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Deputy Director Leaves Troubled Library System After Brief Stay

By Judith Scherr
Friday May 05, 2006

Vivian Pisano may be just one more casualty of Berkeley’s library wars. 

After fewer than four months on the job, the deputy director tendered her resignation, sending a simple e-mail to staff on May 1, saying she had enjoyed working with them and that she was leaving. 

“It was a shock, a big surprise to union leadership,” said Anes Lewis-Partridge, senior field representative with Service Employees International Union 535, which represents library workers. ”We were hopeful (and appreciated) the way she dealt with line staff. She was open. She listened. She had a positive management style.” 

Pisano left the San Francisco library system to come to Berkeley, where she began work Jan. 31. 

“She’ll be resuming her duties in San Francisco May 30 as chief of Information Technology,” said San Francisco library spokesperson Sherri Eng. Pisano confirmed her new position in a terse e-mail to the Daily Planet in response to multiple calls for an interview.  

The deputy director took the job in Berkeley in the midst of heated conflict between library staff and Library Director Jackie Griffin, whose termination has been sought by a majority of the library staff. The union claims the library has been mismanaged and that when staff has spoken out about it, workers have suffered retaliation. 

The Board of Trustees, which oversees the library, has discussed the director’s evaluation at least three different times behind closed doors and Griffin’s attorney has threatened to sue the library if Griffin is fired. 

Pisano’s exit “is another consequence of the poor way that the library is being run. It’s a shame that we would loose somebody that seemed extraordinarily talented,” said Councilmember Kriss Worthington. “It’s a sad loss for Berkeley.”  

Councilmember Darryl Moore, a library trustee, did not return calls for comment. 

The City Council has little jurisdiction over the library and exerts practically none. Under the City Charter, a group of five trustees has “power to manage the library and to appoint, discipline and dismiss all officers and employees of the library.” 

The group is self-appointing, with one trustee a City Council member, appointed by the council. The council majority can remove a trustee. 

“We’re sorry to lose her and we wish her well,” said Trustee Terry Powell. “I really like her and we’re sorry she’s leaving.” 

Library Director Griffin commented by e-mail: “We have really enjoyed working with Vivian Pisano. She has been a very strong leader and a fine addition to our staff. We regret losing her to San Francisco Public Library and we wish her very well in her career.””