Arlington Heights library board president defends diversity initiatives

  • Arlington Heights Memorial Library Board President Debbie Smart defended the library board's support of diversity and inclusion initiatives Monday during a board meeting.

      Arlington Heights Memorial Library Board President Debbie Smart defended the library board's support of diversity and inclusion initiatives Monday during a board meeting. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Former Arlington Heights Memorial Library Board President Jim Bertucci speaks Monday during public comment at a board meeting, in support of the current board leadership.

      Former Arlington Heights Memorial Library Board President Jim Bertucci speaks Monday during public comment at a board meeting, in support of the current board leadership. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Anisha Patel, an Arlington Heights Elementary District 25 school board member, praised the library's diversity initiatives and library board members during a meeting on Monday.

      Anisha Patel, an Arlington Heights Elementary District 25 school board member, praised the library's diversity initiatives and library board members during a meeting on Monday. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 10/30/2017 11:27 PM

Arlington Heights Memorial Library Board President Debbie Smart said Monday the library board supports efforts of diversity and inclusion, though she declined to comment on the recent departures of two top administrators who were pushing those initiatives.

At a library board meeting, Smart didn't mention by name former Executive Director Jason Kuhl, who resigned Sept. 25, or former Deputy Director Jeremy Andrykowski, a 17-year employee fired by Acting Executive Director Mike Driskell Oct. 23.

 

But she did seem to address some of Andrykowski's comments in an Oct. 27 Daily Herald story, in which he said some library staff members' unhappiness with the direction of the library may have led to his and Kuhl's departure. Andrykowski said Kuhl's diversity and inclusion initiatives were "difficult" for the library.

Smart said the board never directed the staff to cancel a controversial immigrants' rights seminar last month, reiterating it was a staff decision due to safety concerns. At the same time, the board reaffirmed the programming decision and its Vision, Values, and Priorities statement, which includes diversity and inclusion, Smart said.

She added that the board has also appropriated money to hire a Hispanic bilingual specialist and community engagement liaison, and approved a 2018 traveling exhibit on love and understanding.

"As public officials, library trustees have the duty to take such actions as they are responsible for providing well-managed library activities and operations," Smart said in a prepared statement. "Trustees solely make decisions which they deem to be in the best interest of the community. At the end of the day the board is ultimately responsible for the library's performance. The board has been very transparent in nature but cannot and will not comment on performance or personnel issues on the advice of our attorney."

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About 75 people filled a library conference room for the meeting -- 10 of whom spoke about recent library controversies during public comment.

Jim Bertucci, a past library board president, said the board's role is to ensure the executive director is following through with the board's policies and community's desires. "We don't need to be on the bleeding edge -- maybe the cutting edge -- but more importantly what the community wants."

In an interview after the meeting, Smart declined to respond to much of what Andrykowski brought up in the Oct. 27 article, including whether the board supported the direction Kuhl and Andrykowski were taking the library -- particularly their multiyear department restructuring. She also said she didn't recall a meeting over the summer where, according to Andrykowski, she referenced some 30 unnamed staff members who raised concerns to the board about the library's direction.

She reiterated that Andrykowski's firing was Driskell's decision, though Driskell on Monday also declined to talk about it.

Smart defended the appointment of Driskell as acting director, saying that even though he does not have a library and information science degree, he has "equivalent experience." Driskell was the library's IT director for 11 years until his appointment as director of administration a year ago, overseeing IT, facilities, grants and development, and communications and marketing.

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