Nearly a year ago, in an unusual and widely publicized ruling, a U.S. judge ordered the Library of Congress to set up a fund that its employes could use to hire lawyers or other specialists to represent them in discrimination complaints against the Library.
The Library has set up no such fund nor made any other arrangements to provide its employes with representation in keeping with the judge's order, Library officials say, and it is not clear if it ever will.
Instead, that ruling by U.S. District Judge Louis F. Oberdorfer has produced a muffled legal and administrative commotion. Some attorneys and members of Congress complained that it was unconstitutional, that the Court could not tell Congress how to spend its money; that the fund amounted to a subsidey for private attorneys. Others argued that, in any case, the ruling's intent was unclear.
Congress responded soon after by passing an amendment, sponsored by Rep. Robert E. Bauman (R-Md.), forbidding the Library to comply with the order. The Library is appealing the complex case and Judge Oberdorfer, meanwhile, has declined to press the conflict with Congress to a head.
The ruling came against a background of a decade of unrest among library employes, who call the agency "the worst" in its discrimination record -- a charge that Library officials deny.
Instead of moderating the discontent, some employes say that, as if to dramatize the muddled legal and emotional state of civil rights in the 1970s, the ruling has become just another part of the fabric of frustration.
The history of employe-management relations at the Library is written in stacks and stacks of court documents and a trail of yellowing newspaper articles about protest groups formed and sit-ins or marches at the Library.
As an extension of Congress which has exempted itself from its own laws, the Library's employment practices lie beyond the reach of the official equal employment opportunity enforcers who monitor other private and public employers.
Thus, while the Library has filled its ornate archives with every word written about the civil rights sturggles of the 1960s, some employes and critics have charged, the white men who ran the institution failed to respond to that spirit internally.
"This is a backward agency in the civil rights area," said one employe who is active in his union. "There is a feeling of distrust about many of the managers, that they're only paying lip service to change."
There is no clear and open process of hiring or promoting employes, some complain. Moreover, they say, employe disputes over these decisions go through a long, complicated process and then wind up on the desk not of an objective outsider but of the Librarian, who has total authority in the end.
The library has "virtually no real affirmative action program" to give women and blacks a boost to counteract the effects of past discrimination, critics contend.
"They have an old-style entrenched management where the top bureaucrats have authority over everything and no power has flowed to the employes," said Patrick Hunt, a labor economist and union activist formerly employed at the Library, now with the United Mine Workers.
"You have that old-style management pitted against a bunch of very intelligent, independent 'book-pushers' and from there the difficulties have flowed," he said.
The Library's statistics show that blacks and women are heavily concentrated in the lower-paying jobs. Of more than 4,500 white-collar employes, there are 1,476 blacks. Of these, only 382 work above the GS-8 level; only one is above GS-15. There are 89 whites above GS-15, in the top management jobs.
Of 2,341 women employes at the Library, about 1,030 work below GS-8 and, while they fare better than blacks in the middle levels, only 14 rank above GS-15.
Library officials call critics' charges unfair and point to recent efforts to improve the recruiting and training of minorities and women. Some officials conceded that efforts had been slow and that, as one put it," "libraries are unfortunately the last bastion of conservatism."
Federal EEO experts say that the figures "aren't too hot" at other agencies either, on minorities and women. At the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, considered one of the more progressive, for instance, out of 29,458 white collar blacks, 7,700 were above GS-8 and only 26 were above GS-15 by 1977, the most recent government figures show.
"I figure the push has to come from me if I want to move up," said a black women with two years of college who is a GS7 processing assistant at the Library. She has worked there 10 years.
"But I see the injustice here: a lot of the people who don't have that push are just going to stay where they are. A friend of mine who his been here 17 or 18 years is about to retire as a GS4," she said.
Library managers contend that their efforts to improve their affirmative action posture are complicated by their special relationship with Congress, their legal mandate to hire only the most qualified people, and by the changing shape of the general work-force.
Given the Library's geographic location near a large black population and near public transportation, it is natural for the agency to drew black high school graduates from the sorrounding community to fill low-paying jobs, for example, moving books around in the stacks, officials said.
The average grade for black employes rose by almost a grade between May 1977 and May 1978 -- not because blacks are advancing, necessarily, but because in the job crunch whites with college educations are taking those high school graduates' low-level jobs, according to Dr Eugene Walton, a black who is head of the Library's affirmative action office.
The Library has little turnover now, and a backlog of more than 30,000 job applications, he said.
"You can get people with Master of Library Science degrees and some PhDs, in jobs as low as GS6."
"The climate here at the Library is no different from any other agency, or from the nation as a whole," said Thomas Brackeen, head of the Library's EEO office, and a black man.
"We have made some progress, but we need a whole lot more. The fact that we are in the news more does not mean we have more problems. It means the issues are being faced."
Librarian Daniel Boorstin declined to comment, but deputy librarian William J. Welsh, who has been at the agency since 1947, said, "I think we have a wholesome attitude" on these issues. He said the Library's statistics compare favorably with those of other agencies.
The agency's 1979 affirmative action plan includes a recruitment program for women and minorities, he said, adding that the agency will be looking more to the unions to "help us identify problem areas."
There are four unions at the Library. According to federal labor relations expert Anthony Ingrassia, of the U.S. Offce of Personnel Management, "it was often hard to tell the difference between civil rights issues and groups, and labor issues and groups."
Since 1972, and the enactment of the EEO amendment, the Library has "entertained" 44 discrimination cases, according to its general counsel, John J. Kominski.Of that number, 14 were brought by the same white employe, claiming reverse or age discrimination, he said, and these have been dismissed or settled.
Of the remaining 30, the Library persuaded the Court to dismiss 10, won a favorable decision in two after trals, one was withdrawn by the plaintiff, six were resolved at the agency level and eight are still pending.