Crawford County Library Board again delays action to hire new director

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 738 views 

The Crawford County Library System Board of Directors on Tuesday (Dec. 5) once again chose to not hire an executive director, opting instead to interview two more applicants.

The board on Nov. 15 interviewed two “finalists” – Cynthia Morrison and Charlene McDonnough – for the position that has been vacant since February, but did not make a decision on hiring either. At the time, board chair Tammi Hamby said the board “need more time to think” about the decision.

On Monday (Dec. 4), notice was given that the board would have a special meeting Tuesday. The agenda listed the following items: Hiring CCLS director and advisor; executive session to hire director and advisor; and announcement of results of executive session.

After the board was called to order and public input was completed, Director Robbie Dyer moved the board go into executive session to hire a director and advisor. After Director Keith Pigg said the board also needed to discuss salaries for the position, the motion was amended. While the board was still in discussion about the executive session, Hamby said that rather than hiring a director and advisor, the executive session would need to be to “discuss” hiring for the positions as she had set up zoom interviews with two more applicants.

Pigg said that was not something the board could do. Interviewing and conducting background research and due diligence on the candidates needed to be done prior to the board meeting by the ad hoc committee. All the board members serve on the ad hoc committee.

The board agreed to meet into executive session. They adjourned less than 10 minutes later and voted to come out of executive session without reaching any decision on either position. Pigg voted against ending the executive session. At that point, Hamby said they would need to adjourn and to meet as a committee for the interviews.

“We’ll meet as an ad hoc committee and do two more interviews, and then we will have a decision,” Hamby said.

Pigg and Dyer both voted against concluding Tuesday’s meeting for the ad hoc committee meeting.

“I was under the assumption that we were going to hire one of two candidates that already vetted and interviewed twice,” Pigg said about his vote not to adjourn the meeting.

Director Kaelin Schaper said he thought the two people who applied for the position after the finalists were interviewed for a second time deserved to be interviewed.

“I said I wanted to give everyone a chance who applied,” Schaper said.

The two new applicants are Meghan Cyr and Lisa Pixley. Cyr has a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in business administration from University of Redlands in Redland, Calif. She has a master’s degree in library science from the University of Arizona in Tucson, Ariz. She has been the youth services manager of the Tempe Public Library in Tempe, Ariz., since 2021. Prior to that, she was a teen services supervisor of the Tempe Public Library for two years, a librarian (adult services) for the Tempe Public Library for one year and a librarian (teen services), also for the Tempe Public Library.

Pixley has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in media specialists and informational technology. She has worked for Van Buren Public Schools since 1992 as a teacher and a media specialist. She has been a media specialist for the district since 2004.

The board did not say when it expects to reach a decision on the position. The next scheduled meeting of the board is Jan. 9.

The two finalists interviewed in November also both have master’s degrees. Morrison has a master’s degree in information science, which is American Library Association (ALA) accredited, from the University of Texas at Austin. She has a bachelor’s degree in art history from the University of Colorado. Morrison has worked as a part-time library assistant for the Crawford County Library System since October 2021. Prior to that she served as an information technology consultant for the Bee County Chamber of Commerce in 2015;  library director of the Joe Barnhart Bee County Library in Beeville, Texas, from 2013-2015; and a reference librarian for the Joe Barnhart Bee County Library from 2011-2013.

McDonnough has a master’s degree in library science from the University of South Carolina-Columbia in Columbia, S.C. She has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Francis Marion University in Florence, S.C. and an associates degree in information management from Community College of the Air Force at Maxwell AFB, Ala. She has been a program technician for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency in Fort Smith since April. She served as branch manager for Society Hill Library in Society Hill, S.C. from March 2012 to December 2022. She was the adult services librarian for the Darlington County Library System in Darlington, S.C. from May 2004 to March 2012. Prior to that she worked as a public school teacher.

The board voted at its regular meeting Sept. 19 to seek two positions in order to lower the requirement of master’s degree in library science in hopes of getting qualified applicants for the position, which has been open since late February when the former library system director Diedre Grzymala resigned amid pressure from Hamby. Eva White has served as the interim director since Feb. 24. White was the library director for Crawford County from 1999 to 2012 and then again from 2013 to January 2021.

Prior to that meeting, the board had two applicants, Morrison and Madison Swaim, who both had a master’s degree in library science.

The board decided in September that the executive director would need to have library administration experience, preferably with a library system that had multiple libraries. The candidate also needs to be computer savvy and familiar with library software, the board said.

The new job advertisement, which is still active on more than one site, states that being willing to work toward and obtain within two years a master’s degree in library science from an ALA accredited college or university is a required qualification. Experience in library administration including at least three years in a supervisory capacity is preferred as is experience in a multi-library system. Annual salary for the full-time position is listed as $40,000-$75,000.

The search for a new director was needed after then Library Director Diedre Gryzmala resigned with a $40,687.50 severance deal Feb. 21. The controversy began in November 2022 when Hamby and her husband Dr. Jeffrey Hamby, a Van Buren family physician, spearheaded a campaign against LBGQT+ books being available through the library system, and Grzymala’s book display of LBGQT+ children’s books set up at the Van Buren Public Library.

Hamby was appointed to the Crawford County Library Board by Crawford County Judge Chris Keith and named the board chair after Jamie Balkman, former chair, and two other board members resigned after a contentious Quorum Court meeting in December.

On June 2, several Arkansas libraries and library associations filed a lawsuit in the Fayetteville Division of the Western District Court of Arkansas against Crawford County officials and state prosecuting attorneys to overturn Act 372. The Act is primarily a measure allowing books in public libraries to be banned or relocated. U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Brooks granted a preliminary injunction July 29 against Act 689 implementation, which was set to go into effect Aug. 1.

The June 2 lawsuit was the second to be filed attempting to block libraries from censoring books. Attorney Brian Meadors filed a federal complaint May 30 against book censorship actions by the Crawford County Public Library. The Crawford County Library has in recent months approved the removal and relocation of books largely because of objections from citizens to LGBTQ content.

Crawford County has spent and/or budgeted more around $245,000 on legal bills related to the actions by Hamby and others to censor or relocate books.