Protesters rally to support Evanston librarian who faces potential disciplinary charges


Katie Pach/Daily Senior Staffer

Lesley Williams speaks to reporters after her disciplinary hearing on Thursday. The exact nature of the disciplinary charges has not been released, but decisions regarding further action are expected in about five days.

Kristina Karisch, Assistant City Editor

Evanston residents gathered at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center on Thursday to protest a disciplinary hearing for Lesley Williams, a librarian at the Evanston Public Library.

A crowd of about 100 residents gathered to protest Williams’ disciplinary hearing. No information about the disciplinary hearing was made public. The protesters — who included community and religious leaders — held signs that read: “We stand with Lesley,” “No more discrimination at Evanston Library” and “Lesley is a beacon of hope in a very troubled society.”

Among the organizations present were representatives from the NAACP’s Evanston branch, the Organization for Positive Action and Leadership and Open Communities. Stephanie Skora, who lives in Edgewater and is an organizer with the Trans Liberation Collective, said during the rally that she met Williams when she moved to the area a few months ago.

“There are few people in this neighborhood … who have made me feel more welcome as a trans woman and as a person who belongs to many marginalized communities,” Skora told the crowd. “I can’t believe what Evanston Public Library is doing to her; they should be honoring Lesley Williams every day, not driving her from their community.”

Williams is the head of adult services, a position she has held since 1997. She is the only black librarian at EPL, and has been active in local advocacy work on behalf of minority communities. Rev. Dr. Michael Nabors, president of the Evanston NAACP branch, told The Daily he began receiving phone calls from concerned residents who wanted to know what they could do to support Williams when the disciplinary hearing was announced.

“When we found out she was placed on administrative leave just yesterday … we thought the best thing we could possibly do was to try to drum up a little support on behalf of Lesley,” Nabors said. “(We wanted to make sure that) her boss and the board know that there are people supporting her.”

EPL director Karen Danczak Lyons told The Daily in an email she could not comment on personnel matters.

Tiffany Rice, president of the Dajae Coleman Foundation, which was set up in honor of her son who died in 2012 as a result of gun violence, attended the rally. She wrote an open letter criticizing Danczak Lyons’ “pattern of behavior that makes me question her commitment to Evanston’s African-American community and providing access to information desired by our city’s people of color.”

The letter also contains a series of ethics claims against Danczak Lyons, including an allegation that she has insufficiently increased access to library materials and services for low-income families in neighborhoods in Evanston.

After the hearing, Williams addressed the crowd and thanked them for their support.

The exact nature of the disciplinary charges has not been released, but Williams said she was expecting to hear a final decision regarding further action in about five days. She said the decision could result in anything from a reprimand to a suspension. Nevertheless, Williams said she was thankful for the support from local residents and organizations.

“I see librarians here, and teachers, and social workers, and kids and students,” Williams said. “This really, for me, reflects why this job is so important to me and why I love working as a librarian at the Evanston Public Library.”

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Twitter: @kristinakarisch