By Peter H. Milliken
One of two finalists for the directorship of the Mahoning County public library system has been embroiled in controversy over a library expansion in Detroit, and the other has not worked in library service since 2008.
Both candidates, however, say they have plenty of library experience to offer this community.
The public is invited to meet Juliet Machie, of Belleville, Mich., deputy director of the Detroit Public Library; and John S. Weedon, of Manchester, Conn., volunteer coordinator of the Foodshare food bank in Bloomfield, Conn., at a Wednesday forum for the finalists.
Weedon and Machie, who have applied to become director of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County, are scheduled to appear at the 6 p.m. forum at the Poland library, 311 S. Main St.
The current director, Carlton A. Sears, will retire March 30, after 15 years as director of Mahoning County’s 16-branch library system. His annual salary is $109,430.
Twenty-five applicants responded to the job advertisement, which said the position requires a master’s degree in library science from an accredited institution and that the salary here would be between $95,000 and $110,000 a year.
The ad also says the job requires “a minimum of seven years of progressively responsible public-library experience, with at least three years of executive level experience as director of a smaller library, or deputy, assistant or associate director of a similar-sized system.”
A third finalist, who had been scheduled to appear at Wednesday’s forum, withdrew her application because she took another job, and an alternate candidate is unable to attend, but still interested in the position, said Dan Bradbury of the Bradbury Associates search firm of Kansas City, Mo.
The firm is being paid $20,000 to help library trustees here in the search for a new director.
“Essentially, that’s what the process produced,” Bradbury said of the limited pool of finalists.
Bradbury said he judged 18 of the applicants to be fully qualified, and all were interviewed by telephone before the search committee in Youngstown interviewed eight semifinalists by Skype and selected the three finalists and one alternate.
If necessary, the search committee can consider the remaining semifinalists in the future, Bradbury said. “Just like in sports, you want to have a good bench,” he said.
“We wouldn’t be bringing these candidates in [for the forum] if we didn’t feel they were well-qualified after research and interviews,” said Janet Loew, communications and public relations director for the Mahoning County library system.
Machie was director of public services at the Detroit Public Library from 2000 until 2005, when she became the system’s deputy director.
Last May, the Detroit Public Library Commission voted to enter into negotiations to buy out her contract because an investigation found irregularities in an architect’s contract for a $2.3 million library expansion.
The architect’s contract was granted, even though the firm’s initial bid didn’t provide any prices, according to the Detroit News. The expansion was also “criticized for lavish spending, including trash cans and chairs that cost $1,100 apiece,” the newspaper said.
More recently, the Detroit library board voted not to renew her contract when it expires April 21.
Machie said the nonrenewal was due to budget reductions and pay cuts for all staff, in which her annual salary was reduced from $145,000 to $122,000. She said she expects the board would retain her as an at-will employee after her contract expires.
Machie said she believes the Mahoning County library board will judge her based on her “professional track record and not make a decision based on erroneous, sensational newspaper articles.”
She added that she has limited authority and all decisions related to the expansion project were approved by the Detroit Public Library Commission.
Machie, who has completed her doctoral studies in library and information services at Texas Woman’s University, has also served as coordinator of reference and adult services at the Grand Rapids, Mich., Public Library.
Since 2008, Weedon has been volunteer coordinator at the food bank, which supplies Hartford-area soup kitchens, emergency shelters and food pantries. He previously was deputy chief librarian for administrative services at the Hartford, Conn., public library.
He has also been regional manager at the San Bernardino, Calif., County Library; director of the Rocky River, Ohio, Public Library; and deputy director of the Euclid, Ohio, Public Library.
Weedon said he left the Hartford library in 2008 because he thought he might be laid off due to a budget crisis and because of his interest in feeding the hungry.
Despite his absence from library employment in the last several years, Weedon said he “would bring a wealth of experience” in library service to Youngstown.
“I have a background of 18 years as a director or deputy director of public libraries,” he said, adding that his recent experiences as a library patron have kept him informed about the new technologies that are important to library users.
Weedon’s master’s degree in library science is from the University of Michigan; and Machie’s is from North Carolina Central University.
“We hope the public will take advantage of this opportunity to attend, ask questions and learn more about these candidates,” said Dr. David Ritchie, library board and search committee chairman.