By now, what happened at last night’s emergency library board meeting is old news, and most of you may have moved on to the (possibly) sexier topic of urban chickens (though what could be sexier than books? Libraries have books about urban chickens, you know).

I attended the meeting, and even though Board President Chris Scherer asked those speaking to not rehash issues addressed at last month’s meeting, it did (understandably) tend to happen. The range in topics was predictable and comprehensive: overzealous weeding; mismanagement by the director and her refusal to accept responsibility; the unease, stress, and hostile work environment among the staff; the need for a grievance policy; and the now notorious Strategic Plan that pretty much seems to have started it all (Seriously. Check out that link).

Laura Haber addresses the Board of Trustees.


JP Goguen recounts the experiences of a member of the Strategic Planning Committee.

From my perspective, the Board of Trustees seemed to truly listen and respond to the community, though sometimes their responses weren't what people wanted to hear. There were times when questions were asked from the podium that the Board tried to answer, but couldn’t. There were times when they did answer, but those answers weren’t satisfactory. Unfortunately, there is still so much not known. How many boxes of books were shipped to Better World Books? Deb Lissak doesn’t know. The Board doesn’t know.

Will the Strategic Plan be reopened or simply reviewed? This was the most contentious topic of the night. Those in attendance asked that the plan be reopened completely, but the Board thinks that simply reviewing it and attaching the community’s comments to it as an addendum should be acceptable. But this wasn’t acceptable to many in attendance last night, and I imagine that this topic will need to be readdressed in the future.

Scott Bennett explains his rationale for not reopening the Strategic Plan.
The Board has made some good faith efforts to show that they’ve been listening to what’s been said, especially regarding the creation of an actual grievance policy for the staff and more transparency to the public. Last night’s meeting was televised and will be aired later on UPTV. And the Board does plan to broadcast their meetings live in the future.

The crowd was large: At least 100 people in attendance with 40+ more watching via live stream (again, provided by JP Goguen and the Independent Media Center). Of the 14–15 people who addressed the board, not one spoke in favor of Director Lissak or her policies.

Finally, the Board entered closed session and — lesson learned — we were told we could wait if we chose to do so, and a surprisingly large number of us did. After about forty minutes, they returned with this announcement:

The Board and the Executive Director jointly agree that it is in the best interest of the Urbana Free Library to pursue an early separation agreement. The specifics of this agreement, including the Director's end date, will be worked out in the coming weeks as the board searches for an Interim Director.

And then what happened? Well, what happened is that some in the crowd clapped. And while they clapped, Deb Lissak smiled and nodded her goodbye.

I have video of this too, but I've chosen to not post it.


The title of this article is paraphrased from UFL Adult Services Librarian Carol Inskeep’s address to the board.

Cover image by JP Goguen.