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Indianapolis Public Library CEO resigns amid racism scandal

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Indianapolis Public Library (IndyPL) CEO Jackie Nytes submitted her resignation at a special board meeting Aug. 20.

Her tenure, which began in 2012, will end Aug. 31, amid allegations of racism. 

In an internal email to staff before the meeting, Nytes expressed the need to resign in order for the library to improve. 

“The heaviness that hangs over the library these days is something that we haven’t been able to shake and as your CEO, I have to play a major role in getting us to a better place,” Nytes wrote. “If I cannot do that, then I need to allow someone else the chance to see if they can.”

Controversy began earlier this year, when former Central Library staff member Bree Flannelly shared her experiences with racism and ableism during a virtual board meeting. Since then, former and current staff members, as well as current and former board of trustees members, have called on Nytes to step down.

“I think we’re definitely on the right track with Jackie resigning,” librarian Stephen Lane said. “I’m thankful for the hard work of the union to bring up this issue, and I’m thankful for Bree Flannelly, who blew the whistle. … And I’m thankful to Jackie Nytes, who made the hard and difficult decision to step down, but it was the right thing to do.”

Lane and Library Workers Union President Michael Torres are still calling for Salinas’ resignation. Salinas, who has previously said he doesn’t intend to step down, received backlash after muting Flannelly at the May board meeting.

While many say the issues start at the top with Nytes, the general consensus is the issues go well beyond the CEO. Former IndyPL employee Margueritte Webb said Nytes’ resignation is a “great step,” but more needs to be done.

“Everything about the IndyPL system needs to change,” Webb said in a previous interview. “…  And of course we want representation, but Black staff shouldn’t only be in libraries in the ‘hood. A lot of changes need to happen before I view the library system as an equitable place to work.”

Board member Patricia Payne — who previously said the library was run “like a plantation” — said it will take a collective effort to make positive change.

“It won’t just be one person, because the problem isn’t just with one person,” Payne said. “It’s the whole leadership team, it’s going to take concentrated planning to understand and know how we go forth.”

Notably, the library was planning an internal climate process to determine what changes ought to be made in the organization. Despite disagreements on whether or not the process should be conducted by an internal or external entity, board President Jose Salinas said he believes it should be completed by the end of the year. It’s unclear how Nytes’ resignation will impact the study, if at all. However, Lane thinks Nytes’ resignation will encourage the board to complete the process, as the findings will determine if the Central Indianapolis Community Foundation reinstates the $28 million worth of funding to the library. 

In order to ensure progress continues, Lane hopes the board works with the Library Workers Union to find a new CEO. 

“To make sure we don’t have the same old status quo, the board needs to engage with the union so we can be a part of that process, and that will benefit library staff and the public,” Lane said. 

Former board member Dr. Terri Jett — who often had disagreements with Nytes during her time on the board — said the next CEO ought to have expertise in equity, diversity and inclusion. 

“I think a CEO of color would be preferable,” Jett said. “A librarian who has been in this world and really understands all of the challenges that confront a system such as ours that is very extensive and unique.”

Library officials said in a press release the search for a new CEO will begin immediately. An interim CEO is expected to be announced at the next board meeting Aug. 23. 

Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.

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