New: Library Whistleblowers’ Lament

Tuesday July 26, 2016 - 10:15:00 PM


Open Letter to Berkeley Public Library Board of Library Trustees Holcomb, Franklin, Moore, Novosel and Burton

At the recent Board of Library Trustees meeting (July 20, 2016), Trustee Winston Burton acknowledged the hundreds of emails he, the rest of the Board of Library Trustees (BOLT), and all the City Council members have received lately requesting support for the library whistleblowers. Our thanks go out to Mr. Burton for his comments acknowledging these hundreds of petitioners. His comments about this email petition, reflecting community outrage and support of the library workers, was one of the few hopeful moments at the BOLT meeting that night. 


Since Mr. Burton expressed a lack of clarity about the figures of “2,200” vs. “39,815” books tossed that the petition cites, it could be that others are also unclear. So here’s a little clarity. These are the figures that were pivotal in bringing a temporary stop to the rampant weeding of library items, the media coverage of the library’s crisis, and the BOLT’s decision to “accept” Jeff Scott’s resignation. (Mr. Scott resigned as Library Director after ten months.) 

We are in possession of a spreadsheet that has information about deleted items from the BPL collection in 2015. Click here to download the deleted book count spreadsheet. 

The numbers at the top of the list show how many items were deleted from January through July 2015, the main months when Jeff Scott’s centralized collection development and weeding plan was implemented. Adding the totals for each of these seven months gives the number of 39,973. These figures are taken from the library’s own computers. The figure of 39,973 is the number that Jeff Scott disagreed with, stating that only 2,200 items had been deleted in that time period. Where did he get his figures from? The Board announced that Jeff Scott was leaving because he “wasn’t a good fit for Berkeley.” 

Retired librarian advocates and City Council Member Kriss Worthington gave these numbers last summer to the City Council, and released a list of 15,000 titles - the “last remaining copies” that had been deleted - to the press. You recall the TV coverage on KTVU Channel 2 and the multitude of newspaper articles and radio coverage. The total figure of 39,000 is public record, and accurate. 

As the BOLT meeting was getting underway last week, ABC TV Channel 7 aired a news feature on the Union and community protest at the library, reporting that whistleblowers on staff who exposed the discrepancies in the deleted book count are being investigated and are facing possible termination. Sarah Dentan told the TV reporter that the decisions about deleted, weeded books were based on their condition and whether they had “extensive local interest.” 

We know that the 39,000 deleted items from last year’s rampant weeding process were not deleted based on condition or local interest. They were deleted based on whether they had circulated over the past three years. And we’re all unfortunately familiar with Jeff Scott’s attendant centralized collection development policy, adopted by the BOLT, which prohibits librarians from doing their job of selecting and weeding the collection. The centralized collection development policy itself “isn’t a good fit for Berkeley,” just as Jeff Scott wasn’t. BOLT can amend that policy and let librarians do the work they were hired to do. 

And also, as the BOLT meeting was getting underway last week, two members of the City Council addressed the Union rally that had gathered in protest outside the Tarea Hall Pittman Branch. Perhaps further action from City Council members will be required to help restore the community’s and the staff’s trust in the library. 

As we expressed when Jeff Scott left Berkeley, it’s not about just one person. The crisis at the library - the harassment of workers, the deteriorated collection, the intellectual theft of community resources and cultural legacy - is at a higher point than ever. And at that recent BOLT meeting, we learned that the selection process for the new director will be handled only by the BOLT members, without staff input. A community panel will be involved, but those members will be anonymous, provoking no trust in this process. 

We need: 


  • mediation -transparent, balanced,
  • fully committed intervention by leadership with library background and
  • an immediate halt to the investigations of the whistleblowers.



  • Margaret Goodman
  • Pat Mullan
  • Anne-Marie Miller
  • Andrea Segall
  • Marilyn Simons
for LibraryAdvocateOfBerkeley@gmail.com / www.savethebplbooks.org 



Copies to City Council Members