INDIANAPOLIS — On Tuesday, the Indianapolis Public Library named an interim Chief Administrator Officer. The meeting wasn’t without interruptions from a frustrated public audience.
It only took about 15 minutes before things got heated inside that meeting. Board members were outspoken in their disagreement about how to move forward, while community members interrupted, expressing their frustrations with board members and the hiring process.
In a special board meeting without public comment, the board of trustees appointed Anita J. Harden as Chief Administrative Officer. The position that will assist the current CEO with administrative duties as the library looks to hire a permanent replacement.
“The library has been without a senior executive leadership permanent role for 16 months,” said IndyPL Board of Trustees President Hope Tribble. “A part of our plan to move forward for the next search process is to put forth a community leader who can provide additional support and assistance with executive functions.”
Board members Dr. Khaula Murtadha and Dr. Patricia Payne spoke out ahead of the vote, stating there was no board discussion about the resolution before the meeting.
“Why the rush to get someone in?” Dr. Murtadha asked the board.
Tribble disagreed. “We’ve been talking about this since Dec. 19,” Tribble said. “Board members have had the opportunity to join in that conversation since.”
Dr. Murtadha and Dr. Payne motioned to delay the vote for CAO until new board members had been seated but were overruled 4 to 2. The resolution moved forward to appoint Harden as CAO.
“This is just a continuation of the disrespect and unethical behavior of some board members who are continuing this.,” said Michael Torres, a public service associate at the Central Public Library.
Torres has worked at the library for 25 years and said the board has long ignored staff’s concerns.
“Even when we started showing up last year to address the issues of racism, ageism, homophobia — from staff — they ignored,” Torres said.
The newly appointed CAO says she has no doubt the conflict between the board and community members will get resolved.
“I thought, boy I wouldn’t want to be involved in that,” Harden said. “As I talked to people and found out really the strengths of this organization and people involved, I thought I’d like to be a part of it.”
Harden’s focused on helping the library achieve its vision for the upcoming year and improving employee conditions.
“The important thing is to make sure the library continues to be well-run fiscally and operationally,” Harden said.
The next board meeting will be next Monday, Jan. 23. Public comments will be accepted at that time.