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Man declines offer to become new Indianapolis Public Library CEO, search to resume "in the near future"

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Posted at 1:44 PM, Dec 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-09 19:12:53-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Less than 24 hours after the Indianapolis Public Library announced it had selected Dr. Gabriel Morley as its next CEO, Morley has declined the offer.

"Though it was an honor to be chosen by a majority of the board, it is clear that this is not the right fit for me at this time," said Morley in a press release. "I am disheartened by the way we have come to this point and decision. I wish IndyPL well in its future endeavors."

Morley had served as the leaders of libraries in Atlanta and New Orleans.

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Gabriel Morley speaks at an event in New Orleans.

The IndyPL Board of Trustees passed a resolution to name Morley CEO Thursday night after a nine month search process. He was set to begin his new role within the next week.

"Board members who voted for Dr. Morley understand his decision to decline our offer," said Library board president, Judge Jose Salinas, in a news release Friday afternoon. "To those saying that the board did not represent the staff or community, please understand that we received feedback and input from our 15-person search committee that included members from inside the Library and from the community, Library leadership, Library staff, patrons, and other inputs that led us to this decision. Dr. Morley earned this offer on his own merit, through his qualifications, and decades of experience. With this news the Library Board will consider how to move forward with another search."

When the selection of Morley was announced Thursday night during a special board meeting, not everyone agreed with the decision.

The board's vote was not unanimous, according to Board President Judge Jose D. Salinas.

"Ultimately, our differences in opinion do make us a more well-rounded group," Salinas said. "For the benefit of the library and its staff [and] its patrons, my hope is that any patron, staff member or board member who does not get their preferred outcome will value the library enough to support the organization in a positive, productive manner."

Audience members could be heard yelling "shame," "you didn't listen to the community" and "explain yourselves" after Salinas mentioned the offer had been given to Morley.

"For us to make this decision, one that's using both quantitative and qualitative data, is against what the community has told us," board member Dr. Khaula Murtadha said.

Murtadha then addressed Salinas and his comment.

"You said that this division of beliefs about the candidate makes us stronger. It does not make us stronger, it does not make us stronger at all. The deliberative processes, the conversations that we needed to have got short changed in the desire to fulfill a role when we had someone who was more than willing to continue to support the library work," Murtadha said. "Strength does not come saying that we are working together because we have differences ... to the contrary, I did not see this resolution that was put before me [Thursday]."

"It is really, really disheartening and a shame to even be a part of this board," board member Patricia A. Payne said. "I don't intend to step down; I intend to serve out my term and just look at what's going to happen."

Murtadha says Morley disrespected the search committee by going over time and threw New Orleans leadership "under a veil of disgust."

"It gives me great sadness to work with a board that does this kind of thinking," she said. "The public is speaking and we are not a public serving board."

Nichelle M. Hayes, founding director of the Center for Black Literature & Culture (CBLC), has been serving as interim CEO since March of 2022. She has been with the Library system since 2015.

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Nichelle M. Hayes

Many library patrons, like Noah Leininger, say the board missed an obvious choice.

“We are only in this mess because the board made the decision not to go with the obvious choice," Leininger said. "Nichelle Hayes made it very clear in her presentation that she was prepared for the job, that she had all of the qualifications needed, that she was invested in this community, and the community was invested in her. For the board to make a decision to skip over her for some white guy that no one really knows.”

Mahasin Ameen, President of the Black Librarians Network added that they were prepared to celebrate, but not now.

"I was ready to have IndyPL's first Black CEO and once again was let down," Ameen said. "The board is clearly sending a message that they refuse to hire a qualified Black woman."

Former CEO Jackie Nytesleft the position in August 2021.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), representing the library workers, released the following statement:

AFSCME is disappointed with the decision made by the Indianapolis Public Library Board in filling the CEO position. Libraries are firmly rooted in their communities and are an integral part of the growth and success of the people they serve. Part of their success is from dedicated workforces that know and understand the nature and nuance of their patrons. The Indianapolis Public Library already had such an employee at the helm in interim CEO Nichelle Hayes. Ms. Hayes is part of our community. She is dedicated to public service and has the education and experience necessary to succeed in the position. Nichelle has proven herself through many years of service at many levels of the library. Today, we are asking why one of our own was not deemed good enough. Maybe the library board should ask themselves the same question.

AFSCME Council 962

"The search process, led by consultant Bradbury Miller Associates, was extended in May to include more diverse, qualified candidates, from which finalists were selected by a search committee comprised of internal and external Library stakeholders. The ultimate decision from the full IndyPL board took into account candidate qualifications, interviews, library leadership experience, references, staff and public feedback, search committee evaluations, and other inputs to get a holistic understanding of the finalists," IndyPL said in a news release Thursday.

The 2022 search closed on September 25, according to the job posting.

IndyPL says interim Chief Public Services Officer Gregory Hill will serve as acting CEO and a permanent search will resume "in the near future."

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Interim Chief Public Services Officer Gregory Hill will serve as interim IndyPL CEO

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