Berkeley Public Library director resigns amid contention over book weeding

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Jeff Scott, the director of library services for the Berkeley Public Library, announced his resignation Monday after multiple protests related to the removal of thousands of books from the library’s inventory.

Scott’s resignation will take effect Sept. 8, less than a year after he was appointed to the position. Sarah Dentan, acting deputy director, will take over the position while the Board of Library Trustees searches for a permanent replacement.

“It is with a heavy heart that I tender my resignation as the Director of Library Services,” Scott said in a press release Monday. “I have enjoyed my work here at the library and I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish.”

When Scott joined the Berkeley Public Library in November 2014, he had already worked with libraries for almost 17 years. Upon his original appointment, Scott emphasized the importance of understanding and adjusting to community needs and priorities — a task that libraries can better perform compared with other organizations because they are not constrained by specific quotas.

Former librarians and community members organized several demonstrations throughout the summer to express disapproval of Scott’s handling of the library’s weeding process, through which it removed books that were in poor condition or that had not been circulating.

Scott initially reported the removal of about 2,000 books, but he later reported that the number was closer to 40,000.

Scott was also criticized by several former Berkeley Public Library employees for replacing 34 librarians — who were tasked with overseeing the weeding process — with two full-time librarians and four support staff members. In addition, he received several complaints from current and former librarians about the workplace environment during his tenure.

Protesters and Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington have called for an investigation into the issue. Scott underwent a performance evaluation at a Board of Library Trustees meeting last week, but the board opted not to amend the review process for his position.

Abigail Franklin, chair of the board, said she appreciated the enthusiasm that Scott brought to his position and wished him well in his future endeavors.

Within hours of his resignation, Scott announced on his Twitter that he would still be running for president of the California Library Association after colleagues nominated him for the position earlier this week.

The board is scheduled to meet Sept. 9. At the meeting, the board plans to discuss any details about launching a search for a new library director.

“We feel the role of the Director of the Berkeley Public Library is a terrific opportunity,” Franklin said in the press release. “We look forward to proceeding with that selection.”

Contact Michelle Pitcher and Ariel Hayat at [email protected].