Suburban Chicago library set to fire only African American librarian who spoke out about racial equity

I’m not remotely defending the underlying issue, but publicly criticising one’s employer on social media (even if it’s totally justified) doesn’t seem compatable with keeping one’s job.


here are a few–

i must admit i find your confusion over the issues remarkable in light of your frequent leaping to the defense of the most tone-deaf statements by white people and your occasional forays into “pc” bashing. but have it your way, at least you’re willing to admit you can’t see racism when it’s right in front of you. understanding one’s own blind spots is the beginning of wisdom.


Doesn’t thst depend on the job, and more specifically, the organization? If it’s a public, taxpayer-funded org, doing so seems fine with me, and indeed, called for. And even if an organization isn’t private, I’m all for whistleblowers who go public about authoritan malfeasance.


Government employees are also citizens and have free speech rights to criticize their government? Unpossible.

It does get a bit murkier though. If you’re exempt, you serve at the pleasure. And the Hatch Act - and local Hatch Acts limit your political activities outside of work. In some places you couldn’t be involved in many partisan activities, host a fundraiser, serve on a partisan committee or in any such leadership roll.

But - she doesn’t sound like an exempt employee. I hope there’s a strong union supporting her.


No, it is apparent that she is a social activist, and that her managers are unhappy. I was having trouble finding out exactly what she is supposed to have done that deserves firing. I will go through your links and see if there are answers there.

I am a public library director and I would definitely have gotten in trouble if I had done that, no matter how justified.

There is a whole movement in librarianship now to abandon our traditional neutrality and take public stands like this and I have misgivings.

Not because I don’t support Social Justice, but because it would mean driving regressive populations away from exactly the resources which are most likely to change their minds


Well, OTOH, it’s definitely made Max stand up and take note. It’s even got him doing research!


The most I can find is that they are using the social media post as an excuse for firing her, but the real reason is “still-undisclosed disciplinary matters”, and from the released email chains, lots of infighting among the personnel at the library. So there is not enough information to really tell what the basic issues are.

The “official” cause for termination (i.e. the thing they could finally point to as “overstepping her role”) is related to the city’s policies regarding “negative” statements about city personnel or city departments. So, somebody’s feelings got hurt. Truth hurts, sometimes.

Also, Lesley is an exempt management-level employee, and therefore is fighting this issue without the benefit of union protection.


Nope, no union backing (she is a management-level exempt employee.)


Look what I found in the minutes of the EPL Board Meeting from last September:

Please join me in congratulating Lesley Williams. On August 26th, she was honored by
Open Communities with the “Spirit of Open Communities Award”:

Lesley Williams’ commitment to a more equitable Evanston is evident in her tireless work to show
that xenophobia and racism are not acceptable. She has been a strong local leader in raising
awareness against Islamaphobia and in the Black Lives Matter movement. In light of tragic events
across our nation regarding race and rhetoric that has caused a divisive atmosphere, the Spirit of
Open Communities Award has been designated this year to honor an individual who exemplifies and works towards the ideal of just and inclusive communities. We can think of no greater recipient than Evanston’s Lesley Williams, who received multiple nominations from the community.
As a librarian for the Evanston Public Library, Lesley continues to lobby for equity in resources for
all communities in Evanston in order to widen the net of service.
Because of these and many other activities, Lesley Williams truly embodies the Spirit of Open


A sincere welcome to Boing Boing, and thank you for the information.


The headline is missing a comma. The truth is that Lesley Williams is the library’s only African American librarian. The headline says only that she’s the only African American librarian who spoke out about racial equality.


welcome to the bbs. additionally, this site has lots of topics for lots of interests. don’t be a one topic wonder, check out some other posts, like some comments, and reply to some that give you something to think about.


i need to bookmark this comment of yours for the next time you demand we all give the poor, downtrodden, white-supremacists the benefit of the doubt when they’re being “oppressed.”


Completely aside from the main issue here, I really don’t see how a library board VP or Director who would use that kind of language about staff discipline in a public record has any place judging “gross incompetence.”


We need @jilly on this thread, stat.


This is the attitude which makes me despair of Western civilisation.
Employers pay you to do work. They can reasonably expect that you obey the law and don’t give them cause for a tort - such as actual libel, causing damage and so on - but why should their rights extend beyond that? You have a right to complain about the government. What puts an employer’s rights above those of the government? A company is not a military organisation with a chain of command.

Some time ago I had a very minor disagreement with my pensions provider. An extremely nice woman phoned me up from Compliance, told me that in her view a particular employee had done a poor job, that she had had words with senior management about policies, and would I like any compensation for the annoyance? I said no, and she actually persuaded me to take some money “so I can show these things have consequences.” Then she gave me her direct line in case of any further issues.
And that, in my view, is exactly how it should be.


Because it’s likely that you specifically signed a legal contract, including a clause about not bringing the organisation into public disrepute.

I couldn’t agree more, but that’s not the same situation at all. Privately criticising a colleague - not even the company, in your example - to a single customer, then having a private word with management is a long way from publicly publishing serious criticism to the world.

Did you read all of the released emails? It seems that there are longstanding issues between employees and management there.
Also, there seems to be some truth that this issue was used by Alderman candidate Rob Bady in his campaign against Ann Rainey.
And many of the allegations and rhetoric have come from Tiffany Rice, who has apparently been in conflict with EPL staff before the current issues. Some of the internal emails address this, and the fact that Ms. Rice does not seem to attend board meetings, and will not agree to meet with the people she is angry at to discuss those issues.

It is worth mentioning that the notices that inspired her angry Facebook post against the management were not placed there by the management, but by other librarians.
I just can’t see that it is right to decide whether the workplace complaints against her are valid or not based on whether we agree or disagree with her politics. Especially when the details of some of those complaints have not been made public.