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updated: 8/12/2011 12:36 AM

Sugar Grove library's Friends disband in protest

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  • Citizens for a Better Sugar Grove announced last month at the library board meeting that it plans to disband. Now the Friends of the Sugar Grove Library also are disbanding over the firing of library director Beverly Holmes Hughes.

       Citizens for a Better Sugar Grove announced last month at the library board meeting that it plans to disband. Now the Friends of the Sugar Grove Library also are disbanding over the firing of library director Beverly Holmes Hughes.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Protesters want Sugar Grove library trustees to explain why they voted Beverly Holmes Hughes out as the library's director.

       Protesters want Sugar Grove library trustees to explain why they voted Beverly Holmes Hughes out as the library's director.
    Laura stoecker | Staff Photographer

 
 

The Sugar Grove Friends of the Library aren't friends with the library any longer.

The group's president, Pat Graceffa, told the Sugar Grove library board Thursday that it was disbanding.

"Because the Sugar Grove Library Friends were moving in the same direction as former library director Beverly Holmes Hughes, we assume we are part of the problem which caused the termination of the director. Therefore it was decided at the Friends' Aug. 8, 2011, meeting that the current Friends group will be disbanding," Graceffa said.

Graceffa and other library supporters are upset about the mid-July firing of Hughes, who was library director for 21 years. They are demanding that the board explain the exact reasons for the firing.

The board declined at its last meeting to provide a reason. Trustees Art Morrical, Julie Wilson, Bob Bergman and Joan Roth voted in favor; Bill Durrenburger and Daniel Herkes voted against.

About 45 people attended the meeting, including Hughes. They applauded most of the speakers who criticized the library board.

The Friends will pay for any programming already contracted for through 2011.

It wants direction from the board on what to do with its used bookstore in the cafe at the library. The Friends will stop working it Aug. 31. Besides books, it also sells stationery supplies, earbuds, USB drives, jewelry, gifts and artwork and books by local artists and vendors.

The Friends donate $12,000 from those sales and other donations. The Friends also receive donations of warehouse space for storing donated books, valued at $18,000; a box truck for five trips to haul books, valued at $1,000; legal services, valued at $900; and $4,000 of photography, webcasts, and other electronic advertising. Graceffa provided the figures in a handout to the board.

She estimated the Friends provide 5,521 volunteer hours a year.

No board members spoke about the Friends' actions during the open part of the meeting.

The board has a vacancy due to the resignation of Sabrina Malano in June. She stepped down, feeling she did not want to serve after undergoing personal attacks at the June 9 meeting.

Speaker after speaker Thursday again called for Bergman, Wilson, Roth and Morrical to resign.

The critics are also upset with the appointment of Wilson and Bergman to the board in June to fill two other vacancies. Wilson and Bergman are former trustees who did not run for re-election in April.

Several people who said they had applied also said they were not contacted by the trustee in charge of recommending appointees.

Even discussing who had applied for this new vacancy drew criticism and disbelief from the audience when Morrical -- the board's personnel representative -- said he hadn't brought the applications he received to the meeting. Board President Joan Roth also said she had left some at home. People were instructed to submit applications at the library or to any trustee by Aug. 11.

"You did not bring them to this meeting? We agreed at the last meeting that tonight was the deadline, and that we would decide at the next meeting," Durrenberger said to Morrical.

Morrical said he thought all the applications were going to come to him.

The applicants are former Trustee Erin Erickson, Graceffa, Louise Coffman, former Trustee Doug Hartman, William Wulff, Joann M. Verdeyn, Antoinette Jokiel, Deborah Danhauer and Anthony Oliver. Graceffa and Coffman had also applied for the previous vacancies.

Graceffa said she didn't run for election in April because fellow members of the Friends thought she was more valuable serving as a Friend.

The meeting was recessed while someone went to Morrical's house to get the letters of interest.

During the recess, Durrenberger, at the request of the audience, discussed the board's application practices, including how he ended up on the board last fall. He submitted an application in September for a vacancy, and didn't hear anything until November, when he got a call saying he was appointed -- without any interview.

Asked after the meeting about the Friends' action, Durrenberger said, "It is very sad." He works a weekly shift at the used book stand, and said he didn't know if he would continue to do so.

Durrenberger declined to say why he didn't make a statement tonight about Hughes' firing. He had said at the last meeting that if the board didn't release a statement, he would but didn't give a specific date.

The board tried to contract with a consultant to help it look for a new library director. But after it voted, Sugar Grove Village Trustee Mari Johnson questioned whether the vote was legal, because the matter was not on the agenda, nor was the consultant an employee. She and Erickson accused the board of violating the Illinois Open Meetings Act by discussing the consultant in closed session, and several audience members said they intended to file complaints with state officials Friday. The board decided its vote wasn't valid.

The board also voted to pay Hughes for 515 hours of accumulated vacation and personal time.

The meeting was another raucous one, with people in the audience interjecting comments and laughter throughout, long after the "public comment" portion was closed and over the objections of Roth.

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