Friday, October 21, 2016

Library Director Fired; ALA Ignores Sexually Harassed Librarians Again?

Here is the anonymous letter that led to a library director being fired by her library board at York County Library, South Carolina, and below is local and American Library Association [ALA] reporting on the issue and a portion of my FOIA request:

York County Library in crisis ­ please help

You are receiving this email because you are a staff or board member of York County Library, involved in local government in York County, involved in state government with South Carolina, work with the SC state library or otherwise have awareness of or involvement with this library system. This message is coming from an account that will be deleted after all outgoing emails have been delivered. No replies will be received or read. The content of this message will make clear why it has been sent anonymously.

York County Library is in a state of crisis. Staff members are fearful for their jobs because they work under leadership that rules through intimidation and harassment. Let me be clear: York County Library Executive Director Colleen Pappas is a major liability for York County and has systematically destroyed staff morale along with the library’s once sterling reputation for community service.

Staff members have been repeatedly threatened with disciplinary action for things as simple as asking a question of a York County government employee or attempting to contact a library board member. Numerous policy documents contain language stating that employees may be terminated at any time for any reason. This is factually true in a right to state like South Carolina however the widespread use of this language on everything from employee handbook pages to personal leave requests perpetuates a work environment of fear and uncertainty. Staff members have documentation showing they have experienced retribution and retaliation from Mrs. Pappas for minor infractions or in some cases for no infractions at all.

Staff members of York County Library have contacted library board members. The board members have not taken any action because the staff members have remained anonymous. When you are told that you are subject to disciplinary action for questioning the executive director or going outside the chain of command for a valid legal question you become hesitant to ever sign your name. I know. I am an employee of York County Library. Over the past nine years that Colleen Pappas, previously Colleen Carney and then Colleen Kaphengst, has been the executive director I have witnessed Mrs. Pappas make decisions that are unethical at best and potentially illegal at worst. Read the list below and ask yourself if you know about of these situations.

1. Mrs. Pappas recruiting and hiring staff members to serve as private library security guards without the required license and in violation of South Carolina law

2. Children of Deputy Director Shasta Brewer being repeatedly hired without any application or interview and in direct violation of the library’s anti­-nepotism clause

3. A serious workplace accident at the Rock Hill branch involving a staff member and one of Ms. Brewer’s sons who was not technically an on the books employee at the time

4. Mrs. Pappas refusing to give staff members cost of living increases in a timely manner as approved by York County government and then threatening staff members who inquired about the increase with disciplinary action

5. Mrs. Pappas creating new positions for her personal friends and filling those positions without even minimal effort to follow best practice hiring standards

6. Mrs. Pappas selecting rare or out of print items from the York County Library collection to be withdrawn at her discretion and then made available for her alone to purchase from the Friends of the Library book sale

7. Discriminatory hiring practices for professional positions with all York County Library locations managed by white women until recently and no persons of color in professional librarian positions anywhere in the library system

8. Mrs. Pappas’ refusal to adequately address staff concerns about inappropriate behavior from library patrons and then using language that places blame on the employees who were being harassed

9. Mrs. Pappas developing new policies for the board to approve that are harsh in nature and have further disenfranchised under served populations including African­-Americans and Latino immigrants

10. Ongoing lack of transparency through all stages of the annual library budget process with the library’s book budget being routinely cut to cover other expenses

11. Mrs. Pappas’ continued employment of an unqualified bookkeeper with no financial qualification who serves as de facto finance manager and has made numerous errors related to benefits and retirement programs

12. Mrs. Pappas’ hiring of a then current member of the York County Library board to be the manager of the Rock Hill library

13. Multiple potential threats of legal action from staff members who have experienced discrimination, threats to their continued employment, stress­-induced medical conditions, illegal hiring practices, and a hostile work environment

14. Multiple EEOC violations that may result in legal action taken against the York County Library and Mrs. Pappas

We are tired of seeing our library fail to meet the needs of our community and fail to treat its employees with respect and professionalism. Our employee handbook makes it clear to us that Mrs. Pappas is untouchable. Our grievance procedure leaves final decision making in any situation up to her. We have no voice because we are scared to speak up. We need someone to take action to make things right. Mrs. Pappas’ time at York County Library has not been without accomplishment. That does not outweigh the intolerable situation for staff which can no longer be ignored.

I cannot sign my name to this message because I cannot afford to lose my job. I am one of many who loves this library and whose spirit feels broken. I beg of you to please ask questions. Make public records requests. Talk to the new human resources manager. Refuse to settle for the smoke and mirrors numbers game of library statistics Mrs. Pappas uses to obscure the facts. Give staff a change to speak with a guarantee they will be safe from Mrs. Pappas' retaliation. Our county deserves to have a library director who can rebuild what has become broken. That person is not Colleen Pappas.

This is not a personal attack. This is not an attempt at character assassination. This is blowing the whistle on Mrs. Pappas and her growing legacy of destructive leadership. Mrs. Pappas could retire. She could resign. The board could dismiss her. Staff are prepared to begin airing their grievances publicly and repeatedly until something is done. We are desperate for a resolution. Will someone please help us?

From: YCL Truth  
Sun, Aug 7, 2016 at 10:08 PM 

York County Library 
138 East Black St 
PO Box 10032 
Rock Hill, SC 29731­-0032

Excellent local reporting, mainly in The Herald by Jennifer Becknell:

American Library Association reporting on the issue in its own American Libraries membership magazine. ALA completely ignores the issue of the sexual harassment of librarians, something ALA leadership says never happens, because its own policy guidance is the very reason for the sexual harassment.  ALA doesn't even assign the piece a title nor an author:
  • "Untitled," by Unnamed, American Libraries, 26 August 2016 (hyperlinks and emphasis in original):
The York County (S.C.) Library director was fired August 26 in a unanimous vote of the library’s board of trustees, amid an unfinished investigation into her management that was sparked by an anonymous email. Colleen Pappas, who served as chief of the county library system for nine years, has been on administrative leave since an August 11 board meeting. Board Chair Barbara Boulware declined to comment further on the allegations, or to say whether she believes any of them were found to be accurateRock Hill (S.C.) Herald, Aug. 26


Also notice Library Journal, not associated business-wise with ALA but totally sycophantic, wrote absolutely nothing about this story.  Check here.  This is the latest example that Library Journal also downplays and hides the issue of the sexual harassment of librarians as caused by ALA anything-goes policy applied locally.

So again, both ALA and Library Journal ignore sexually harassed librarians, it would appear.  But it's not hard to check into this.  I did.  I could do more, like get the EEOC case, but at least I did what I did.  Below is my FOIA request and above is the results of my FOIA request which states, emphasis mine:
  • 8. Mrs. Pappas’ refusal to adequately address staff concerns about inappropriate behavior from library patrons and then using language that places blame on the employees who were being harassed
  • 13. Multiple potential threats of legal action from staff members who have experienced discrimination, threats to their continued employment, stress­-induced medical conditions, illegal hiring practices, and a hostile work environment
  • 14. Multiple EEOC violations that may result in legal action taken against the York County Library and Mrs. Pappas
I'll say I cannot prove sexual harassment from the unfiltered Internet was the exact issue based solely on that email; more investigation needs to be done into that, and ALA is doing none.  Still, the problem is seen in library after library, so what the email reports is quite likely to be related to sexual harassment.

And the key sentence why librarians fear speaking up about ALA policy applied locally:

"I cannot sign my name to this message because I cannot afford to lose my job."

And ALA did nothing, other than a quick untitled, unauthored news blurb with a mere 83 words.  Library Journal didn't even do that.

Now ALA has set up an elaborate system invading public libraries and public schools nationwide for librarians and school librarians or media specialists to immediately report to ALA any parent ever questioning any book, school book, or web site.  Each parent without fail is attacked as a censor.  Then each year ALA reports its finding in a massive propaganda campaign that goes worldwide called "Banned Books Week" when in reality no book has been banned since 1963.  Yet here we have real librarians and library employees, let's not forget them, really being sexually harassed and ALA does absolutely nothing, to protect its own anything-goes policy, and worse, even denies the situation exists.  There's no reporting to ALA on this issue.  There's no telephone number at ALA for sexually harassed librarians and library employees to call.  There are only sexually harassed librarians who fear losing their jobs for speaking up.  Even for speaking up anonymously, sexually harassed librarians get attacked by ALA's defenders, even to the point of feeling triggered again and self-censoring.

Free speech at ALA so children should read anything no matter how inappropriate?  Well there's no free speech for sexually harassed librarians or library employees.  They either get fired or they quit, like this library employee did: "Library Insider Linda Zec Gives Scoop on Porn in Libraries."  And ALA will never help them.

By the way, when I attempted to investigate this matter of the potential for sexual harassment (and no one else does, especially at ALA or Library Journal), I was personally attacked by librarians who gang up to defend ALA's anything-goes policy and silence any opposition, and the issue of sexually harassed librarians was intentionally ignored.  For republishing my FOIA request on Reddit Libraries, I received the following responses:
  • "Dan... fuck you."
  • "'I am a member of the media'; what media outlet do you work for Dan?"
  • "Please ignore Inspector Clouseau."
  • "Oh. good. We were all wondering when Dan Dan the Porno Man was going to get involved in this situation.  Here's to you getting to the bottom of this Dan! Clearly, all 'inappropriate behavior from library patrons' is going to be child porn.  I mean, no way patrons could be doing anything else 'inappropriate', but don't worry about other things, just focus on your obsession with child porn."
  • "'(Please ignore trolls who may attack me and ignore the potential issue of the sexual harassment of librarians.)' that being the entire library community  why is it when people disagree with you they are trolls and when you say utterly unhinged shit like 'ALA pro child-porn policy ' we are supposed to take you seriously."
  • "dan is a one trick pony - like seriously he keeps watching that pony trick over and over and over again"
I cannot go back and update the Reddit post since those librarians successfully got me banned from Reddit.  Tolerance will not be tolerated.  Free speech will be quashed if it harms the self-arrogated free speech police at ALA.  Or as the anonymous email to York County said, "I cannot sign my name to this message because I cannot afford to lose my job."

Here is a portion of my original FOIA request:
Given the recent news in The Herald and the Charlotte Observer written by Jennifer Becknell about library director Colleen Pappas being placed on administrative leave due to an anonymous email sent to “library trustees, local and state government officials, state library officials and others,” I hereby request a copy of that anonymous and obviously public email.

I am particularly interested in what the newspaper reported that may pertain to the sexual harassment of librarians. I have a publication called Sexual Harassment of Librarians and I will likely publish any FOIA response on that publication. This quote is especially concerning:

Pappas refused to adequately address staff concerns about “inappropriate behavior from library patrons” and she placed “blame on the employees who were being harassed”; ….

When that happens, there could be serious consequences for the harassed librarian and for the employer who allows the harassment to continue, especially while blaming the victim. Where that employer is a public entity, there could be serious consequences for town governments and for tax payers.

Also, I request documents revealing the receipt of E-rate funding under CIPA for “Internet Access,” if any. Do not send documents pertaining solely to “Telecom” or “Voice Services.” Your Internet policy claims the library is CIPA compliant but FCC/USAC records show the library never collected any funds for “Internet Access” (while it has for “Telecom” and “Voice Services” which does not require Internet filtering software and policies). Therefore, I seek the documents to determine if the FCC/USAC records are false. If the records are accurate, then either the library is not CIPA complaint as claimed or the library has failed to apply for over a decade worth of funding that would have been there for the asking.


Should any librarians wish to contact me, I will be happy to publish anything they say, anonymously, of course. Any time exposure is given to the sexual harassment of librarians, that only increases the ability to prevent such exposure in other instances. I seek to help librarians end sexual harassment, caused by patrons, that may have resulted from adherence to American Library Association [ALA] policy instead of the law, community standards, and common sense. ALA says sexually harassment of librarians has never happened despite all the law suits and big settlements and likely never will, but it appears York County Library may be yet another instance, and I’m investigating that possibility.

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