CASTLETON–About 150 people showed up last week at a meeting of the Public Library Board of Trustees to protest the firing of long-time library Director Darlene Miller.
The board voted 5 to 2 to terminate Mrs. Miller, who is out on medical leave. She was informed of the board’s decision by courier, reportedly while she was sick in bed.
Residents who attended the meeting expressed outrage at the news. Calling for answers, one by one, they also described the positive impact Mrs. Miller has had on the community, the schools, the library and their families.
Arlene Mcguane said she was sure that no matter what happened the board was not truly interested in what the community thinks. “You have done an injustice to this community,” she said at the meeting. “I don’t think, however long you search, that you will ever find anybody who is as dedicated to the children of this community and their education as the person you let go.”
Her passionate speech was followed by a long applause.
All seven members of the board were present, but all declined to respond to the questions from the public. At one point, when Carolyn Stetson, president of the library board, was asked when the decision was made, Trustee Terri Jackson said to her, “Don’t answer that.”
Attorney Andrew Howard of the law firm Freeman and Howard in Hudson, which represents the library, said of the decision, “The Board of Trustees has taken their fiduciary responsibilities very seriously. I believe there is a rational basis for their action.”
For more than an hour library patrons, teachers from Schodack Central School District, parents, students, residents from the Castle Hill retirement home and former library board members praised Mrs. Miller for her dedication, her personal knowledge of the residents, and the numerous awards and accolades bestowed upon the “little library that could.”
Cara Smith, a fan of Mrs. Miller, asked the trustees: “What’s the plan now? We don’t have a library director. How are you going to continue to service the community as it has been in the past, including the elementary school?”
The question was followed by an uncomfortable silence, while trustees looked at one another and their attorney.
“We have instituted a search, we have several candidates who have applied for the position and will be interviewing them in the near future,” said Ms. Stetson. She said that the trustees are evaluating the programs and that new staff would be hired.
The current staff walked out in protest at the manner in which Mrs. Miller was let go.
Nina Martino, president of the Friends of Castleton Library, told board members she was “disappointed” by their action. “The majority of the members do not seem to listen to the public they serve,” she said. She also said that the job posting issued by the board is for a temporary director with the potential of becoming a permanent appointee.
People who spoke expressed dismay that the trustees would fire Mrs. Miller when she was on medical leave, saying that lacked respect and seemed unethical.
Ms. Martino also discussed her review of the library’s charter, issued by the state Board of Regents, as well as the library’s bylaws, state Education Law governing libraries and information she had read in the Handbook for Library Trustees of New York State.
As the meeting went on, participants questioned the how long each trustee had left in his or her term, if the proper paperwork was filed for them to serve and asking whether the public could terminate the trustees.
In a phone interview Castleton Mayor Marianne Carner said that aside from bookkeeping for the library, and the Castleton Kids childcare program, the village has little to do with the decisions made by the trustees, who answer to the Board of Regents and the state Education Department.
“We don’t appoint anyone to the board,” she said. “We simply approve the recommendations and, frankly, we haven’t even done that in a few years.”
The library’s website, www.uhls.org/castleton/index.htm, says that the library is chartered to serve both the village and the Town of Schodack.