Indianapolis library workers and patrons demand Nichelle Hayes as library CEO
Library patrons and workers pack the meeting of the board of trustees. | Jason Jones / People's World

INDIANAPOLIS—Month after month, the Indianapolis Marion County Public Library Board of Trustees continues to ignore the will of the community and deny Nichelle Hayes the position as CEO of IMCPL, despite the strong backing she has from the community and workers at the library.

On Monday, March 27, the board met yet again and denied an amendment to the agenda for a vote to confirm Hayes as head of the library system. Despite hundreds of community members and library employees attending and speaking at each board of trustees meeting, board members Hope Tribble, Raymond Biederman, and Eugene White denied Hayes and the community a vote to confirm her.

All of this follows a sham CEO search concluded with a despicable public forum and the resignation from Gabriel Morley, who turned down the CEO position in December after the selection process narrowed the candidates down to a choice between Hayes and Morley, which was previously reported by People’s World.

Nichelle Hayes | via IMCPL

During public testimony, several people spoke out about the cuts to services since interim CEO Gregory Hill took over after Hayes was denied the position. The most important being HIV and AIDS testing by local service organizations that have worked tirelessly in reaching the homeless populations at various library branches.

These organizations are doing work that saves lives by getting people into care who have never had the opportunity to receive it or people who never had a chance to know their status until testing was made available at library branches throughout the city.

Hayes and the library system’s social worker, Yanna McGraw, developed this program while Hayes was interim CEO. But all that ended under Hill’s watch.

Over the past three months, the library board has seen several changes. In January, Hope Tribble replaced Jose Salinas as board chair after Salinas concluded his term. Then, in the same month, T.D. Robinson, who did not support Hayes, resigned as member.

This came in the wake of outrage amid questions over the lack of transparency and corruption within the board of trustees. Calls for some members to resign emerged from the community and library union members represented by AFSCME Local 3395. Then, just this month, Curtis Bigsbee, who abstained in the first vote to confirm Hayes, resigned.

Robinson’s replacement is Eugene White, a former superintendent at Indianapolis Public Schools, who raised the hopes of community members and library workers alike when he told the press that the board’s reasons for not appointing Hayes were weak. This was on the heels of the Indianapolis City-County Council taking the surprise step of asking the board to appoint Hayes.

The council has rarely, if ever, intervened in IMCPL Board of Trustees decisions. White went on to tell the Indy Star on March 6, “I know that situation with looking for a new CEO split the community, split the staff, and just turned out to be a mess. That seems to be a preponderance of tough decisions going wrong and hopefully we can revisit that.”

White also went on to acknowledge the historical impact of institutional racism and its entrenchment in nearly all systems, saying “that one almost has to start with the assumption that it exists, and work forward.” As the March board meeting approached, hopes were raised on finally getting Hayes confirmed.

Board members Hope Tribble, Steven Lane, Dr. Eugene White, Dr. Khaula Murtadha, Dr. Patricia Payne. Raymond Biederman appeared by Zoom. | Jason Jones / People’s World

Monday’s board meeting lasted nearly four hours, with at least half that time dedicated to public testimony in favor of Hayes. All six board members—Raymond Biederman, Steven Lane, Dr. Khaula Murtadha, Dr. Patricia Payne, Hope Tribble, and Dr. Eugene White—were present. The chances looked good for a vote, with Murtadha, Payne, and Lane all supporting Hayes as CEO. The community expected that White would be the fourth vote in favor of Hayes.

After Lane put forth a resolution to confirm Hayes as library CEO, White asserted his point of personal privilege and said, “You read what I had in the paper when I joined this board, and I changed my mind on all that when I learned the facts involved.” The community and union members in attendance responded in unison and outrage.

“What facts did you learn!?” one person in the audience asked. White would not answer the question in any honest, meaningful, or direct way. The board then tied in its vote, 3-3, with Biederman, Tribble, and White voting no.

As community members, library workers, and press stared in disbelief, the crowd erupted in “Appoint Hayes Now!” The next board meeting is set for April 24.

Despite this setback, progress has been made and victories have been achieved through the dedication of the coalition formed around Hayes. This was evidenced by the two board member resignations and the appointment of Steven Lane onto the board by the City-County Council.

The calls for Tribble and Biederman to resign have continued, and now White has been added to that list. Community members were urged to contact the City-County Council, the Indianapolis Public School Board, and the County Commissioners to demand that Tribble, Biederman, and White be removed.

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Jason Jones
Jason Jones

Jason Jones is a social worker writing about Indiana. One of his favorite quotes is “I'm a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will." -Antonio Gramsci. Jones is a fan of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Beisbol Cubano.