Third library director in four years quits
One week after the Commissioners Court disregarded the Library Advisory Board’s member recommendations and Precinct 4 Commissioner Dave Eagle again publicly chastised the LAB’s president, interim Library Director Rhiannon Graham submitted her resignation.
She is the third library director to step down since an LGBTQ-related censorship controversy began more than four years ago.
The LAB has been swept up in that continuing tug-of-war.
Graham, who had applied for the permanent library director position, notified members of the Hood County Library Foundation of her decision via an email sent at 3:14 p.m. Tuesday.
That evening, Eagle told a gathering of the Hood County Republican Club that the Commissioners Court is “in the trenches trying to take the library back.”
He noted that court members were to meet Thursday afternoon to conduct interviews with a half dozen candidates for the position of library director.
Eagle said he had received “about a dozen letters and emails from activist Democrats trying to coerce the Commissioners Court and the judge as to who they need to put there as a new librarian.”
He asked those gathered to show their support for the Commissioners Court in the library matter “because this is a big deal.”
Eagle suggested that those in attendance send supportive messages to the court, and recited a proposed message.
“Dear Commissioners Court,” Eagle stated, “It has come to our attention that you are receiving pressure from local liberal Democrats to insert their collective will into the hiring process as it relates to a new library director. It appears that these Betosupporting liberals want to substitute their judgment for yours.”
The Beto reference apparently was to former El Paso Congressman and former Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke.
Continuing as if reading a letter, Eagle said, “Please be advised we continue our support of conservative values in this county, and I want you to know that we have your back no matter who you ultimately choose to be the library director.”
Who the county judge and commissioners would ultimately choose mattered, though, if county officials were to avoid violating their own posted job requirements for the library director position.
Of the six candidates that remained after Graham withdrew, only four listed the required Master of Library Science degree.
ANOTHER ONE GONE
Courtney Kincaid, who was director of the Hood County Library in the summer of 2015 when the controversy over certain children’s books began, resigned in November that year.
After her departure she was chosen to receive an award from the American Library Association because of her refusal to bow to censorship demands.
Kincaid’s replacement, Karen Rasco, was hired in March 2016. She resigned in August.
Graham, who had been serving under Rasco as assistant library director and youth librarian, was named interim director after Rasco’s departure. She submitted an application to be considered for the permanent position.
At last week’s Commissioners Court meeting, Graham stood at the podium with LAB president Nancy Sutherland.
Sutherland was taken to task by Eagle for the LAB’s recommendations regarding expiring terms, even though historically the LAB has provided such advice to the court. The Commissioners Court has always made the final determination.
Thursday morning, Sutherland sent an email to the HCN calling Graham’s departure “a tremendous blow to the library” and praising her for how the library benefited during her tenure.
“But after the Open Records request by Melanie Graft hand-delivered to IT by Judge Massingill over (Graham’s) Banned Books display – something every library does once a year – I think she decided she didn’t want to deal with the toxic political climate this court has created,” Sutherland stated.
Banned books displays take place at libraries during Banned Books Week, an annual celebration of the freedom to read. Many books that were once banned are now considered classics.
Graft is the library patron who started the children’s book controversy four years ago. She is active in local politics, serving as a precinct chair, and has been recognized for her stance against the Hood County Library by Texas Scorecard, a publication of Empower Texans.
Graft has stated publicly multiple times that in 2015 she complained to Kincaid after a trip to the library during which her then-4-year-old daughter picked up the book “This Day in June,” a children’s book with a teaching guide that explains the gay pride parade. She said the child began asking questions.
In an April 2019 feature article about Graft in Texas Scorecard, Graft was quoted as saying that “the public library doesn’t have the right to make parenting decisions for me.”
Per Hood County Library policy, children 12 and younger must be accompanied by an adult or a responsible caregiver, and children 5 and younger must remain “within visual contact” of the adult/caregiver.
Graft was with her daughter when the child selected the book from among others on display.
Sutherland said that Graft’s recent Open Records request was for copies of any communications about the Banned Books display. She said she assumes that Graft suspected that some on the LAB, of which Graft herself is now a member, might have been involved.
None were, she said.
In Graham’s email to the Library Foundation board, she stated that she had accepted a position as children’s librarian at the Seguin Public Library, “which I truly believe will be a better fit for my own abilities.”
She made no mention of politics.
Rasco, though, did mention that topic when she announced her resignation last summer.
Although she cited the commute from her home in Stephenville as among her reasons for quitting, she also stated, “The politics, that doesn’t help any.”
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