Librarians Call Director a Liability, Demand Ouster

By Judith Scherr
Friday April 21, 2006

Librarians raised the pressure a notch this week in the two-year battle with their boss, presenting a statement of no confidence in Library Director Jackie Griffin Tuesday to the City Council and Wednesday to the Library Board of Truste es. 

“We find the management of the Berkeley Public Library as provided by Library Director Jackie Griffin to be a liability for the organization, and a misuse of the public trust,” the statement concludes. 

While to date 77 of the 120 library employees r epresented by the Service Employees International Union 535 have signed the statement, their names are not listed individually. 

Anes Lewis-Partridge, senior field representative with the union, said that is because there has been retaliation against empl oyees who speak out at the library. In fact, grievances have been filed on behalf of workers who claim they are facing retaliatory disciplinary measures. 

“The tactic of the administration is to target activists,” Partridge said. “It has a chilling effect.” 

The no confidence statement included some of the following points: 

• Library service hours have been cut. 

• Library materials are unavailable due to shelving backlogs. 

• Administrative and supervisory staff positions have increased. 

• An expensive, controversial radio frequency identification system was instituted. 

• Labor-management meetings have been costly and ineffective. 

• Reprisals against employees who have spoken out include loss of promotions, written reprimands, punitive work assignments, gag orders, loss of pay and more 

The Wednesday evening trustees’ meeting included a closed-door session to discuss the director’s evaluation. 

Griffin’s evaluation has been on the trustees’ executive session agenda in February and again in March. In early April, the trustees met behind closed doors to discuss a lawsuit the director’s attorney threatened to file if she is fired. 

Through the library spokesperson, Community Relations Librarian Alan Bern, the library director declined comment on these i ssues because, Bern said, “We do not comment on internal personnel matters.” 

At the union’s behest, the mayor, a councilmember, two trustees and union representatives will meet within the next two weeks, Partridge said. 

“We’re trying to come to some sort of resolution,” she said. “At this point, enough is enough—this union needs some answers.””