LAWRENCEVILLE -- The director of the Gwinnett Public Library was fired Wednesday, after seven years at the post.
After the short session of the library board of trustees, where Nancy Stanbery-Kellam's contract was terminated without cause, the former director left without comment.
"Libraries across the country are facing challenges. ... Libraries are having to redefine their purpose," said Dick Goodman, the Suwanee councilman who heads the board of trustees. "The board felt the library needed new leadership."
Due to an economic recession, the library system's funding has drastically decreased during Stanbery-Kellam's tenure, and controversies have surrounded the decisions to cut services, beginning with a 2009 move to close a then three-year-old Dacula branch in favor of a new Hamilton Mill branch nearby. When that proposal was rescinded, an unpopular plan was floated to convert some libraries to computer labs. Then, hours at the system's 15 branches were cut nearly in half.
In recent months, hours have been extended, but the system's materials budget was cut by one-third after county officials saw disparity with other nearby libraries.
"Most organizations thrive under new leadership," Goodman said, adding that the public service needs to be re-evaluated with tax dollars in short supply. "There are many things that will need a new look."
As severance, Stanbery-Kellam will receive a year's salary of $121,414.
Board member Deborah Oscarson voted against the termination, saying the board should have allowed the contract to expire in September.
"The way this termination has gone down, it's going to cost the county a lot of money," she said after the meeting. "I don't see a reason to terminate a director immediately. ... Fiscally, it doesn't make sense."
But Goodman said the contract would have renewed automatically and the same severance would have applied no matter when the termination took place.
During Wednesday's specially called meeting, the board gave signatory ability to Deputy Director Liz Forster, so paychecks could go out on Friday. Goodman said an interim director will be named at a later date, and the board could call for a national search for a new leader during a regular meeting, rescheduled for Monday.
Outside the meeting, held at the administrative offices of the system at the Lawrenceville library branch, Myra Davila showed up with her kids to check out some books.
She said she was surprised to find the branch closed so early (at about 6:45 p.m.) but had no complaints about the system.
"I think it's pretty good. You can find whatever you want," she said, surprised to learn of the director's firing. "I think it's great for the kids."