State Watch

Black librarians say Indianapolis ‘inhospitable location’ for national conference

The Black Caucus of the American Library Association has announced that its 12th National Conference of African American Librarians will no longer be held in Indianapolis after the city’s public library board refused to permanently hire a Black woman as CEO. 

Nichelle Hayes served eight months as interim CEO of the Indianapolis Public Library. Despite protests, petitions and local officials issuing a letter urging the board to appoint Hayes as CEO, the library’s board offered the job to Gabriel Morley, a white man from Louisiana. He declined the job.

“The actions of the Indianapolis Public Library Board are a reflection of what happens within our profession, where hardworking, talented and qualified people are used to clean up messes, fix problems, and to just be seen enough that a diversity goal is ticked without any substantive change,” the conference planning committee said in a statement.

“When entities believe you are not ‘the person’ they create imaginary barriers designed to stop progress both the professional, and the profession. Our members deserve better.”

In a letter sent last week, the board said Hayes was not a “runner up” in the search for a permanent CEO because she was not qualified for the job. The letter added that there had been no promise that the interim CEO position was meant to be a “de facto” permanent position.  

“While many have assumed that having the capacity to act as Interim CEO is a de facto illustration of having the necessary skills and experience to act as a permanent CEO, this is not the case,” the letter said.

“The Trustees were willing to accept an Interim CEO with far less managerial, leadership, and fiscal oversight skill and experience than that expected of a permanent CEO at an institution as large as the Library.”

The conference — Culture Keepers XII: Unity in Diversity: Stronger Together in the African Diaspora — had been scheduled for July in Indianapolis. With the board’s decision, the group said Indianapolis is an “inhospitable location” and the conference will now be held in New Orleans in 2024. 


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