As a concerned citizen of Indianapolis and a patron of our wonderful Indianapolis Public Library (IndyPL) system, I am concerned about recent decisions made by the Indianapolis Public Library Board, specifically regarding what can only be described as a botched hiring process for IndyPL’s new CEO.
Last fall, amid concerns of racism and discrimination, the Central Indiana Community Foundation made the decision to withhold funds from IndyPL until “significant, meaningful and measurable change” was made. When former CEO Jackie Nytes resigned from her post, the Indianapolis Public Library Board appointed Nichelle Hayes as interim CEO and began the process to appoint a new CEO. On December 8, 2022, the Board announced that they had chosen Gabriel Morley from their pool of two finalists (the other being Ms. Hayes). Despite Ms. Hayes being a third-generation resident of Indianapolis, a longtime library employee, Director of the Center for Black Literature and Culture, interim CEO for eight months, and retaining the support of the library union, the Board selected a white male from outside Indiana to lead IndyPL.
For too long, qualified Black folks and other minorities have been ignored or disregarded for leadership positions in this city. For too long, those in decision-making circles have ignored the voice of the community. This is yet another example. In my experience, when a first-choice candidate declines an offer, a search committee will extend that offer to their second-choice candidate. While I believe Ms. Hayes should have been the first choice, the true slap in the face to our community came when the Board indicated that instead of offering the job to Ms. Hayes, they would begin a whole new search without offering any reasoning why Ms. Hayes was not qualified in their eyes.
By disregarding the community and the lack of transparency in their decision not to appoint Ms. Hayes, the Board appears disingenuous in their commitment to addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion issues within the IndyPL system.
I appreciate and support the 16 City County Councilors who signed onto a recent letter urging the library board to appoint Nichelle Hayes as CEO. I hope the board takes that letter to heart and does the right thing. In the meantime, the council should revisit their appointments to the Indianapolis Public Library Board and ask whether the current board members are serving in the best interests of the library community or whether they need to be replaced with those who are better positioned to do so.