Berkeley library trustees decide not to take action against library director

Karin Goh/Staff

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At a special meeting Wednesday night, the Berkeley Board of Library Trustees decided not to take action to potentially amend the review process of the Berkeley Public Library’s director position.

The decision was announced after a closed-door discussion among the trustees on whether to create a subcommittee that would evaluate and potentially alter the review process for the position, which Jeff Scott has occupied since last November.

Current and former Berkeley librarians have criticized the director at several public demonstrations because of his management of the library’s ongoing book-weeding process and the workplace environment during his tenure.

The meeting, which took place at the city’s Central Library, featured a session for public comment prior to the discussion, during which many community members were critical of Scott’s performance.

Prior to the meeting, Save Our Berkeley Public Library Books hosted a rally attended by about 60 people, during which community members — including former and current librarians — reiterated concerns voiced at previous protests about Scott’s management of the weeding process and the workplace environment during his tenure.

“If they were going to give him a librarian of the year award, they would probably not call a special meeting for a performance review evaluation,” said City Councilmember Kriss Worthington at the event.

Worthington called for an independent investigation into any potential misconduct and for an apology to “mistreated” librarians, who have said they were concerned that criticisms of the weeding process would be met with punishment.

Scott was present during the public comment session Wednesday night but did not speak publicly and did not respond directly to repeated requests for comment for this article.

Genevieve Wilson, chair of the city steering committee Homeless Task Force, spoke in favor of Scott based on previous discussions about how the library could better support its homeless patrons.

“I’ve personally had a great experience with him,” Wilson said. “So this is really shocking to me because this is not the Jeff I know.”

At the public comment session, speakers argued that some books — such as heavy art books, sensitive teen-oriented novels and foreign-language materials — that may be rarely circulated still had enough individual merit to be kept in the library’s stock.

The library previously had 34 librarians, with a variety of specialization, to decide which books should be repaired, replaced or recycled as part of the culling process. Scott replaced the former number of employees overseeing the process with two full-time librarians and four support staff members — a decision that several Berkeley Public Library employees have criticized.

The library recently halted the majority of the weeding process temporarily but will continue to remove books that have suffered from heavy damage, as well as magazines and newspapers that are regularly discarded, according to the library youth-services manager Sarah Dentan.

The board is next scheduled to meet Sept. 9.

Anna Sturla covers student life. Contact her at [email protected].