Indy Library CEO to step down after months of controversy

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Jackie Nytes (IBJ file photo)

The Indianapolis Public Library system’s longtime leader, Jackie Nytes, will step down as CEO at the end of the month, the library announced Friday after a special board meeting.

The move comes after months of backlash over staff allegations of racial discrimination within the library system and claims of a negative work environment.

“It has been my greatest joy to serve the Indianapolis community in this role, and I feel fortunate to have facilitated many significant and lasting changes for The Library and how we serve our city,” Nytes said in a statement.

But current and former staff have been demanding she step down since the spring,  following a former employee’s comments at a May board meeting. Bree Jo’ann Flannelly, who had worked at Central Library for five years before she left earlier this year, alleged discrimination over race and  conditions such as attention-deficit hyperactive disorder and autism.

Later, more staff and board members recounted similar experiences or comments, and raised questions about the library leadership’s transparency in dealing with such concerns.

Earlier this month, a Central Indiana Community Foundation affiliate informed Indy Library it would withhold future funding from its $28 million Library Fund, which distributes money to a variety of libraries. In 2020, the fund gave Indy’s library system $703,235, according to LaTasha River Sturdivant, senior director of special initiatives and research at CICF.

Nytes started as CEO in 2012, though she’s worked for the library in other roles since 1988. Her most recent term, which began in 2019, was scheduled to end in 2022.

Under Nytes’ leadership, the library added several new branch locations, launched its Center for Black Literature & Culture at Central Library and brought in its first diversity, equity and inclusion officer. That officer, Jessica Moore, left the library in June. At the time, Nytes told IBJ Moore’s departure was not related to issues raised by Flannelly.

The library said it expected its board would name and confirm an interim CEO at its next meeting Monday and would “immediately” launch a search for a new CEO.

“We thank Jackie for her dedicated service over the years and agreed that this is the correct time for a change in leadership. We look forward to finding the next CEO and working with Library staff to guide this important community pillar into its next phase of service for Marion County residents,” the library’s board said in a joint statement.

The Indianapolis Public Library System has more than 20 locations around the city and recorded more than 3 million walk-in visits in 2019.

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37 thoughts on “Indy Library CEO to step down after months of controversy

  1. Jackie Nytes has long been a dedicated and thoughtful public servant. Sad to see her run out for no good reason. Shame on CICF for participating in this meritless assault on a good leader.

    1. I absolutely agree. She is a warm inclusive person, and very competent. This is very sad.

    2. “Months of controversy”. LOL. Did Sheila Kennedy write that headline IBJ? She was canceled by a few very loud, racist Democrats. Slow clap… you must be so proud.

  2. Yep, CICF is 2 for 2 on McCarthy tactics to fell institutional leaders.
    Anyone who knows Jackie Nytes knows that that she is above reproach on issues of social justice. Not good enough for wielders of Critical Race Theory dogma. You WILL bow down to this false god. Or else. Who’s next?

    1. ^^This. Even the employee in question at one point said that she had been counseled/warned about inattention to detail and failure to complete work in a timely manner. Folks, that’s management, not discrimination. There’s no such thing as “reasonable accommodation” for sloppy or late work.

    2. Jim L. and Chris B., these comments demonstrate that neither of you know squat about ADHD.

    3. Randy, you are incorrect on both fronts. But I’m focused on the performance issues that the employee claiming discrimination revealed in reported public comments. Please cite the employment law(s) requiring an employer to relax performance standards that are essential to the job.

  3. There is not a racist bone in Jackie Nytes’ body. There must be more to this story than meets the eye.

    Recently I attended a community workshop on diversity at which the largest block of participants, was Indy Public Library staff. Clearly Jackie Nytes had taken the complaints seriously and was addressing them positively – exactly what you’d want a responsible executive to do.

    Under her leadership, the library system has been well-managed and customer friendly. The diverse staff are unfailingly courteous and helpful. Library programs, selections, and displays are timely, interesting, and educational. Libraries met the many challenges posed by the pandemic with efficiency and public-spirited service.

    Jackie Nytes has devoted her time, talent, and life to our libraries and the entire community, and it shows in every library I’ve had the chance to visit. Her departure is a huge loss for the community

    Thank you Jackie Nytes. There are many who appreciate and value you and your service to all the rest of us. We did NOT want you to leave.

  4. This makes my heart ache. I have known Jackie for 40 years. She has consistently demonstrated a commitment to people of all races, religions and ethnicities in her personal and professional life. She led for Human Rights when a city-councilor , she gathered the resources and led the Deveopment of significant low to moderate housing in the Mapleton-Fall Creek neighborhood. She has led the transformation of the library from buildings with books to community centers. In this current attack she has steadfastly maintained the confidentiality of HR records when opening them might have told a more nuanced story – protecting the employee. I am so disappointed with the library board.

  5. This whole episode is shameful. As a professional law firm librarian, I can tell you the library system is well run, has great resources and helpful staff. Ms. Nytes has done a great job compared to previous IMCPL leaders. I am confident that the Board will find another incompetent leader as they have done in the past.

    1. They will find someone like Lightfoot probably. All about appearances now instead of who is qualified.

  6. Sad….. false claims of racism bring down a great leader.
    People who make false claims of racism do their cause no good when it causes things like this to happen.

  7. Sorry to hear this news. Jackie is as good as they come. For over 30 years I’ve know her to be an open, civic minded leader that never hesitates to help everyone. Too bad for the cancel culture to claim such a dedicated public servant. Best of luck to Jackie in her new endeavors

  8. As a liberal, I find this insane. There’s been no proof of her being a racist published. If there isn’t a proper investigation or direct evidence of bigotry, someone shouldn’t be forced out of a job. There should have been an actual independent investigation of these claims against the library management, and then take action if it’s necessary. I’m guessing she resigned because of “woke” Twitter. IMA’s president deserved to be fired. Ms. Nytes did not, at least as far as I can tell.

    1. Gary G., where do we begin on justification for the IMA change…. Too much to discuss here.

    2. If there’s so much to justify condemning the man for the worst firing offense imaginable (racism), then maybe someone can share one thing?

    3. “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.
      Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.
      Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
      Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” —Martin Niemoeller, Berlin, 1946
      In Indy, they’ve come for Charles Venable. They’ve come for Jackie Nytes. They will come for more.
      Wesley and Eric apparently know why. But they are too busy to tell you.

    4. Gary, all of the IMA issues are public record…. take 30 seconds to see the IMA was being poorly run and at best was implementing oppressive policies and not properly serving the community…

    5. Ah yes, “public record.” Unfortunately I don’t have a Twitter account, which I’m sure I would explain everything.

    6. Gary, try the IBJ or Indy Star to figure out what went down at IMA. You sound like the type of person who doesn’t even think racism is an issue. I’m not going to waste my time debating you.

    7. Gary, you are on the website that documented all of the “things” you say one can only find on twitter?

      Life must be very hard for you…

      Don’t forget to breath, buddy!

    8. Thanks for the medical advice. Hilarious. You’re wise to limit your schtick to anonymous venues.

      And the other guy knows what I think about racism without ever having met me. Has it crossed your mind that if someone cares about racism, then they might care when the charge of racism is rendered meaningless by using it as a lie, without evidence.

      Charles Venable is no more a racist than Jackie Nytes is a racist. The guys in this thread (who exemplify today’s McCarthyism) know that full well. So they stick to innuendo. They stick to what “everyone knows” but somehow cannot state. They denigrate anyone who comes to another person’s defense. They chuckle with each other (“breath, buddy”) from the prosecution table. The full McCarthyite playbook.

      And of course in today’s America, they feel fully secure in leveling their hideous accusations against other human beings, knowing that they will face no consequences for slander.

      If others want to know why this matters, then reach out to some of the folks whose lives have been ruined by cancellation–such as Charles Venable and now Jackie Nytes just in our own community.

  9. Great comments by self-professed liberal Wesley H. above. The cancel culture that delivers these outcomes, working tirelessly disguised as “liberals” and “activists”, are in reality “leftists”, intent on completely reshaping American culture into a socialistic/communist regime. They will ultimately fail. Conservatives and true liberals like Wesley H. will work side-by-side to defeat the leftists.

    1. Mark H., do yourself a favor and Google the difference between Socialism and Communism. Your ignorance undermines your point.

    2. And Trump is the king of cancel culture. If you are an elected official at any level and don’t bow down to him he rips you publicly and endorses a sycophant to run against you. It’s no different.

    3. I hope you realize that I believe most MAGA people support authoritarianism/fascism, and that I would never unite with them. True conservatives don’t bother me, but if you’re a true conservative you aren’t a Trump supporter. True liberals and true conservatives really could unite to defeat right-wing fascists. I actually think our country could use a little more socialism than we have, like free healthcare. I’ve never heard of a Communist Democrat. Let me know of any Democratic politician who’s a Communist, and I’ll be happy to unite with you against them.

  10. Interesting that no staff comments are noted here. Specifics regarding discrimination should be described and verified. Based on the comments noted, the IPL was a stellar leader and exemplary individual. So, could the issues have been entirely interpersonal disagreement or dysfunction unrelated to race?

    A Lori Lightfoot type might be OK. At least she has the guts to not pander to popular ideas and is willing to say no to past constituents if they propose a ridiculous action. In any case, it is highly unlikely she would consider Indianapolis under any circumstances — the city is subject to among the worst statehouse anti-urban politics in the nation.