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Kingsland librarian fired amid controversy over advisory board

Kingsland Branch Library

The head librarian at the Kingsland Branch Library in Llano County was fired March 9 for reasons such as insubordination and conflict of interest. Photo from Kingsland Library Facebook page

Suzette Baker might seek legal action after she was fired March 9 from her job as head librarian of Llano County’s Kingsland Branch Library, 125 W. Polk St. The reasons given for her dismissal were insubordination and failure to follow instructions. 

Her termination follows recent actions by county officials to close the Library Advisory Board meetings to the public, switch the county library system’s online reading services from OverDrive to Bibliotheca, and remove books from library shelves. The library system has also frozen book acquisitions for the time being. These actions affect all three of Llano County’s libraries in Llano, Kingsland, and Buchanan Dam.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do now,” Baker said in an interview with DailyTrib.com. “How do you prepare for this? Everything is just gone. I am considering pursuing legal action against them (for unfair termination). I have a couple of calls out to lawyers to see what they say and then I’ll just go from there.”  

According to the Employee Disciplinary Action Form given to Baker, she violated two library system internal policies: 1B-2, which covers dress code and states that employees must “act in a professional manner at all times and extend the highest courtesy to co-workers and to the public served,” and 1B-4, which covers conflicts of interest and states that employees shall not engage in a “relationship or activity which could be viewed as a conflict of interest because of the potential or appearance of affecting the employee’s job efficiency, or would reduce his or her ability to make objective decisions in regard to his/her work and responsibility as a county employee.” 

“The conflict of interest is because I kept asking for information about Bibliotheca and about what was going on in general,” Baker said.

The only county personnel policy listed as having been violated is 1B-11, which covers discipline. A copy of the Llano County Personnel Policies is available online

DailyTrib.com reached out via email to both Llano County Judge Ron Cunningham and Library System Director Amber Milum for comments on the termination on March 9. No response was received by the publication of this story. 

Baker is a Lake Buchanan resident and has worked in the Llano County Library System for the past three years. She was first hired to oversee the library’s young adult book section and later promoted to head librarian at the Kingsland branch. 

She considered the position a dream job until last December, when the libraries were closed for three days and the Llano County Library Advisory Board was dissolved and re-instated with more and new members. The change was driven by a group of residents who claimed that pornographic materials were available on library shelves. Some of these residents, Baker pointed out, were newly appointed to the advisory board, such as Vice-Chair Bonnie Wallace, Secretary Rochelle Wells, and member Rhonda Schnieder.  

After the board was reformed, working inside the library system became difficult, Baker said. Librarians were ordered to stop purchasing new books and not to add newly donated books to the shelves. They were also instructed to inform patrons, especially the elderly and those with mobility issues, that the county’s subscription to OverDrive, a program allowing access to e-books and other virtual materials, had been suspended indefinitely

“This board doesn’t care about anything other than what they want,” Baker said. “That’s not how a library is. A library should care about what everybody wants.”

Additionally, Baker said head librarians were not given updates on board discussions nor were they asked to share their library expertise with the board. 

Before being fired, Baker received a written warning on Feb. 9 for insubordination after attending the first two advisory board meetings, one of which was held at the Kingsland Library where she worked, as well as a Feb. 1 by-laws subcommittee meeting, also held at the Kingsland Library in one of its meeting rooms. According to library policy, any event held in a library meeting room is open to the public. 

Baker said she attended these meetings to better understand what was going on. She also said she shared information about the discussions with Milum, the library system director, afterward. 

On Feb. 16, Baker and other members of the Kingsland Library staff received an email from Milum informing them that “staff members are not to attend Advisory Board meetings” and that they “may not use your vacation time to attend.” 

“Telling us we cannot take personal time or vacation to attend any meetings is a violation of civil rights,” Baker said. “When (myself and other staff members) approached (Human Resources) about it, we were told not to start any trouble.” 

In an attempt to mitigate Baker’s financial loss, a GoFundMe page was created by Leila Little, a longtime library system patron and unofficial leader of a community anti-censorship group that has been speaking out at Llano County Commissioners Court meetings as well as during advisory board meetings before they were closed to the public. 

The goal is to raise $50,000, an amount exceeding Baker’s previous $35,500 yearly salary, to help with living expenses and possible legal fees. 

“Ms. Baker has been an exceptional librarian with a strong sense of ethics and a keen knowledge of all library services at the Kingsland branch of the Llano County Library System for three years,” Little wrote on the GoFundMe page. 

brigid@thepicayune.com

14 thoughts on “Kingsland librarian fired amid controversy over advisory board

  1. Telling staff members not to attend advisory board meetings seems really inappropriate. There’s no harm in observing a meeting.

  2. I am not surprised that several people newly appointed to the library board don’t have library cards. I suppose they can’t read either.

  3. I would think the ACLU might be interested in a case such as this…..just saying.

  4. Fascism has officially arrived.

    What a sad little group of people, scared of knowledge.

  5. Sad day in the Hill Country when someone without a library card can CENSOR my reading. It is even sadder that they can trample my right to read what I want. As a parent I should help my child decide what to read not an advisory board hidden behind closed doors.

  6. Welcome to a small town/county run by people with small minds and even smaller brains.

  7. Ah, there are sunshine laws at play here … I think Ms. Baker has a very good case. It will cost the county some change.

  8. What the hell is going on over in Llano? These people should be ashamed of themselves. Is burning books next? Are there certain materials that aren’t appropriate for younger ages? Maybe, but take it case by case. Completely overhauling the board, doing things behind closed doors, firing staff…by golly, it seems like Orwell’s 1984….or are we allowed to read that one? Is that a little too close to home?

    Folks, this sort of crap is getting out of control.

    1. It’s more like Fahrenheit 451.
      They have no concept of what they’re destroying.

      Several of the people appointed to the new library advisory board don’t even have library cards.

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