Eyes on the Board: CEO Hill’s incompetence and Tribble’s censorship spell trouble

Introduction: About the “Eyes on Board” series

Ever since joining with workers, AFSCME Local 3395, and community members to successfully oust racist former CEO Jackie Nytes, the Indianapolis Liberation Center has continued fighting against the corrupt and undemocratic nature of our library system. This monthly column provides updates on actions of the IndyPL Board of Trustees from an objective but partisan standpoint. To all workers and patrons who seek to end the abuse and win a democratic public library that serves the public, this series is for you!

Ordained as CEO, Hill’s leadership is illegitimate

Chaos, turmoil, and corruption continue plaguing the Indianapolis Public Library Board of Trustees under the leadership of Hope Tribble and current CEO Greg Hill. Many in the community consider Hill’s leadership illegitimate because it happened he assumed the position not as a result of a rigorous, nationwide search process but rather through a prearranged ordainment during a fraught April 24 board meeting. Clearly demonstrating the community’s complete lack of confidence in the board’s majority, Tribble and her three followers (Ray Biederman, Luis Palacio, and Eugene White) appointed Hill to the position behind closed doors.

To put it plainly: the top leadership position is occupied by someone who never submitted an application to the position, never went through an interview process, and never gave a public presentation to the community. Neither did Hill go through a national search like the one that, in 2022, yielded two finalists, one of whom–Nichelle M. Hayes–was interim CEO at the time, the same position Hill occupied when he was coronated. Unlike Hill, however, Hayes was and is widely supported by national librarians, IndyPL workers, and patrons, not to mention she is overqualified for the position.

Hill’s ineptitude and IndyPL leadership priorities on full display

Even if Hill’s legitimacy as CEO is up for debate, his September 20 library budget presentation to the City-County Council established his competency is not. During Hill’s presentation, he read a script written and projected on a slide show word-for-word. While this presentation format can increase access to the content for many, accessibility is not a priority for the leaders of our public library. Hill had no choice but to literally stick to the script because he still lacks fundamental knowledge about the system he “oversees.” He can only read what was prepared for him in advance.

The haphazard presentation highlights the priorities of Library leadership. Tribble stacked the August board meeting with presentations to try and cover for private contractors Schmidt and Associates, who asked for an additional $300,000–on top of the $250,000 they were paid–to study how people use the library. Pro-people board member Dr. Khaula Murtadha tried delaying the approval, citing the need to study its potential cost and benefits. Schmidt and Associates, however, is a contractor that hires other contractors to complete different phases of the study. Facilities Director Adam Parsons stated that he made a mistake in under-budgeting the full cost of the study—an expensive mistake that has now cost the Library over $500,0000.

Unable to provide answers during the discussion period, Hill was forced to defer to others. Again, this is the individual occupying the leading position in our library. He couldn’t answer basic questions about routine library operations, relying instead on the CFO and Collection Development director.

Unable to articulate a position on book bans, Hill and Tribble’s actions stifle intellectual freedom in our library

When asked about Indy PL’s plans for confronting book bans at the September 20 meeting, Hill was at a loss for words. He resembled Gabriel Morley, the only finalist of the national search to whom the IndyPL Board extended an offer, who rambled meaningless platitudes in response to the same question.

It’s worth noting that Hayes, unlike Morley or Hill, responded to this question in a perfectly reasonable and coherent manner at the last stage of the interview process. “We have a plethora of books in our system, both physical and virtual, and if you don’t like a book, let me tell you a secret: You actually don’t have to read it,” she said while emphasizing the importance of the “freedom to read.”

The board has still not explained their ongoing refusal to extend the offer to the runner-up of the national search. Yet perhaps it was Hayes’ answer that cost her the CEO position. Tribble doesn’t want freedom or curiosity because it means her decisions can be debated and challenged, which are threats to her grip on power. This isn’t an overstatement.

During the September 25 board meeting, Tribble made a comment on book censorship and asserted the board’s commitment to intellectual freedom. However, she recently censored intellectual freedom in our own library and community! In August, the Tribble-dominated board upheld Hills’ decision to fire Amira Malcom for boldly and bravely voicing her concerns and those of the community at large.

Hill and Tribble’s decision to terminate Malcom, a library student and Black woman, reveals Hill and Tribble are accomplices in contributing to low numbers of Black librarians in the workforce. This would elicit outrage from the first pick for CEO, Gabriel Morley, a white man with a sketchy past from New Orleans. Because Hill and Tribble are both Black, however, they’re shielded from criticism by the mainstream press, conservative and liberal alike.

Currently in negotiations, AFSCME represents not only IndyPL workers, but all of us

The Library workers’ union, AFSCME, is currently in contract negotiations with the executive suite. Those should be wrapping up soon. The Library union is absolutely instrumental in advancing the rights of workers in the way of benefits, workplace conditions, pay, and even tackling issues of racism and sexism within the IndyPL system.

The Indianapolis Liberation Center stands in full solidarity with the library workers and their union, which represents not only IndyPL workers but all of us in the city. We pledge to continue fighting until the day our city has a library that is truly public.

If you want to see the same, join us!