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EPL librarian Lesley Williams to face possible termination on Friday

Lesley+Williams+speaks+after+a+disciplinary+hearing+in+April.+Williams+faces+another+hearing+on+Friday+%E2%80%94+which+could+lead+to+her+termination+%E2%80%94+following+a+Facebook+post+she+made+late+last+month.
Lesley Williams speaks after a disciplinary hearing in April. Williams faces another hearing on Friday — which could lead to her termination — following a Facebook post she made late last month.

Lesley Williams speaks after a disciplinary hearing in April. Williams faces another hearing on Friday — which could lead to her termination — following a Facebook post she made late last month.

Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Lesley Williams speaks after a disciplinary hearing in April. Williams faces another hearing on Friday — which could lead to her termination — following a Facebook post she made late last month.

Kristina Karisch, Assistant City Editor

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Popular librarian Lesley Williams will face another disciplinary hearing Friday morning that could lead to her termination from the Evanston Public Library.

Williams, EPL’s only black librarian, said she received notice Tuesday from library director Karen Danczak Lyons that she would again be suspended from her job and face a disciplinary hearing. Williams said she received a 15-day suspension — for which the reason is still unknown — in April but returned to work May 24.

The new suspension is tied to a Facebook post Williams made late last month, according to an EPL email published by one of Williams’ supporters. In the Facebook post, Williams shared pictures of bilingual flyers that advertised the library’s commitment to “free & equal access for all.”

“Some organizations are true leaders in practicing equity and inclusion,” Williams wrote in the post. “And some prefer to post signs on their bulletin boards.”

According to the EPL email, Williams’ Facebook post violated policies regarding a healthy work environment and the use of information technology by a city official. The email also said the post defamed or damaged the library and its reputation.

“You have exhibited poor work performance, gross incompetence, conduct unbecoming, and repeated failure to work in accordance with City policies,” the email said.

Friday’s disciplinary hearing will determine whether Williams will keep her position as head of adult services, which she has held for roughly 20 years. Admissions made during the meeting may lessen the consequences, according to the email.

Library officials told The Daily in a statement Thursday that “neither the Evanston Public Library nor the City of Evanston can comment on pending employee disciplinary matters.”

“Any employee who violates policies of the City of Evanston or the Evanston Public Library will be subject to discipline,” the statement said.

Williams said she saw the bilingual flyers as a “slap in the face” to residents who called for an equity audit of the library after her first suspension. She said the library does not do enough for minority communities in terms of staff and collection diversity.

Library officials have said they are committed to equity, but are limited in making additions to their book collections due to a small budget.

“The idea that we as volunteers … aren’t interested in equity and don’t represent the community, it’s upsetting to us,” EPL board president Michael Tannen told The Daily in May. “We want to do better, but we’re doing the best with what we’ve got. Our staff works their tails off to deliver equity to all corners of Evanston.”

After Williams posted pictures of the equity flyers on Facebook, she said two library staff members lodged a complaint with human resources, which made its way to Danczak Lyons.

An email from the library to Williams said the flyers were made “to ensure that visitors, especially immigrants and refugees were welcome in the library,” and that the employees who made them were “extremely offended by your comment and your post which created an unhealthy work environment.”

Jes Scheinpflug, a Chicago resident who published the library’s emails to Williams, said a rally would be held Friday to support Williams ahead of her hearing. Scheinpflug said the rally would show that community members are on Williams’ side.

Williams said she stands by her decision to post the pictures on Facebook, and hopes her action will increase equity across the city.

“I have felt that there was a target on my back every day … and that it was really just a matter of time before (the library) found a way to get rid of me,” she said. “Rather than just suffer a death by a thousand cuts, I felt it was vitally important to stand up for people in the community who are having their concerns dismissed.”

Email: kristinakarisch2020@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @kristinakarisch

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