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City-county councilors: Appoint Nichelle Hayes as library CEO

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More than half of the Indianapolis City-County Council members are calling for the Indianapolis Public Library Board of Trustees to appoint Nichelle M. Hayes as CEO, citing community members who have raised concerns with the council. 

In a letter addressed to the library board Jan. 5, 16 members of the council — including President Vop Osili and Vice President Zach Adamson — said they felt it was necessary to take a clear stance amid the “instability and turmoil” the search has created. 

“Unless there are issues of which we have not been made aware, we ask the Indianapolis Public Library board of directors to heed the calls of our community and appoint Ms. Nichelle Hayes as the Indianapolis Public Library CEO,” the letter says. 

Council members said the board has worked hard to help move the library “through a series of truly unprecedented challenges and transitions over the past two years,” dating back to a successful push for then-CEO Jackie Nytes to resign amid allegations of institutionalized racism. 

But councilors are still concerned given the messy outcome of the CEO search, which resulted in Gabriel Morley, a white man from New Orleans, getting the job offer over Hayes, who had been interim CEO. (Morley declined the offer less than 24 hours later.) 

The council appoints two members to the library board. Both appointees — Hope Tribble and Dr. TD Robinson — voted in favor of Morley. 

   “As Councillors with a responsibility to provide oversight of our city’s municipal corporations, we’ve watched with concern the growing and repeated discord between members of the library’s board, its union, and the public,” the letter says. 

The letter says the search has been costly “both in terms of dollars and in terms of the library’s relationship with its community.” 

Council members wrote they believe the library board’s recent decision to reopen the CEO search rather than appoint Hayes will have a “detrimental impact on the system.” 

 “Patrons and staff of the Indianapolis Public Library need and deserve a stable institution in whose leadership they have confidence and in whose governance they have a sense of agency,” the letter says before making the case for Hayes. “As a third-generation resident of Indianapolis and an alumna of Indianapolis Public Schools, she is keenly aware of and deeply invested in the strengths and needs of the city the library serves. 

Tribble, president of IndyPL’s Board of Trustees, responded to the letter in a statement, saying the board appreciates the feedback and that issues will be addressed “when all internal legal and governance reviews are complete.” 

Councilors who signed the letter: President Osili, Vice President Adamson, Monroe Gray, Ali Brown, Crista Carlino, Duke Oliver, Ethan Evans, Keith Graves, La Keisha Jackson, Kristin Jones, Jason Larrison, Frank Mascari, Jessica McCormick, Keith Potts, David Ray and Leroy Robinson. 

The Library Board’s response

Members of the board of trustees later responded with their own letter, again thanking the council for its longtime support of the library and feedback regarding the CEO search. 

The 1,700-word letter, signed by Tribble, Curtis W. Bigsbee, Raymond J. Biederman and Jose Salinas, outlined the board’s process in selecting an interim CEO for the library and its expectations for that position as well as the candidate selection process for a permanent CEO — including use of the consulting company Bradburry Miller Associates — and why Hayes was not offered the position of permanent CEO. 

“Ms. Hayes was one of three internal candidates to apply for the interim position at that time and was unanimously appointed by the Trustees,” the board’s letter says. “The Trustees made no promises or guarantees that the person assuming the interim position would advance or be promoted to the permanent role.” 

The board also wrote that just because Hayes was one of three final candidates did not indicate that a majority of the board believed her, or any of the other final candidates, “to be a viable option to be selected as the permanent CEO.” The letter states a majority of the board learned the names of the finalists at the same time the general public did. 

A footnote in the letter states three candidates advanced to the final round; however, one of the candidates withdrew due to a “breach in the confidentiality of the CEO search process.” The two remaining candidates advanced to interviews. 

Board members also wrote in defense of their decision to restart the CEO search, stating the search for a new CEO “is not a competition in which one individual places first and another places second.” They said the notion that the second finalist should have been offered the position after the first finalist declined the position “does not align with standard practices of the employment search industry, nor is it in line with what occurred in this process.” 

The board said they will approve a plan to appoint a “qualified and neutral interim administrative caretaker” from outside the library’s ranks. This announcement is expected to be made shortly, and the person will not be a candidate for the permanent CEO position. 

A new CEO search will begin this year, and all previous candidates will be eligible for consideration. 

“As individuals entrusted with the care and leadership of the Library, we respect and value the passion our employees, our patrons, our political leaders, and our communities at large have for this institution,” the letter says. “We are deeply committed to the mission and health of the Library and are listening to the voices and perspectives of all Library staff and patrons, not merely the loudest.” 

Contact staff writer Chloe McGowan at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @chloe_mcgowanxx. 

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