Village Residents Demand Return of Beloved Library Director
The centennial of the Castleton (N.Y.) Public Library is being overshadowed by controversy, as area residents and local and state officials continue to demand the reinstatement of Darlene Miller as director of the library a month after the board summarily fired her. About 75 concerned citizens in the village of 1,600 gathered October 20 for a candlelight vigil as trustees met.
Despite repeated inquiries, Castleton library board members have declined to give a reason for dismissing Miller September 19, saying that it is a personnel matter.
Under Miller’s leadership, Castleton Public Library was among the libraries Library Journal singled out in 2009 as “star libraries.” Miller attributed the library’s success to having worked “long and hard to develop mutually beneficial relationships with the local school districts, civic organizations, government agencies and representatives, and private businesses [as well as] simply taking the time to notice what a patron is reading and initiating a conversation with them about their interests and passions.”
Dismissed with a faxed letter after 20 years of leadership there, Miller lost her job while on medical leave, former circulation clerk Carol Dratch-Kovler told American Libraries. Dratch-Kovler, a retired librarian from another area library, was one of five staff members who resigned in protest shortly after Miller’s firing. In her September 24 letter to trustees, Dratch-Kovler stated, “I knew that there were serious problems with your stewardship when you disdained [Miller’s] every award, shushed her at meetings, and tried to prevent her from presenting at NYLA. You do not refuse such a prestigious honor.”
Among others speaking out was Rensselaer County Supervisors Alex Shannon and Martin Reid, who called for the fired director’s reinstatement in a September 29 press release, and who attended the candlelight vigil.
The reduced staffing has forced several trustees and the town supervisor to volunteer at the library, where service hours have been shortened below minimum state standards, Dratch-Kovler said. She added that “library circulation has declined 34% in the month Darlene was fired and most families are boycotting the library.”
Also at issue is the legitimacy of the present library board. Dratch-Kovler told AL that, after having researched the board’s bylaws, Castleton residents are questioning whether library trustees have the authority to approve new appointments to their own board. Castleton Village Attorney Craig Crist gave assurances October 20 that he and village trustees would hear public comment at a village meeting the following evening and then discuss with the library board and its legal counsel its procedures, along with the reason for Miller’s dismissal, in executive session.
American Libraries, Wed, 10/21/2009 - 13:25