Jo Ann Pinder fired from Gwinnett library system in Georgia

I’ve been following the controversial story of Jo Ann Pinder’s firing this week. It’s a chiling story about the director of the Gwinnett County Public Library with 15 years of exceptional service fired by a 3 to 5 board vote, without cause. Her library system had been named Library of the Year by Library Journal in 2000.

Most people point to one board member and her influence over other members as the incentive for this move. Others point to the GCPLwatch website which clearly is concerned with issues like filtering [GCPL does filter], porn, the Boy Scouts and the American Library Association. Their issues page points to a “what’s wrong with ALA” article written by the folks at Family Friendly Libraries (whose website has been down all week for some reason). Their argument about ALA seems to focus on issues like ALA’s support of collections and displays containing information on Gay History (calling the Stonewall Awards “garbage”), books that are “expensive pop culture mind polluters” and the “hypocrisy” of the Intellectual Freedom Manual. The GCPLwatch.org URL is registered to Warren Furlow who has wanted to “harmonize the library system with conservative values” of the community. Other contacts for that group include Judy Craft, a local Family Friendly Library advocate who complained abotu the library providing books in Spanish, among other things.

This firing is bringing to the forefront a larger issue that librarians and library professional organizations have been discussing forever: local control. If you and your library support gay people being treated just like anyone else, but your community doesn’t, what do you do? This came up in a Council meeting last year when Council was discussing what to do about states that were discussing withholding funding for libraries who didn’t restrict books on gay topics to adult collections only. Some chapter Councilors discussed how having ALA come out against this would make their jobs difficult and that they were trying to work from within organizations to change attitudes and hopefully also funding decisions. Another Councilor likened being asked to not speak out on this topic to the Jim Crow laws where racism and segregation were institutionalized in the South. I don’t think this is any different. While I’m willing to listen to anyone explain to me what other reason a library board might have to fire their director without cause, this seems like predjudice and hysteria that the library community should not remain silent on.

More from the blogosphere: Sarah Long, Kathleen de la Peña McCook, Karen Schneider, Annoyed Librarian (with comment from one of the gcpl watch folks), photos of the meeting from Michael Casey, GCPL branch manager. [bugmenot login info]

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