September 22, 2023
Local News | Kane County Chronicle

Local News

St. Charles library board under fire in hiring 'inexperienced director'

Board president defends choice, decries 'internal issues'

ST. CHARLES – In announcing a new director for the St. Charles Public Library, board officials chose a candidate with no previous experience as a library director, records show.

The board voted Sept. 14 to hire Edith Craig, currently the communications manager at the DeKalb Public Library, as the new director, at a salary of $108,000, officials said. The previous director, Pam Leffler, resigned in February. Leffler’s salary was $115,000, officials said.

Craig will start Nov. 1, officials said.

In an email to the library’s 108-member staff, board president Tory Haines acknowledged that one of their major concerns was Craig’s lack of experience as a director.

“The board placed experience very low on our list of priorities,” Haines’ email stated. “Our previous director had a stellar resume and a wealth of experience, but was not a good fit for our library.”

Leffler replaced Diana Brown, who had been library director for 39 years. Leffler did not return a voicemail message left at the Morton Grove Public Library.

Haines’ email also stated that the library has “known internal issues, which do not make it attractive” to candidates for library director.

“In this regard, our candidate pool was what it was,” Haines’ email stated. “The board will focus on those internal issues and work to change the spirit of our library. … Yes, we have an inexperienced director who is a good and smart woman. She is the board’s employee.”

According to Craig’s resume, she has 10 years experience working at the DeKalb library, from 2006 to 2011 as a bilingual youth services craft coordinator, and – as communications manager from 2011 – she managed a budget of $33,000.

Craig has a bachelor’s degree in finance and a master’s degree in library information and science, her resume states.

In addition to working at the library, Craig was also a financial support analyst from 2009 to 2011, according to her resume.

Haines’ email to staff stated that the library is working with consultant Donna Dziedzic, a retired library director from Naperville, as the board considers a community survey and moves forward to revisit its strategic plan to “establish a fresh course for this library.”

“Some people employed here now may not feel comfortable with that course, and we will gladly accept their resignation,” Haines’ email to staff stated. “We are serious about getting to the bottom of whatever internal issues we have.”

The board’s decision to hire a director without director experience, coupled with the tone of Haines’ email, prompted Lisa Bennett to quit.

In a Sept. 26 resignation email sent to board members and the staff, Bennett charged that it was the board’s micromanagement of the previous director that led to Leffler’s resignation and spurred the library’s “internal issues” that Haines referenced.

“They hired a director less qualified than every single one of the [library’s] department heads, almost all of the reference staff and at least a quarter of” the circulation staff, Bennett’s resignation email stated. “She [Craig] is wholly unqualified to be the director of any organization with a staff of any more than five and any budget larger than $100,000.”

“I really fear for the staff,” Bennett said. “They are really dedicated, really professional and really afraid. … There are no ‘internal issues.’ This was the best job ever – the best coworkers ever. I loved the public, the patrons, the boss – that’s how everyone feels about working there. There aren’t ‘internal issues.’”

In an email response to questions about the hiring of Craig and internal issues, Haines wrote that the board was seeking a person “with the ability to build consensus and with strong administrative and financial skills to manage our $6 million budget.”

“We chose Edith Craig because she possesses those qualities, her leadership in the DeKalb community and her strong customer service experience,” Haines’ response stated. “We are very proud and confident in our choice.”

Haines did not respond to claims that the board micromanaged the previous director or that it is the cause of the "internal issues."

Craig said she understands the staff’s concerns, but that her actions as director will show her experience.

“I don’t have director experience,” Craig said. “I have much experience working with teams. Everybody has to start somewhere. I’m a fast learner – so I don’t take offense. I understand where the staff is coming from. My goal is to work with the staff and the board. I hope one of the reasons they chose me is because of my integrity and communication skills.”