In a split vote Nov. 16, the Hamilton East Public Library’s Board of Directors voted to rescind the controversial section of its library collections policy, and to remove Tiffanie Ditlevson as the board president.
The HEPL board and its collections policy faced national media attention and criticism after the bestseller “The Fault in Our Stars” by Indiana author John Green, along with many others in the teen section, was moved to the general collection because of stipulations in the board’s collections policy regarding sexual acts and profanity.
The vote was 5-1 with board member Micah Beckwith voting no. Ditlevson abstained.
The vote came after the board received feedback from community members via a survey that indicated library patrons wanted the board to “stop book banning, improve board (and) trust librarians.”
Ditlevson argued that the survey might not be representative of the community’s feelings regarding the policy. Beckwith questioned whether there would be any “guard rails” to protect children from what he said could be harmful material.
They were in the minority, however. Other board members — Craig Siebe, Michelle Payne, Andre Miksha, Bill Kenley and newly appointed member Susan Crandall — voted in favor of deleting that section, which had been paused since late August.
Crandall was recently appointed by the Hamilton County Commissioners to replace Ray Maddalone, who resigned in early October after the state Public Access Counselor determined that he and former board president Laura Alerding violated the state’s Open Door Law.
Near the end of the Nov. 16 meeting, Payne made a motion to reassign Ditlevson as board vice president, and appoint Seibe — who had been serving as vice president — as the new president. That motion passed along the same lines as the policy vote.
During discussion of the change in officers, Payne said she was disappointed that Ditlevson chose to send a press release Nov. 10 announcing Library Director Edra Waterman’s resignation. Payne said that Waterman and two board members asked that the information be kept confidential so that Waterman could make the announcement herself during the Nov. 16 meeting.
Payne said the library director’s resignation seems to be part of a trend.
“How many people need to give up on this library before this board gets a hint that things are not going well?” she said. “We’ve had two law firms, two (chief financial officers), two deputy directors and now the one employee (with) whom we have a direct relationship — our fearless leader for 12 years — is leaving. We have a huge, gaping hole to fill and I’m concerned about how we’re going to fill it. More so, I’m concerned about the lack of trust and transparency on the board and the message that sends to the leadership we are lucky to have left.”
Seibe noted that the board voted on a policy stating that members should not take individual action on behalf of the board.
“This whole board unanimously made a policy that the board speaks through the full board, not individual members,” he said, noting that the news release, while signed by Ditlevson, talked about the board as a whole. “I do not read that as consistent with the policy.”
Ditlevson explained that she sent the news release because members of the media had reached out to her asking whether Waterman had resigned, and she felt that she needed to get ahead of the rumor mill. She added that she plans to resign from the HEPL board at the end of the year.
Ditlevson recently was elected to an at-large seat on the Fishers City Council.
Waterman will start her new job as library director at the Anderson Public Library in early January. According to a notice on the Anderson library’s website, Waterman started her career there, working in a variety of positions for 10 years, including reference librarian and assistant director.
Waterman’s resignation from HEPL is effective Dec. 22.
Also during the Nov. 16 meeting, the board voted to remove a presentation from the agenda by physician Dan Stock about child development. Ditlevson had added that presentation to the meeting agenda, and argued that Stock was a health care professional with information about brain development that could be useful to the board when determining how to proceed with the library’s collections policy.
Stock made national headlines in 2021 following a presentation he gave to the Mt. Vernon School Board about COVID-19 vaccines and masking. The viral video of his presentation was fact-checked by numerous news organizations.
Stock did speak during the HEPL board’s public comment period, but was limited to three minutes. In his brief time at the lectern, he talked about stimulus control and the addictive nature of orgasms, and said that a one-size-fits-all approach to what’s appropriate for children isn’t the answer. Stock said parents are the only ones who can know what’s best for their children.
The next HEPL board meeting is Dec. 21 at the Noblesville library.