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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Tensions over IndyPL continue to rise

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Members of the community continued to rally in support of Nichelle M. Hayes for CEO of the Indianapolis Public Library during the library’s Board of Trustees meeting Feb. 27.

Residents, library workers and patrons squeezed into a small conference room at the Martindale-Brightwood branch for the board’s regular monthly meeting. Many held up yellow signs that read “No New Search” or “Appoint Hayes Now” in support of Hayes, who held the position on an interim basis for eight months, ending in December.

During the public comments portion of the meeting proceeding its regular business, there were calls for board President Hope Tribble, and members Curtis Bigsbee and Raymond Bierderman to resign. Others demanded the board to “do the right thing” and hire Hayes as CEO.

Sam James, a community member, called the board’s decision to have armed IMPD officers at meetings disrespectful and “goofy,” saying “No one has been violent.”

In response to armed police on-site, newly appointed trustee Stephen Lane asked why the entire board wasn’t involved in that decision, to which Tribble said she arranged for security at the meetings out of concern for board members’ safety.

“Contrary to what has been said, members have been aggressively approached,” Tribble said. Asked as to the cost of the security, Tribble said she didn’t know. 

“No one is on the board by themselves,” Lane said. “We’re all in this together, therefore the decisions that we make even when it comes down to security or anything like that that has a cost to it or charging the public library, we should all be a part of that decision making process.”

Dr. Patricia Payne echoed Lane’s sentiments, while Bigsbee agreed with Tribble and said he doesn’t see a problem having security at the meetings for safety reasons since staff had asked for it.

However, Bigsbee said a smaller police presence may be better. 

Important library updates

Martindale-Brightwood library branch manager Jena Mattix kicked off the meeting with a board presentation regarding the library’s history in the area, its weekly and monthly programming — such as free after-school meals and COVID-19 vaccinations — and community partners and staffing.

“The Martindale-Brightwood library branch serves about 13,000 people in this community, and about 91% of our population is people of color,” Mattix said. “The patrons in this area worked really hard for this new branch to be opened and they’re very proud of this branch, their community and history in this area.”

Adam Parsons, director of facilities, announced construction at the Fort Benjamin Harrison branch is set to be completed by June, with a grand opening in late August. Work at the Glendale branch has seen some delays, but Parsons said it is expected to have substantial completion by late July.

The Nora and Pike branches, which are both undergoing $2 million renovations, have begun holding community engagement meetings. The Nora Branch held its first meeting last week and Pike will host its first meeting March 1 at 7 p.m. at the branch at 6525 Zionsville Road.

Additionally, Parsons said landscaping around Central Library downtown will resume with the removal of invasive species and dead trees, and replacing them with native plants.

Lastly, chief administrative officer Anita J. Harden presented an update on the evaluation of the previous CEO search. She and acting CEO Gregory Hill have been reviewing the materials from the search, including the timeline and job description, though Harden said they’ve spent most of their time interviewing members of the search committee.

“We’ve been asking questions such as ‘what went well with the process,’ what didn’t go well with the process’ and ‘what are your recommendations for the future?’” Harden said. 
She said there are still three more people to interview, including former interim CEO Hayes, and they plan to have that completed by March 7, with a recommendation to the Diversity, Policy and Human Resources Committee by March 14.

The library continues to go without a permanent CEO since Jackie Nytes resigned in August 2021 amid allegations of racism and Dr. Gabriel Morley turned down the job in December 2022, less than 24 hours after the board voted to offer him the position.

The next regular Board of Trustees meeting will be on March 27 at 6:30 p.m. at the Southport Branch, 2630 E. Stop 11 Road.
 
Contact staff writer Chloe McGowan at 317-762-7848 or chloegm@indyrecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @chloe_mcgowanxx.

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