TLA Slams Memphis Mayor for Political Library Appointments

TLA Slams Memphis Mayor for Political Library Appointments

The Tennessee Library Association executive board has sent a terse open letter to Mayor Willie Herenton criticizing him for placing political appointees in charge of the Memphis (Tenn.) Public Library and Information Center. The February 22 letter condemned the mayor’s dismissal of longtime library director Judith Drescher as “a slap in the face” to professional librarians, questioned why a national search wasn’t conducted for a replacement, and asked why the library is operating without a duly appointed library board of trustees.

Drescher, director of the system for 23 years; Deputy Director Sallie Johnson, with the library for 40 years; and Human Resources Manager Val Crook, a 42-year veteran, all retired suddenly last December. Herenton appointed Keenon McCloy, former director of public services and neighborhoods, to replace Drescher and Michael Gray, a former mayoral bodyguard and retired deputy director of public services, as the library’s deputy director; neither has a library degree. According to the February 29 Memphis Commercial Appeal, the mayor brushed off criticism of the appointments, saying “a manager is a manager.”

Under Drescher’s leadership, the library upgraded its branches and opened a new central Library in 2001. Last year the system was among five libraries awarded a National Medal of Museum and Library Service from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

The Commercial Appeal reported that five more high-ranking library employees had recently announced their resignations: Adult Services Coordinator Heather Lawson, a 30-year staffer who is leaving to become director of the Hernando (Miss.) Public Library; Assistant Director of Library Advancement Betty Ann Wilson: Collection Development Librarian George Clifford Morgan; Coordinator of Integrated Library Systems Paul Gahn; and Cataloging Manager Deborah Powell.

Posted on March 14, 2008. Discuss.