Reports: “Philadelphia Free Library Director Siobhan Reardon Has Resigned Following Complaints About Workplace Racial Discrimination”
From the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Siobhan Reardon, the longtime leader of the Free Library of Philadelphia, resigned Thursday, after employee complaints about racial discrimination in the workplace led Mayor Jim Kenney and some library trustees to pressure her to step down.
“It has been an incredible 12 years full of highs and lows, and we have achieved much during this time,” Reardon wrote in her resignation letter to the chairs of the two boards that run the independent library system. “I leave knowing that the mandate that the Boards gave me years ago — to turn the Free Library into a world class, 21st Century Library — has largely been achieved.”
The workers who had raised concerns about Reardon’s leadership applauded the resignation. The Concerned Black Workers released a statement asking to be involved in the search for a new director and calling on Dembe, who had been a vocal supporter of Reardon, to step down as chair. “Although Siobhan Reardon could have used the letter from the Concerned Black Workers as an inroads to being part of a culture of change and building trust, her refusal to change meant that resignation was the only way forward,” the workers said in the statement.
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From Billy Penn:
Reardon’s resignation comes one day after Billy Penn reported the library’s director was expected to step down before next week’s board meeting, set for Tuesday, July 28.
Hours after board members were notified, library staffers had not received official outreach about the move, according to an employee who requested anonymity. They said their team was notified by an executive-level supervisor, who said they’d found out via the media.
Staff eventually received an email from Reardon around 5:30 p.m.
The leadership change follows an intense burst of attention to the long-simmering issue of inequity in library workforce policies and procedures. This summer, Black library staffers organized as the Concerned Black Workers of the Free Library of Philadelphia and asked library executives and board members to create an equitable reopening plan amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has disproportionately affected Black people.
In late June and early July, the organized Black workers published open letters decrying library administration and calling for Reardon’s resignation. In solidarity, at least six prominent authors canceled planned events there. The library hired diversity consultants in an attempt to address the concerns.
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About Gary Price
Gary Price (email@example.com) 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.