Library board critics demand answers, call for resignations

Many at Monday's meeting carried printed signs in support of Nichelle Hayes. (IBJ photo/Taylor Wooten)

The Indianapolis Public Library Board of Trustees meeting on Monday night—the first since Dec. 8, when the body received fierce public criticism for offering the library’s CEO job to an outside candidate instead of its interim chief executive—brought a large and sometimes raucous crowd looking for answers and even board members’ resignations.

The seven-member board’s decision to offer the job to Gabriel Morley, a white former director of libraries in New Orleans and Atlanta, over Nichelle Hayes, a Black woman and longtime IndyPL employee, prompted concerns of racial discrimination.

Many in attendance at the meeting came to ask, “Why not Nichelle?” Some demanded that the board offer the role to Hayes, since Morley declined the offer after public backlash. Others called for the resignation of board members—barring Patricia Payne and Khaula Murtadha, who voted against Morley and have been supportive of Hayes.

Nearly 100 people attended the meeting, many holding large printed signs on yellow cardboard supporting Hayes for CEO. Murtadha introduced a resolution to appoint Hayes as CEO, but it didn’t garner enough support to be added to the meeting agenda.

Meeting attendees broke decorum many times, causing Board President Jose Salinas to attempt to bring the room back to order by threatening to end the meeting.

Board members held the public comment session as a standing feature of their meetings and did not respond to testimony except to call for quiet or to tell speakers that their time limit was up. Before adjournment, Murtadha thanked those who gave public comments, which she does frequently at library board meetings.

Earlier Monday, the board announced in a press release that a new interim CEO would be appointed in early 2023 and the search for a new library CEO would restart. 

The initial search led by Bradbury Miller Associates cost the group $27,000. In the press release, the board says that a confidentiality breach late in the process compromised the search process and may have caused an unnamed third candidate to resign.

“We examined every aspect of the CEO search to be certain our process met patrons’ expectations as well as our own,” incoming board of trustees president Hope Tribble said in a statement. “Ultimately, what we discovered met neither group’s expectations. The only fair thing to do is learn everything we can from this experience and start over.”

The interim CEO would be a community leader not affiliated with the library and would not be included in the renewed search for a CEO. Former candidates would be able to be included in the next selection process.

Morley was the former director of the New Orleans Public Library and the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library. He abruptly resigned from the New Orleans Public Library system in November 2021—less than two years after taking the job—when local media found out he was still living in his home in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, instead of taking up residency in New Orleans, a requirement of the job under city ordinances. 

Many of the 18 individuals who gave public comment on Monday night told the board to save the money and resources for a new search by hiring Hayes. The Indianapolis Party for Socialism and Liberation presented a petition that received nearly 2,000 signatures calling for Hayes to be given the job.

Flanner House CEO Brandon Cosby was among those in support of Hayes.

“You have decided to arbitrarily and capriciously undermine, yet again, the value of a Black woman in our community,” Cosby said.

Branch manager Judy Gray said that the past several years—which included former CEO Jackie Nytes’ resignation over allegations of discrimination—have been racially troubled and painful for the library.

“We’ve been working to change this. Interim CEO Nichelle Hayes has been instrumental in this process,” Gray told the board.

“I want to ask you: What were you thinking?” she said.

Derek Ford, an advocate with the Party for Socialism and Liberation, said that the number of people against the boards’ decisions has only grown.

“We’re not going away. You can’t wait us out,” Ford said.

Several advocates said they planned to take action to remove members from the board, including reaching out to their appointing authorities. IndyPL board members are chosen by the Indianapolis City-County Council, Indianapolis Public Schools, and the Marion County Board of Commissioners.

The library is currently led by interim Chief Public Services Officer Gregory Hill. Hayes’ tenure as interim CEO was ended when the board offered the CEO job to Morley.

In the new year, board member Tribble will take the role of board president from Salinas.

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24 thoughts on “Library board critics demand answers, call for resignations

  1. The fact that a large contingent of speakers are from an extreme left wing political organization was left out of the IndyStar’s coverage of this event, so thank you IBJ.

    The people who are protesting in favor of Hayes are not representative of the broader Indianapolis community in any way, and obviously a strong majority of the board did not feel Hayes was qualified for the job. I am glad they haven’t buckled to this sort of pressure and the one-sided reporting from our city’s largest paper.

    1. The Library board members are listed and pictured on the Library website. Unless I’m seeing things, five of the seven board members are people of color, and one of the other two is Latino.

      It would seem such a board would feel free to choose the best-qualified person of any background.

    2. Not just the Star, the local broDcasting stations are not calling these
      Leftwing agitators and racists either.

      I’ll bet if these protestors were white demanding a white person, the local
      media ( including the Star ) would be screaming & losing their minds.

  2. This meeting was hijacked. Let’s look at the facts. The Indianapolis Library Board of Trustees is made up of five members who are black, one is white, and one is Hispanic. The organization who was most vocal at the Library Board of Trustees meeting was an organization called The Party for Socialism and Liberalism. Per Wikipedia, “The Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) is a communist party in the United States, established in 2004.” The Library Board of Trustees hired Bradbury Miller Associates (BMA), an independent placement firm that specializes in libraries. Per their website, “BMA is a certified HoganLead Hogan Personality Assessment firm. Hogan Assessments provides organizations with valid and reliable assessment tools and professional consulting expertise. Hogan’s personality, values, and cognitive-based assessment tools are the result of over 54 cumulative years of research and refinement and are used by over half of the Fortune 100 companies for employee selection and/or development purposes.” The Indianapolis Library Board of Trustees did their due diligence before making any decision. Based upon the above facts, I seriously doubt that their decision was based upon racism, but instead proper background checks, character references, and other noble due diligence. It is embarrassing that our press (IBJ in this case) does conduct any due diligence, nor give proper time to both sides to their stories.

  3. Who knows if there was racism in all this, but anyone who has studied the history of the city and of Indiana knows that the context is two centuries of denigration, segregation, and sometimes violence. Africans Americans understand this. Do others???

    1. I’d guess the five African Americans on the Library board probably understand this. Probably also the Latino board member. (I’m guessing, because I’ve only met one of the board members.)

    2. Interesting how, despite two centuries of of “denigration, segregation, and sometimes violence” this incredibly bigoted city (and state…AND state! did you know the KKK ran the state as recently as 15 minutes ago?!) still manages to elevate 6 out of 7 library executive board member positions to “persons of color”. If racism continues to plague these institutions, this is sure a funny way of showing it.

    3. JJ Frankie,
      So your expectation is that until everything is perfect in your eyes from a racial standpoint, then people are still being racist? Great logic!

  4. Please, in these stories, name the CICF people who did this to our city’s public library. Don’t let them hide behind the big pile of money they have used to undermine, smear and fire our wonderful former library director. One would think they would be proud of this outcome, the first major accomplishment in their it’s-all-about-race big new initiative.
    They have permanently degraded our public library’s ability to retain competent leadership. They have set in motion an anti-white racist mob that now seems to run the show. Nice work, CICF.

    1. Well said Richard!!
      Well said Lauren.

      Let’s not let a small racist mob ruin things for our public library.

  5. Promotion by mob pressure. I bet that candidate was just great!?!

    Seems to me that the Party for Socialism and Liberalism is not representative of the Indianapolis community as a whole, rather an extreme group with an agenda. One can assume their focus is to fundamentally change what is in the library as content, who manages the content, and access to the content. The Board is a diverse group and if they selected a specific candidate, why does this PSL group get to overthrow the Board’s decision?

    Literally, a Crew Car Wash manager could be the CEO of the IPL. And the city could have saved $27k on “consulting fees”.

  6. I would be interested in hearing IBJ explore the reasons that Dr. Morley was selected. Some of his experience was covered, but mostly in the context of questioning his experience. Likewise, while Ms. Hayes apparently has done an excellent job as interim, there has been no discussion of whether or not that experience would be adequate for qualifying a person to manage an entire library system long-term.

    There is also an important discussion not taking place with respect to Jackie Nytes’ tenure as CEO, particularly with respect to race. There seems to be an implicit accusation in the reporting that Ms. Nytes herself is raciest because she did not act quickly enough in addressing racial issues in the library’s management.

    There was a lot more to Ms. Nytes’ tenure than the management issue that led to her retirement a year earlier than planned. For example, it is my observation that Ms. Nytes made huge strides in prioritizing very high-quality new libraries in historically underserved communities. She also seemed to have made sure the library system was solvent, making new buildings, books, and programs supporting underserved communities possible.

    There are some fundamental issues in managing library systems today that our next CEO will need to address. IBM could address the relevance of library science education, the difficulty of obtaining that education, the racial aspects of getting that education, and the issue of low wages relative to the cost of getting that education, regardless of race.

    In short, IBJ should be able to take a reporting approach that goes beyond hammering the board for not appointing Ms. Hayes. Work to identify all the characteristics and experience we need to see in a new library leader. Maybe Ms. Hayes has all of these, maybe some are missing. Where does she feel she needs to grow? That would be nice to know!

    1. Andrew – this article isn’t an IBJ opinion piece…they are reporting on a meeting that happened and the events that led to this meeting. How is the IBJ “hammering the board for not appointing Ms. Hayes? Sounds like you need to take a journalism class to understand the difference of an opinion piece that attacks someone versus a article that is stating facts, events and timeline.

  7. I am just glad that the library board apparently let everyone vent their spleen so that the Indiana Marion County Republicans didn’t feel motivated to modify state law to enshrine the right to scream at library board officials like they did for school boards…

    … which as far as laws go is fine, I suppose, as long as it also applies to the meetings held by legislators. Which, of course, said law doesn’t as was demonstrated repeatedly during the recent special session.

  8. Indianapolis Library Board, stay strong.
    Do not give in to these racists and professional leftwing agitators.

    The vast, vast majority of people want the most qualified candidate available
    to lead our libraries.

  9. Like most other government operations in Indianapolis, the socialists are trying to take over. My guess is that the well-meaning and qualified board members will decide it’s not worth the hassle and turn the keys over. That “public meeting” was nothing less than a joke. Indianapolis seems to be in a race with all the other liberal cities in America to destroy what was once great. So Sad.

    1. How does a Library CEO search relate to a social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.

  10. Can’t wait for the next IBJ Focus issue, where their flock of Democrats can all write columns telling us this behavior is completely normal and not at all racist or cancerous

    Special shout out to Joe B for spinning this stupidity into some sort of Republicans Bad! narrative

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