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Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Library Board appoints temporary chief administrative officer

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The Indianapolis Public Library Board of Trustees voted during a special meeting Jan. 17 to approve a resolution that appointed Anita J. Harden as chief administrative officer.

The resolution, which passed 4-2, creates a new, temporary position at the library for a contractual chief administrative officer (CAO) who would serve under acting CEO Gregory Hill. Harden, who is the owner of Interim Executives, will serve in the position for no more than 12 months upon execution of the contract.

“An external leader like Ms. Hardin will focus solely on the improvement of the organization and to bring new talents and skills from which the organization may benefit,” Hope Tribble, president of the board of trustees, said during the meeting. “Ms. Hardin is a seasoned executive who has provided executive leadership for several organizations and worked through difficult times.”

Board member Dr. Patricia Payne proposed an amendment to the resolution that would delay the vote until they could appoint new board members to replace two trustees: Dr. TD Robinson, who recently resigned, and Judge Jose Salinas, whose term ended Dec. 31, 2022.

(Salinas’ seat is appointed by the Indianapolis Public Schools board. According to the library board’s bylaws, a member is able to serve until a successor is appointed.)

Board member Dr. Khaula Murtadha supported the amendment and said she was concerned about how quickly the board was moving to appoint someone new after having recently appointed Hill as acting CEO.

If it was out of the need for “additional leadership” as the resolution stated, Murtadha said library staff have already shown “significant leadership,” including by writing to the board about the CEO search.

Anita J. Harden, owner of Interim Executives, will be the temporary contractual chief administrative officer of Indianapolis Public Library. (Photo provided by Indianapolis Public Library)

According to Payne, who is chair of the board’s finance committee, she wasn’t consulted about the $190,000 cost for the CAO position.

The amendment failed in a 4-2 vote.

Tribble said appointing Harden as CAO would help lighten the responsibilities of Hill, who is doing “double duty” as acting CEO and interim chief public services officer. She said the goal for the board now is to appoint a new, permanent CEO within six to nine months. All previous candidates can be considered for the role, but Harden will not, she said.

“The library has been without a senior executive leadership role in a permanent position for 16 months,” Tribble said. “We have a wonderful team at the library, but that role needs to be filled now.”

Harden, who previously served as president of Community Hospital East, will step into her new role as CAO during a tumultuous time for the library and said conflict is to be expected in any organization where humans are. However, she said the controversy with IndyPL is different than anything she’d experienced before.

“I have no doubt that some of the conflicts that this organization has experienced will get resolved,” she said. “At some point you’re going to have a new leader that’s permanent, that will help to make that happen. So, in the meantime, I think it’s important for the new leader to be able to step into a situation where a lot of this stuff is resolved.”

As CAO, Harden said she will visit branches to listen to and work with library employees to get a feel for what their priorities are and how they can bring resources to the community.

“My understanding is that those folks are professional, they’re strong, they’ve done a good job and they want to do more,” she said. “There’s a vision for the organization and I want to help them achieve that vision because all the work really is done by the employees, the leader just paves the way and makes it easy for them to do or makes it better for them to do so.”

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

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