The head librarian at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library and several other high-ranking officials have been fired days before the arrival of the new D.C. library director, according to sources familiar with the personnel changes.
John W. Hill, president of the library Board of Trustees, said yesterday that he could not confirm which employees had been dismissed, but he said the move was "part of the big transformation."
"We felt that there needed to be a transformational structure put in place to allow the new director to make changes fast," Hill said.
Hill added that Ginnie Cooper, the former executive director of the Brooklyn (N.Y.) Public Library, will start work Monday.
The decision to terminate employees was authorized by the library's acting director, Ellen M. Flaherty, who previously was head of personnel for the library. The board "fully supports this move," Hill said.
According to the sources, those dismissed were Jewel Ogonji, head librarian; Angela Purnell, assistant library director for administrative and operational services; Yema Tucker, head of collection development and management; Se'an Crumley, head of information and technology systems; and Barbara Webb, head of neighborhood library services.
The terminations came a month after Hill and union officials testified at a D.C Council hearing in favor of a proposal to sell the 36-year-old central library and replace it with a $207 million state-of-the-art building at the old convention center site at 11th Street and New York Avenue NW.
A blue-ribbon task force appointed by Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) is expected to release a report in about two weeks, Hill said. The task force did not recommend the terminations, Hill said.
"The report signals a vision for the future, and it is up to management to determine what staff is needed to implement that vision," Hill said of the draft.
Robin Diener, director of the Library Renaissance Project at the nonprofit Center for the Study of Responsive Law, said her advocacy group welcomes some changes in personnel.
"I don't want the Board of Trustees to get a get-out-of-jail-free card, because they have left the library system adrift for the past three years by failing to provide a permanent library director," Diener said.
Anntoinette White-Richardson, a union official who represents 300 library employees, said she does not expect that the rank and file, who "keep the library system running," will be affected by the firings.
"We expected the transformation to reach farther than facilities," she said. "Once the board started peeling the layers, they saw they couldn't stop there. It was more than about buildings."
Meanwhile, as plans for the new main library move forward, the rest of us are still waiting on the "blue-ribbon task force" report. Take a look at this article in The InTowner (if you have trouble, search for "Mayor’s Plan for New Central Library to Replace Existing MLK Building Continues in Limbo; No Immediate Action Expected" from the main page in the July 3, 2006 issue). A nice wrap-up of last month's hearing, it notes what the Post continuously overlooks - the community is divided on the plans for a new central library and for various reasons. Myself? I'm straddling the middle, but I am strongly against the way this is being handled as a community matter; it seems the only input those ultimately making the call consider credible falls directly in line with the plans they've had in motion long before they asked for our opinions.