Magazine article American Libraries

Librarian Suspended after Vexing White-Rights Group

Magazine article American Libraries

Librarian Suspended after Vexing White-Rights Group

Article excerpt

A Jacksonville (Fla.) Public Library branch manager has been suspended without pay for 10 days after strenuously objecting to a February 25 apology letter that then-acting director of libraries Sylvia Cornell sent to the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of White People (NAAWP). Cornell's letter offered regrets that staff "unnecessarily disrupted" the group's February 19 use of JPL's Highlands branch meeting room by attending the session.

At issue is whether, as Branch Manager Patricia Doyle contends, her suspension springs from the city's fear of a First Amendment lawsuit or whether, as Jacksonville general counsel J. Clay Meux Jr. told American Libraries, Doyle was "insubordinate to her immediate supervisor in a library meeting" and "harassed a subordinate employee."

In the April 21 suspension notice, Cornell wrote that Doyle's "conduct has been harassing, outrageous, unprofessional, and cannot be tolerated." Cornell noted that Doyle and staffer Alphise Brock "created a disturbance" at the February 19 NAAWP meeting by refusing to sign in as requested, declining to recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the U.S. and Confederate flags on display, and turning off the lights when a NAAWP member refused to stop videotaping the pair.

Also cited as infractions were Doyle's March 17 "tirade" - in front of subordinates and her immediate supervisor - that the administration was unsupportive and staff might collect $100,000 apiece were they to sue, and her April 16 demand for an apology during a phone conversation with the person who typed the offending letter.

Doyle emphatically asserts that her superiors "don't want me to be vocal" and "want expediency instead of addressing public safety issues." She told AL she was trying to confirm rumors that the rifle bag brought to each NAAWP meeting contained nothing more than a Confederate flag.

Makar, who is representing Doyle pro bono, contends that her actions were consistent with library policy barring "any personal belongings that are not related to studying or use of the library." He noted that, in a letter dated November 22, 1996, state officials cited the "historically adverse and often times violent public reaction to organizations such as yours" in declining an NAAWP offer to adopt a highway. …

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