INDIANAPOLIS — Since May, some employees at Indianapolis Public Library have been calling for a change in leadership. They say under CEO Jackie Nytes, a toxic work environment has been allowed to flourish. It's an environment where racism, sexism, ableism, and other issues are swept under the rug, according to employees. Michael Torres and Stephen Lane are two of them speaking out.
"For me to speak up and speak out, even though I do still work for IndyPL and it is a risk on all our parts, I just see that it's so important to stand up for what is right," Lane, an employee at the library for 8 years, said.
Lane tells WRTV, these issues came to a boiling point during a board meeting in May. When the public comment portion was opened, a tense exchange between former employee Bree Flannelly and board of trustees president Jose Salinas happened, with Salinas requesting they mute Flannelly's mic after she started speaking about racism and white supremacy she says exists within the library system. She was eventually able to speak. After working there for several years, Flannelly says she left because of these issues. In an interview with the Indianapolis Recorder, Salinas said he was trying to protect everyone's right to privacy, concerned she might discuss personnel issues.
"It's hard to see those good workers be pushed out or not get the support they need as they work through the library system," Lane said.
Michael Torres, the Library Workers Union President and a library employee for 24 years, says they will continue speaking out about these issues because the community deserves a library system that treats everyone fairly, workers and patrons.
"We need a change in leadership. It just feels like there's a big cloud hanging over the library system. Even though we are troopers, library workers are service oriented and going to do their job no matter what... we do need to talk about some kind of relief," Torres said. " To start off with relief, we're asking Jackie Nytes our CEO and Judge Salinas to step aside."
"Her time to address these issues has come and has unfortunately passed for her. We need her to resign. We need the board president Judge Salinas to resign as well, so we can find competent leadership who's already gone on the journey they want us to go on with them," Lane said.
Lane is referencing several initiatives IndyPL is taking on to, in their words, "strive to be an antiracist organization so that we can best serve our community." They announced on Thursday that they've hired a Diversity Fellow for its HR Department. Genira Newell will focus on diversity, inclusion, and antiracism when it comes to hiring and supporting current staff. There's also a culture survey that's been planned for library employees, but Torres and Lane say they feel the process is being stalled. They also say if Nytes has any part in it, many employees won't feel comfortable taking part.
WRTV received a response back for this story Friday morning. We were directed to this website highlighting IndyPL's Committment to Racial Equity.
Other media outlets have been reporting on this topic. Indianapolis Recorder Reporter Breanna Cooper has been covering it extensively. In her reporting, Nytes has made it clear she has no intention to resign. She's also said she knows the library "isn't perfect," but that everyone in the organization is "on a journey." Nytes said anti-racism efforts are ongoing at the library.
We will continue reaching out to IndyPL to get an interview with Jackie Nytes and Jose Salinas about the latest calls for them resign.