance Programs (OFCCP).
"Although the Library has no legal obligation to comply with either the EEOC guidelines or the OFCCP regulations, these standards are widely accepted and have provided demonstrably effective guidance for affirmative action programs in the private sector," Mr. Cooke said in his prepared statement. Required to comply with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, federal agencies often rely on EEOC and OFCCP guidelines, he added. He noted that, under the Civil Rights Act, as amended, the Library is subject to Title VII standards.
Mr. Cooke told the Library's staff newspaper, The Gazette, on March 26 that its existing affirmative action plan specifically lacks:
- "Availability analysis," which identifies sources and availability of qualified minorities for specific job categories;
- "Underutilization analysis," which the private sector uses to determine where in the work force minorities and women are underutilized; and
- Goals and timetables, which give managers "attainable goals" for eliminating underrepresentation and realistic timetables for meeting them. Such goals and timetables are the instruments by which managers can be held accountable for correcting underrepresentation.
"There is no mystery to these," Mr. Cooke said. "They are standard components of affirmative action plans that have been tried and tested in the courts."
Mr. Morrison noted that the Library did not distribute its Multi- year Affirmative Action Plan until fiscal 1993. "That tells you that ... no one was following it," he said.
He said he found the Library's human resources system "was trying to operate in a vacuum and the Library as an institution was not being well managed on a day-to-day basis." Mr. Morrison said that is why he made his "most important recommendation" --that the Library establish a position for a chief operating officer with the "full power" to manage on a day-to-day basis all the operational functions, allocate resources among competing service unit heads and "hold people accountable."
My conclusion was that the management team approach that was in place for the past five years simply was not working," Mr. Morrison testified.
Dr. Billington had told the Clay panel March 18 that he would hire a deputy librarian to act as chief operating officer, among other measures.
Eleanor Holmes Norton, delegate to Congress from the District of Columbia, asked the consultants to assess the Library's past efforts to correct underrepresentation on its own.
Mr. Cooke said he saw no willful neglect but "a lack of understanding of what needed to be done, what was required by law, and what was appropriate."
Merit Selection Review
Mr. Cooke and Mr. Morrison reported on the competitive selection process, which the Library is revising in response to the August 1992 court finding of "subjectivity." They recommended updated position descriptions and in-depth job analyses to determine the minimum qualifications necessary to perform the described duties.
Such measures are now being taken by the Library.
To allow the Library some flexibility, Mr. Morrison suggested giving Dr. Billington authority to fill a limited number of positions outside the competitive process. These would be comparable to Schedule A and C appointments in the executive branch. Such authority would have to be granted by both Congress and the court.
The House subcommittees wanted to know what would induce LC's labor organizations -- AFSCME Locals 2477 and 2910 and CREA -- to resume participation on rating panels in the Library's competitive selection process. Contending that the Library "could not or would not distinguish between a legal or illegal selection process," even after the court's August 1992 finding in the Cook case, the three unions withdrew from the competitive selection process last fall.
In his written statement for the March 24 hearing, Philip Melzer, president of Local 2910, said the unions want the Library to:
- Commit to implementation of all the recommendations from consultant Cooke for all Library positions. "Thus far, the Library has followed only those recommendations related to job analysis and the development of an affirmative action plan," Mr. Melzer said.
- Furnish the labor organizations with information "that permits us to fill our legal obligations and responsibilities to the employees."
- Make a commitment to "the full utilization of its current employees in fulfilling its affirmative action obligations through establishment of a Library-wide training and professional development program." (Such a program is now being planned by LC.)
As its fourth condition, the labor organizations requested that the Subcommittee on Libraries and Memorials of the House Administration Committee "continue its oversight function throughout the [LC] remedial process that has commenced in order to comply with the judge's order" in the Cook case.