FIRED LIBRARIAN'S TENURE A SHORT STORY
BY SAMAR FAY, COURIER EDITOR
Published: Wednesday, May 9th, 2012
The new director of the Glasgow City-County Library was fired by the Library Board after nine days on the job.
Stephanie Johnston said she was told at at the board meeting on May 3 that she was not the person that they thought she was and she was not what they were looking for as a director.
This is the second setback in the Library Board’s search for a replacement for Carolyn Wells, who has retired. The board thought they had hired a person late last year, but after accepting the position, she changed her mind. Wells postponed her retirement for a few months until another candidate was offered the job.
Johnston said she received a letter from the board asking her to apply. She was looking for a job as her husband’s year of teaching English in Japan drew to a close and they moved back to Boise, Idaho. The board conducted an interview with her in early April via Skype and offered her the job the next day, she said.
The board’s letter confirming the job offer said the salary was $38,000 upon taking the position and once the probationary period of six months was successfully completed, the salary would be raised to $40,000.
Johnston’s previous experience was six years as a public reference librarian at the central branch of the San Antonio Public Library. She has a degree in English from Weber State and a master’s in library science from Indiana University-Bloomington.
Johnston arrived in Glasgow on April 17 with her husband, Mark, and 10-month-old daughter, Emma. She started work on April 19 and began reading manuals on library management.
The board’s decision to fire her came completely out of the blue, according to Mark Johnston. Stephanie Johnston went home from the meeting in tears and returned with Mark to ask what was wrong. They say the board said she could be let go without any stated reason during the probationary period.
On May 5, Stephanie Johnston wrote an email to the board members, the Valley County commissioners and the mayor of Glasgow, claiming that the board failed to follow correct procedures according to the Montana State Library Trustee Manual. She quoted sections of the manual that say a probationary period of six months to a year is common practice for new directors. During this time the board should informally evaluate the director and hold a formal evaluation at the end to determine whether to retain or dismiss the director.
She said she should be allowed to continue working for the probationary period and if the board still feels they made a mistake in hiring her, they can let her go then.
“My family and I should not be punished for the Board’s failure to perform an effective interview, or to clearly communicate their expectations,” Johnston wrote.
She said if she cannot return to her position she would “pursue other means of appeal and redress.”
Board member Pat Knierim is on the Recruitment Committee for a new director. Contacted on Monday, she said she couldn’t comment because a lawsuit might be filed and the board would be talking to the county attorney.
“We just felt like she wasn’t the person we were looking for in the job,” Knierim said.
Several members of the Library Board met with the county commissioners in a closed session on Tuesday. Commissioner Dave Reinhardt said the session dealt with a personnel issue, but afterward in open session they discussed deferred maintenance projects at the library and the possibility of an elevator to give handicapped access to the basement.
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