IG Critical of Library’s Diversity Office
The Library of Congress invests more than any other legislative branch agency in diversity programs — but it doesn’t keep track of whether that money is well spent, according to the in-house inspector general.
A report by Library IG Karl Schornagel concludes that the Library’s Office of Workforce Diversity is overstaffed, can’t demonstrate results and isn’t cost effective.
“It doesn’t do the government or the employees any good if you’ve got a lot of resources devoted — if you throw money or resources at a problem —unless it’s done so effectively,” Schornagel said in an interview. “You need feedback on the performance of your program.”
The Library’s chief operating officer, Jo Ann Jenkins, asked for the review after hearing about the diversity office’s “management issues.”
She said the Library has made strides since she was hired 14 years ago. Back then, the diversity office had more than 400 complaints pending at once. Today, that number is less than 20, she said.
It’s not clear, however, how much of that improvement is due to the Library’s efforts, simply because the office hasn’t kept benchmarks or assessed its programs.
The Dispute Resolution Center, for example, does not keep accurate records of how many employees it consults or how many disputes it resolves, according to the report.
At the same time, the entire Office of Workforce Diversity receives more than twice the funding of comparable divisions at other agencies. It spends almost $1.8 million a year, compared with the $500,000 allocated within the Government Printing Office and the Government Accountability Office’s $650,000. It also a much larger staff — 18 employees to GPO’s six and GAO’s seven working similar jobs.
Still, the office appears to have achieved results. The Library leads other legislative branch agencies in the percentage of minorities and women in its top ranks, according to a report done in the fall by the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, Postal Service and the District of Columbia. About 20 percent of its top staff are minorities and 44 percent women.
Pouring money into recruitment programs and dispute services could be a result of the Library’s history, Schornagel said. Since losing a multimillion-dollar discrimination lawsuit a decade ago, the agency has been pressured to make good on diversity promises.
“I think the Library has tried to devote a lot of resources and attention and has taken the whole subject matter very seriously,” Schornagel said. “What we found during the review is that they can do a better job of managing those resources.”
Jenkins said she has already begun to address the problems. She has distributed the IG report to the office’s employees and is asking for recommendations on how to restructure the department.
With most of the office ready for retirement, she plans to offer an early retirement option — possibly with a buyout of up to $25,000. And since former Director Deborah Hayes left recently, she hopes to soon find a new chief who will help change the office.
Within four months, Jenkins hopes to have the office on a new path, helping the agency beef up its low number of Hispanic and Asian employees. The office has also neglected to produce a report for every Library vacancy that outlines where to find suitable employees — a common and expected function of government agencies.
News of the changes has already created a bit of a stir; last week, Jenkins was confronted with rumors that the office would close at a budget hearing held by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch.
Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) has requested that the Library hand over a report Friday detailing the reasons for overhauling the office and explaining how officials plan to continue its functions.
In fact, all the legislative branch agencies are assessing their diversity programs’ effectiveness at the request of Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.), chairman of the Federal Workforce Subcommittee. A full report will probably be finished by June, Schornagel said.