Magazine article American Libraries

DCPL Managers Fight Bad-Press Barrage

Magazine article American Libraries

DCPL Managers Fight Bad-Press Barrage

Article excerpt

There's no letup in sight in the barrage of unfavorable local headlines about the District of Columbia Public Library. Amid the latest batch, the Washington Post revealed April 11 that a grand jury was investigating the alleged misappropriation of travel funds paid to retired director Hardy Franklin during his tenure there; five days later, the Post covered Federation of Friends President Melissa Kundstadter's searing denouncement of the library system before City Council.

U.S. Attorney's Office spokesperson Ramsey Johnson told American Libraries May 9 that "there is still an ongoing criminal investigation" into the alleged disappearance of a reimbursement check for $23,366 that ALA paid DCPL for travel expenses it advanced Franklin during his 1993-94 Association presidency. The Post story stated that Larry Walker, a library budget officer who was fired in January along with 159 other budget employees citywide, refused a superior's request last year to erase the debt.

Then there were the updates on current library conditions. In an April 13 Post interview, Mary E. ("Molly") Raphael detailed how she had been tackling procurement problems "beyond my expectations" since she became acting director in February (AL, May, p. 10-11). Among them were the issuance of long overdue payments to Baker & Taylor, Geac, and Ebsco. Four days later, Post columnist Steve Twomey noted that DCPL's Internet provider, Virginia Internet Services, had pulled the plug over an outstanding invoice for $1,410.

At least as disturbing for Raphael, trustees, and staff was the April 16 recap of the remarks made the day before by Friends President Kundstadter to the City Council's Education, Libraries, and Recreation Committee. In seven single-spaced pages of testimony, she declared that ongoing procurement, physical-plant, and employee morale problems necessitated:

* the installation of an "outside business manager" to whom Raphael would report "until the library is back on its feet";

* the designation of a "safe place" where disgruntled employees could speak freely; and

* the suspension of the board of trustees' authority pending a review of their charge and disclosure of any conflicts of interest.

Courtney Carter Gunter, spokesperson for committee chair Kevin Chavous, told AL that no hierarchical changes are anticipated "at this time."

Rectifying "off-base" rumors

"No matter what information we give, it doesn't seem to make any difference," Raphael asserted to AL about Kundstadter's inferences that DCPL officials are covering up evidence of systemwide neglect. …

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