In Work Dispute, Dozens of Chicago Pastors and Community Leaders Rally for Evanston’s Only African-American Librarian Lesley Williams

Dozens of supporters lined the hall outside the room where Evanston librarian Lesley Williams had a disciplinary hearing last Thursday, rallying on her behalf and decrying the workplace allegations she’s facing. 

“I’m thrilled so many people are interested,” said Williams, 55, who has worked at Evanston Public Library for 21 years. “People who work with me, who are familiar with my work, are shocked that something that sounds like normal work stuff would be subject to this level of scrutiny.”

Williams, head of Adult Services at the library, said she is on paid administrative leave, ordered by library administrators as they consider disciplinary action in response to what has been called a “personnel matter.”

While she said she could not go into specific details about the issue, Williams said she is accused of “gross incompetence, insubordination and not contributing to a healthy work environment.”

“There’s disagreement on how I handled problems with two programs,” Williams said, and some issues with “interpersonal communication.”

Library Director Karen Danczak-Lyons did not respond to requests for comment.

Evanston City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said city staff, including library workers, could not talk about the allegations because they are considered a confidential personnel matter.

The disciplinary hearing was held at the Civic Center in Evanston and Williams supporters were there carrying signs, hugging her and offering her reassurances that they stood by her.

“We stand with Lesley,” several of the placards read.

Williams said the community support is born out of, in part, the fact that she is the only African American librarian in a city where African American residents make up 20 percent of the population.

The library employs 23 librarians — 18 full-time and five part-time — and serves an estimated over 600,000 patrons annually among its three branches, according to the EPL website.

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Source: Chicago Tribune | Genevieve Bookwalter