Roundup: California: Berkeley Public Library Director Jeff Scott Resigns
Here’s a new example of a public library weeding program causing controversy and a resignation. Here’s a roundup of coverage and some background.
From the Oakland Tribune:
Embattled Berkeley Public Library Director Jeff Scott has resigned.
Board of Library Trustees Chairwoman Abigail Franklin made the announcement in a news release Monday afternoon. The resignation comes on the heels of almost two months of rallies, speak outs and letter writing in opposition to Scott’s policies — especially targeting his methods of “weeding” books and materials from the system’s collection — on the part of community members and library staff.
Reacting to the news, retired librarian Pat Mullan, who helped organize opposition to Scott, characterized the resignation as “a really positive step.”
Mullan said that it will be critical for the board to search for a director who is compatible with the Berkeley community, who welcomes staff input and who does not share Scott’s approach to collection development.
Members of the public, as well as current and former librarians, have accused Scott of lying to the public about the number of books discarded by the library in the weeding process, and said he took key library personnel out of the process.
Just under 1,000 people signed a MoveOn.org petition calling for Scott’s suspension or removal.
At the meeting, people complained about what they said was an overly aggressive book weeding policy, as well as what they perceived to be a hostile working environment at the libraries, and a lack of honesty and trust. They said they thought Scott had lied to the community about the number of items weeded out. Scott initially said he thought 2,200 items had been discarded this year. He later acknowledged that the real number was 39,000, pointing out that in a previous year more than 50,000 items were weeded out. Some also said they were punished for speaking out against the collections management policy.
When Scott joined the Berkeley Public Library in November 2014, he had already worked with libraries for almost 17 years. Upon his original appointment, Scott emphasized the importance of understanding and adjusting to community needs and priorities — a task that libraries can better perform compared with other organizations because they are not constrained by specific quotas.
Within hours of his resignation, Scott announced on his Twitter that he would still be running for president of the California Library Association after colleagues nominated him for the position earlier this week.
“It is with a heavy heart that I tender my resignation as the Director of Library Services of the Berkeley Public Library. I have enjoyed my work here at the library and I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish,” stated Mr. Scott. Jeff Scott has served in the role of Director since November 2014.
“I have appreciated the enthusiasm for library services that Jeff has brought to Berkeley and wish him well,” said Abigail Franklin, Chair of the Library Board of Trustees.
The Board will initiate a search to fill Jeff Scott’s position. In the interim period, Sarah Dentan, Acting Deputy Director, will serve as Acting Director.
Read the Complete Announcement
“Performance of Berkeley’s Library Director Under Fire at Meeting of Library Trustees” (via Berkeleyside; August 27, 2015)
“Berkeley Library Director Admits Vast Discrepancies in Numbers of Weeded Books” (via Berkeleyside, August 12, 2015)
Obscure and Popular Books Part Of The Library Weeding Process (via Berkeleyside, August 4, 2015)
“Protest at Berkeley Public Library Over Weeding (July 15, 2015)”
See Also: Berkeley Public Library Strategic Plan (2015-2018)
About Gary Price
Gary Price (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com.