The City Has Three Finalists for Library System Director, and Two Come with Some Baggage

CorinneHillDISD.jpg
Dallas Independent School District
Corinne Hill
Back in late August we mentioned that the city had hired a search firm to find a permanent (well, you know what I mean) director of the Dallas Public Library System. Corinne Hill's been serving as interim director since Laurie Evans retired in June 2010, and by all accounts she's done a bang-up job (see: this) since taking over during fiscally tough times that have seen the city's spending on libraries plummet. (Tulsa -- yes, Tulsa -- spends more than we do.)

Yesterday we learned that the city has narrowed its list to three finalists: Hill; Juliet Machie, former deputy director of the Detroit Public Library; and Larry Frank, formerly the senior director of library services in Knox County, Tennessee. Assistant City Manager Forest Turner confirms this afternoon that he has interviewed all three within the past week, in Dallas, and that he intends to present to City Manager Mary Suhm the list in coming days in the hopes of "wrapping it up between Thanksgiving and Christmas, New Year's at the latest."

"When I talk to the boss, she may want to take longer," Turner tells Unfair Park. "We're just trying to make sure we're getting someone from comparable libraries, and I feel comfortable they meet all the credentials. They were all strong." But Machie and Frank don't come without some baggage.

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Juliet Machie
Let's start with Machie, whose name is pronounced "Mackey." According to The Detroit News in May, she was ousted from her $145,000-a-year a gig because "an investigation found irregularities related" to the $2.3-million expansion of the Detroit library.

Reported the paper: "The library granted a $125,600 contract to a Chicago architecture firm to manage and design the South Wing, even though the company's initial bid didn't include any prices." Machie told the paper she had no idea what it was talking about. Even so, noted The Detroit News, "The expansion has also been criticized for lavish spending, including trash cans and chairs that cost $1,100 apiece."

Machie said she never knew about those chairs, which briefly became something of a national punch line thanks to Drudge. If she had, she said, she never would have OK'd their purchase. Her name also appeared in this piece about alleged nepotism in the Detroit library system.

In '09, she briefly served as Detroit's interim director. But that top job ultimately went to former Flint Public Library director Jo Anne Mondowney in August of that year. Machie also appears to have been passed over for the top job in Jacksonville in 2004 before landing in Austin in September 2005 as the assistant director in charge of public services. Her bio noted that she was also a doctoral candidate at Texas Woman's University in Denton at the time.

But she didn't last long down in Austin: According to the longtime director of libraries in Austin, Brenda Branch, Machie left shortly after arriving "for personal reasons."

So back to Detroit she went, where her contract was re-upped for three years in '09. But her name turns up this 2010 story out of Tulsa, where she's mentioned as one of the candidates in the running for that library system's top job -- a job that ultimately went to Gary Shaffer of Sacramento in November of last year. If you read that last piece, you'll also note that Larry Frank was a finalist for the Oklahoma job. Back to him in a moment.

The Google Machine also turns up this press release that appears to have been written by Machie in July in which she pitches her services as a library professional and "a thought leader." As in:
Juliet Machie, Detroit demonstrates innovation through vision, a clarified purpose and a focus on execution. Her vision is for every Public Library to become the organization that enables its community's potential. She has extensive experiences in leadership and executive library administration.

As a thought leader, Juliet Machie sees extensive potential for public libraries today. "We find ourselves at the intersection of opportunity and relevance. New skill sets required by the knowledge economy are bringing a different customer base to libraries in search of resources for transformation. Public Libraries can enhance their delivery on this mandate through a bold and compelling vision for library programs and services."
LarryFrank.jpg
Via.
Larry Frank
Now, then, to Larry Frank.

This confusing story from September of last year attempts to explain how Frank left Knoxville -- something to do with a new mayor there coming in and cleaning house because, apparently, he was too good. ("Knox County doesn't have the resources for that much creativity at this time," said the mayor's chief of staff by way of ... explanation?) It eventually turned into a ruckus over severance pay, with the added bonus of fears over potential litigation. But Frank had his myriad fans, among them The New York Times, which named him among the 2006 New York Times Librarians of the Year. And here's a glowing letter of recommendation from a longtime chief of staff in the Knox County Mayor's Office, which says, in part:
Mr. Frank also placed a focus on updating the Library's technology infrastructure. He nearly doubled the number of public access computers and increased the online offering of numerous resources. During tough economic times for all local governments, he was able to maintain quality services on an ever-tightening budget. Mr. Frank's management style is empowering. He allows his employees room to succeed and grow while always encouraging creative approaches. He would be an asset to any library system that is open to innovation and change. As his direct supervisor, it is without reservation that I give him the highest recommendation as a creative and progressive Library Director.
But here's the twist: In February of this year, Frank found a new job as director of Loutit District Library in Michigan. He was hailed as a proven leader, an idea man. But in April, just one week after he formally took over, he up and quit -- in large part, folks speculated, because his new job paid half of what he took home from his old one, even with $15,000 in moving expenses. Said Frank in a statement: "A different path has presented itself, and upon much consideration I have decided to take it." It remains unclear what that path was.

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49 comments
RTGolden
RTGolden

My bet is for the Detroit lady.  Like most Dallas government directors, her own words are pretentious and hollow.  She displays an aptitude for wasting money and not having anything to show for it, which should stimulate the WeiWise sector of Dallas' economy.  She's already been fired from two big-city library systems, so controversy is probably old-hat to her.The hippie is a no-go.  Able to accomplish improvements on an "ever-shrinking budget.."?? Definitely not Dallas material.Alas, Mrs. Hill probably won't get it, simply because I like the direction the libraries here have gone under her hands.Don't tell anyone in Dallas Libraries I've moved to Balch Springs, I'd hate to have to give up my library card!

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

We go to the library every two weeks . Its in Arcadia Park. It is a very nice and well maintained branch.One good  thing about the Dallas Public Library is the ability if they have books you want to read and they aren't at that branch they can ship them in from another one.

Amy S.
Amy S.

RE: Frank - My mind's thinking he landed on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, at what can be the worst time of the year, when the winds are still bitter cold, 6 months of dog shit are melting with the gray, dirty snow - everywhere. The lake is a gray heaving mass of breaking ice, and even the natives are sick of winter. If he'd arrived in July he probably never would have left, the glory of the other three seasons more than makes up for the long, ugly winter.

Dano
Dano

I think we need to hire the applicant from Detroit.  After all, only good things can come from someone who's a part of Detroit's government.  Just ask former mayor Kirkpatrick.Actually, Dallas needs someone who's background has tinges of corruption if not just simple incompetence.  Hire her.  City Hall needs someone who can "play the game."

You simply cannot hire someone who's already in the building, knows the job and is doing fantastic work in the interim while dealing with a massive budget shortfall.  That would make WAY TOO MUCH SENSE for the city of Dallas

james
james

if the library ain't broke, why fix it. but if there's a candidate fer the job with allegations of xtreme money wasting, nepotism, did i say wasting taxpayer $$$....city of dallas will probably hire that candidate. they ain't likely to hire the damhippie. if they did, if he was really good, and if they paid him enough to keep him around awhile, then their backbiting thieving ways would make him leave anyways.

Cookie Monster
Cookie Monster

What I think is really interesting and what no one else seems to have noticed is how the oganization chart and corresponding issued by the Queen Mary had some changes that required a magnifying glass to notice. The (I) which stands for Interim mysteriously disappeared from Mike Frosh's name. Without any announcement of search by a executive recruiter, Frosh is no longer Interim Director of Puchasing. He now has the job permanently as does his Assistant Director who was interim as well. Frosh does NOT have a college degree. That used to be a requirement of all department director just as having a master's degree (preferably in Public Administration) was a requirement of the City Manager and all Assistant City Managers. Joey Zapata who moves from Interim to permanent Assistant City Manager in just 4 months doesn't have a master's degree in anything. Example 2 which has been noted in either this or another blog if the new Director of Human Resources. She moved from Interim to permanent and no announcement was ever made, not even to staff. All of a sudden the word "Interim" was dropped for her signature line on memos and that's now staff figured it out. She has a degree in Marketing. She started out in Human Resources as an Interim Assistant Director. She had NO previous experience in human resources nor have she supervised a single employee at the City of Dallas. These two people have no business being Directors in the positions that they were moved to in a very sneaky way. That's why there was neve any public announcement of their appointments. They are part of the "click" at City Hall known as "Friend of Mary." There are more of them -- Mark Duebner, Kris Sweckard, etc. If you are not a FOM (Friend of Mary) like Corinne Hill, you have to go through the obstacle course of a executive recruiter, panel interviews, etc. I agree that the Library Director is an important one but let's get real here. Isn't the intense scrutiny of a review and selection process more fitting for the person who is responsible for spending 100s of millions of taxpayer dollars and for the person who is responsible for personnel matters for the nation's largest city with the council-manager form of government? Why isn't anyone asking the Queen Mary to explain those positions she handpicks from her FOM brat pack verus those she puts on the executive recruitment treadmill? Sounds like good questions for Angela Hunt, Delia Reyes and Scott Griggs to ask. The rest of City Hall and taxpayers are waiting for an answer.

Bmarvel
Bmarvel

I don't know anything about Juliet Machie or what they're getting for chairs or trash cans these days. But anyone who describes herself as a "thought leader" and who thinks that a library "enables its community's potential" -- whatever those two phrases might signify -- should be instantly disqualified.Has she given any thought to applying at DISD?

RC
RC

Turner's words.... 'when I talk to the boss..' boy is that ever true. There is no mayor, there is only Mary.

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

My money's on Machie, her questionable ethical track record is a perfect fit for Dallas City Hall.

Guest
Guest

I hear Mary Suhm will be needing a job soon! Why doesnt she take it?

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

Baggage ...................................................................................We don't need no stinken Baggage

Cityrunamuk
Cityrunamuk

It remains a mystery why our City Manager feels compelled to go through expensive processes, when the City has wonderfully qualified professionals to appt.  Unless Ms. Hill is totally incompetent, which appears unlikely, why go through this?  Our City Manager speaks often to her executive ranks about providing opportunities for preparation to take on higher responsibilities within the organization.  She even appts her AD's to Interim position to let them prove their abilities to lead.  So when they do this, the City Manager sends this message, it really doesn't mean anything that you work hard, improve your skills, contribute in tough times - you are still going to get a Kick in the Gut, by subjecting yourself to a process to do what?  Prove what the City Manager already knows?  It is so senseless.........and for those involved discouraging.  

Casual Observer
Casual Observer

If the local lady has been doing a good job, keep her!   At least we know what we are going to get.  I'm tired of the losers most of these national search firms bring to Dallas.

heyheymama
heyheymama

Reminds me of a DISD hiring tactic for principals:  in a slate of candidates presented to the community, one will look like the obvious choice, simply because the DISD stacked the deck in favor of their preferred candidate by including less-qualified candidates.  In other words, what looks like a choice isn't a choice.

The powers-that-be want Corinne Hill in the job and are just going through the motions.

Mike
Mike

We definitely do not need any big picture people a la Hinjosa that do not have a clue what the minions in the offices are doing. It is a librarian's job, not leader of plan to restructure sovereign debt. That press release looks more like a LinkedIn testimonial, seeing more and more of those. Mr. Frank looks like someone that will start arguing with Council over the plan.

Why do the same names keep cropping up? Are not there any librarians in state university systems, probably big enterprises, in the market? These people seem better at finding a job than holding one.

pak152
pak152

if the city used search firm they might want to get a refund.

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

Machie sounds like she would fit right in with the rest of the leadership in your city...

Bill Holston
Bill Holston

the interim sounds much better than either of these. 

Downtown Resident
Downtown Resident

Why is Machie even being presented, is it a quota thing?  What's next, is Mary Suhm going to evaluate Jerry Sandusky as potential head of the Dallas youth outreach program? At least Frank only sounds like more of a flake as opposed to possibly corrupt.

Just give Hill the job already.

J. Erik Jonsson
J. Erik Jonsson

So what is the current relevance of a public library system?

Bob
Bob

Then why don't you pay for it, like all other non-resident DPL users must do.  Otherwise you are simply a parasite.

DuckDuckGoose
DuckDuckGoose

Cookie Monster, please mix in a paragraph occasionally.

cp
cp

I can't take you seriously when you spell clique "click".....

Ellum08
Ellum08

Hey Cookie Monster, you know WAY too much.

I thought the Dallas Morning News was really going to start having a field day with the disorganization at Dallas City Hall, but they stopped after the one story on the IT Department. Oh well.

Guest
Guest

Are you going through a long winded way of saying, you think Mary is planning her "forced out" exit? 

Urbandweller203
Urbandweller203

Yep, I'm with you on that. If I was a gambler, I would throw my money on the Detroit girl; fits right in. Nevethless I do not gamble, so I would hope the city would select Corine. The library is the only department I know of  that operates properly. The people are wonderful and helpful. They seem to like what they do.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

Many in DISD called the system 2 Goats and the Coached.

With Goodsell and Durant finally and thankfully gone, teachers hope that system goes, too.

Time will tell...

Downtown Resident
Downtown Resident

Don't under estimate the idiocy of the people tasked with actually running this city.

cp
cp

No he looks like Yanni. 

cp
cp

He looks like Yanni. 

Bmarvel
Bmarvel

Relevant only if you can actually read.

Bob
Bob

If you have to ask that question, perhaps a trip to your neighborhood library is in order.  Just be sure to visit at different times of the day, and different days of the week, so that you will be able to see just what it is that our libraries do.  And if that doesn't educate you on the current relevance of the Dallas Public Library, then it would appear that you have passed the point at which your brain can accept any new material.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

Whatever it is currently, I suspect it might become even less relevant if either of these two are hired.

Cookie Monster
Cookie Monster

What I'm saying/asking/pointing out is that Corinne Hill is being put on the treadmill of a very public review and selection process. The process is being handled by an executive search firm. Why is Mary Suhm doing this to her? Why didn't she just slide Corinne Hill over from Interim Director to permanent Director? That's what she did for the new Assistant City Manager, the Purchasing Director and the Human Resources Director.

Why? And why isn't anyone asking these same questions?

What's most interesting is that Corinne Hill is qualified on paper and her experience in the interim position is further proof that she can do the job. You don't need a search firm and long protracted selection process to establish those facts. The executives who are handpicked from the FOM (friends of Mary) group would never make it through an executive search firm's review.

cp
cp

Yes Jill Azaria in the research section is amazing!!!

J. Erik Jonsson
J. Erik Jonsson

The lack of any substantive response coupled with an attack is telling, but leaving that aside for a moment, I was asking an honest question.  Do we need libraries today, and will we need them in the future?

engmofo
engmofo

Don't Mess With The Bob

Guest
Guest

Ah, there's a great new program coming where many cable companies will offer internet for $9.95 a month for families with kids on reduced school meals.  And a computer for $500.  Keep your eyes open and tell everyone about it.  It's going to change a lot of what the library was offering.  http://www.pcmag.com/article2/...

Guest
Guest

I think we should be asking that question too.  I think the model is outdated and while there is great need for many things a library offers, we should explore much different ways of providing them.  Let's have an open discussion on the issue.  Right now the library system is so starved for resources while trying to maintain the same model, it is destined to fail...it's just a question of time.  

J. Erik Jonsson
J. Erik Jonsson

Returned to misrepresent what you previously wrote?  Now there's a waste of time.

Bob
Bob

Rather than TELL you the answer, I thought I would SHOW you the answer to your question.  Your follow-up response shows me that that was a waste of time.  Sorry.

cp
cp

I'm a freelance grant writer. Our downtown library is of immense importance to me. Plus, I- and many other- like to study our local history. There is no better resource for that than our library. 

J. Erik Jonsson
J. Erik Jonsson

Ad hominem all you want.  This is a question that pretty much everyone having anything to do with libraries is either asking or trying to answer.

OK, take your propositions as given: do we need massive physical infrastructure and staff?  Could the money we spend that way be redeployed directly to those who you say are so in need of the library?  Do libraries have to be public?  Do we need multiple locations?

J. Erik Jonsson
J. Erik Jonsson

No, it wasn't.  I appreciate your view, though I'm not convinced, but don't waste your credibility defending that garbage.

Randy S
Randy S

I think this same comment has come up in the past, and it's usually made by someone white, middle class or higher, and possibly clueless about the real world of a lot of people who live in Dallas.

Sadly, there are many residents in our city who don't have Internet at home, don't have computers at home, and don't have other resources—if they even have a home.

Libraries provide an extremely important function in our society, especially it their ability to help people better themselves.

Bmarvel
Bmarvel

Bob's reply was substantive, by the way. To see why libraries are necessary, spend some some in one. Look around. Who's using it and why?  Best time might be the week before students have papers due.

Bmarvel
Bmarvel

We need libraries for the reason we've always needed them. They are our collective memory. The one place we can go to explore our literary culture and heritage, to learn the tools of serious research, to stay informed. Above all, to read and reflect.None of these things can be done on the internet, not yet anyway, and probably never. One doesn't "read" the internet. One scans, browses, dips in here and there. That's useful, but hardly nourishing. 

 

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