The rest of the Public Library Board responds to Hayes’ settlement

UPDATE: In an email dated January 4 at 1:43 pm, Dr. Luis Palacio says he “also did not sign off on this statement, and I am now learning about it.” This means that the majority of Board members did not see Tribble’s statement claiming to represent the entire Board prior to its release.

The following statement was released to the Indianapolis Liberator shortly before midnight on January 3.

The Board of Trustees continues to be run like a dictatorship where a statement from one particular perspective is falsely suggested to be representational of all the trustees. This is far from a democratic process even amongst the seven board members. Four of the seven board members fought the community, library staff, and three marginalized board members who all held broad and overwhelming support for Nichelle Hayes to become the permanent CEO of IndyPL. Dr. Eugene White, appointed by the City-County Council who offered a letter of support for Ms. Hayes, yelled at the community during a board meeting that he didn’t need the community’s trust as a trustee and later released a letter with many sexist tropes against Hayes’s ability to lead the library. So he immediately turned against his appointing authorities. Then, Dr. Luis Palacio, appointed by the Marion County Commissioners, voted to install Greg Hill as the CEO during his first meeting on the IndyPL board.

A press release published in the IndyStar and the Indianapolis Recorder claimed to be a statement from the IndyPL Board of Trustees on Nichelle Hayes’s immediate departure as the Director of the Center for Black Literature and Culture from the Library. For three of the seven board members, the media publications were the first time they learned, or even knew, about the statement. The press release claims this was a “mutual” agreement between Hayes and the board and states Hayes “stepped up and skillfully” served “during a difficult transitional period for the library.” What was this difficulty and for whom was it difficult? Is that difficulty over? Does the fact that the statement was released without the knowledge of almost half of the board members answer that question?

Hayes built broad community and staff support because she was and is an effective leader. Hayes stood up as a leader in the face of a white supremacist and anti-worker system that foments division in the work environment. During Hayes’s brief nine-month stint as our CEO, staff and the community felt like the climate and culture of IndyPL were improving and abiding by the new strategic plan and climate improvement study. That was the difficult time through which Hayes led the library and community. The new strategic plan is never mentioned these days by the current CEO.

Now that library workers had a taste of what good leadership looked like with Nichelle Hayes, they are unimpressed with Hill’s lackluster “leadership” and insulted their new “leader” was undemocratically appointed to the position by four of the seven board members. Hill was not hired, and, in fact, he never applied for the position! The public never saw a public presentation of Hill’s vision that was part of the CEO hiring process, although Hayes’ vision was clearly endorsed by the entire public, particularly compared to her contender, Gabriel Morley. Hill follows the dictates of the board’s tiny majority, firing staff that are mostly workers of color—yet another indication the library (mis)leadership his disregard for the strategic plan.

As the fallout from Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette’s dramatic departure continues at Newfields, we see that Hope Tribble is still operating as the de facto dictator of the Board. Tribble is interested in maintaining a divisive work environment and listening only to the voices of those in the executive suite. As Newfields is learning, if the Tribble-dominated faction of the board only listens to the executives, it will be at their peril. When working to improve the work environment, one must diagnose the problems in the work environment holistically, just as a doctor would during a routine checkup.

The Tribble faction of the Board has no interest in working with the greater Indianapolis community of working and oppressed people. Tribble and her henchmen only care about the privileged few and have shown nothing but disrespect and disregard for the masses of people who, for months, protested in support of Hayes and are overwhelmingly in support of library workers. Unlike Tribble, library workers are our fellow community members and our neighbors.

If the library workers and community united today, they could pressure the appointing bodies to finally take action and remove these undemocratic board members from power for good. Unfortunately, our elected officials seem to find their abhorrent behavior acceptable, signifying that even our elected officials have a limit on what they are willing to do for the majority of the people in Indianapolis. If our elected officials were really under the control of the greater community, then Hayes would be our CEO at this moment instead of being forced out of the library without even a two-week notice.

The Tribble faction of the board clearly wanted to wipe their hands of their shady dealings but will find the stains they made will not wash away. The community does and will not forget what four people have taken away from the public. The three board members, who listen to the workers and community, have tried to work with the Tribble faction on multiple occasions. In the December board meeting, board member Stephen Lane attempted to nominate Ray Biederman to board president. Yet, falling in line with Tribble, he declined the nomination. Lane based his nomination on the fact that Biederman at least knows the basics of running a library board meeting efficiently, whereas Tribble packs meeting agendas that run longer than three to four hours and embarrassingly constantly consults with legal counsel on meeting procedures.

Our best recourse at this moment is for the Indianapolis community to come together once more to collectively say, “enough!” Either our elected representatives or the people themselves must remove Tribble and her clique for good. We need members who are competent, are part of and actually listen to the community, and can govern a library system that reaches far beyond the executive suite in the siloed Library Services Center. Indianapolis deserves public leadership of our public institutions. We have already organized and won victories. Not only did we remove racist CEO Jackie Nytes, but we prevented Morley from accepting the board’s offer. If we continue organizing and fighting through the ups and downs, there will be a day when we will have a leader as great as Hayes leading our public library. A leader that is dedicated to the education of our city’s residents and visitors alike.

Featured photo: Hope Tribble leading a closed-door meeting during which time she appointed Greg Hill, who never interviewed or even applied for the position as CEO of the Indianapolis Public Library System. Credit: Indianapolis Liberator.