Glacial Pace of Dallas Library's Top Job Head Hunt Is One Reason the Interim's Out of Here

Categories: City Hall

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Corinne Hill
Dallas Public Library system interim head Corinne Hill says she wasn't pushed out. The decision to quit Texas for Tennessee and helm Chattanooga's Public Library system was hers alone. But the city's leisurely search for a new director -- and a blown Thanksgiving deadline -- sure "didn't help," she told Unfair Park following a Tuesday presentation at the downtown central library for members of the city council titled, apropos, "The Future of Libraries."

The news of her departure broke late last week, not in a city memo, but as a result of a news story in a Chattanooga paper heralding her appointment. It was quickly followed by a terse announcement and an apology from city manager Mary Suhm to city staff. "Unfortunately, this appointment was announced in the Chattanooga media before we could notify you or the library staff of this change. Please accept my apologies for this situation."

Hill said the announcement "kinda got away from me." When word got out, she added, she wasn't in Chattanooga, inking the deal. She was skiing in Durango.

"I did have an offer from Dallas on the same day I had an offer from Chattanooga," she said. "I want to do the kind of work I want to do, and that's to take a place like Chattanooga and turn it around. There's a lot of work to be done there, and they know it, and they're willing to take it on."

Aside from the briefest of statements from council member Ann Margolin, the vacuum Hill's leaving in just less than a month wasn't addressed. At all. "I just want to say I'm sorry you're leaving," Margolin said, "and I wish you well with your new position."

And so began, at last, a teleconferenced lecture given by Dr. David Lankes, director of Syracuse's School of Information Studies. The CliffsNotes is that he sees your local library metamorphosing from "a quiet building with loud rooms to a loud building with quiet rooms" -- as a rehearsal space for budding musicians; a place where entrepreneurs can meet with venture capitalists, or where a single mom can find daycare while she works upstairs on a start-up. He sees online databases, virtual libraries and information sharing as important, maybe even more so, than the books and mortar. Library as platform, or something like that.

His message -- outlined in a big, glossy coffee table-looking book called The Atlas of New Librarianship -- will probably send your kindly, gray-headed custodian of bound volumes into fits of apoplexy.

But it's the kind of digital age Hill says she's looking forward to ushering Chattanooga into.

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15 comments
Outside Observer
Outside Observer

I'm a kindly librarian with a touch of gray in my hair  - 40 years in the profession and I think you don't know anything about today's librarians.  Libraries as community spaces and information sharing commons is nothing new and certainly doesn't send us into fits.  Print books and other tangible information formats are great - we haven't given up on the printed word, but IT and entrepreneurial innovation for libraries is like cat nip to cats - "Bring It On!"  Walk through the American Library Association's Exhibits at the Convention Center this weekend, look over the program sessions and be prepared to embrace change. 

L_Streets
L_Streets

How about the glacial pace of finding a new fire chief? Has this process started yet?

sandra crenshaw
sandra crenshaw

I hope Tenn doesn't have large numbers of  homeless patrons I hope the new librarian takes my suggestions because even after personal conversations with Hill.  She did  nothing.

1. A Dress code and Crisis Intervention Training for Library staff  to deal with the mentally ill homeless that frequent the Library. I documented several incidents where the homeless are treated like cattle for sins like talking on cell phones or dozing off ( not as bad as DART but could have potentially triggered the same response when poorly handled. In fact I question if the downtown library has anybody besides homeless and genealogist using the library. In one case, the staffer was so poorly dressed with questionable affect himself that when he was shouting at a homeless cell phone violator, I initially thought that it was two homeless people in a spat until I moved closer to video" the incident. The staffer was standing over the seated patron and got right in his face and shouted. I thought I told you to cut that cell phone off and I am not going to tell you again." Park and Rec and County staffers wear emblemed T-Shirts and slacks of choice to for identification and to command authority.  Wrong Person Making suggestion.

2.  A flyer announcing a Library event was posted in only Spanish. I looked on the other side for English and found a blank page. I contacted the floor supervisor and she acknowledged that since it was a cultural event for Spanish targeted audience, they did not see a need for printing in both languages. I told her that if Taxpayers money was being spent here, we all deserved the right to know what it is being used for and how are we to learn of other cultures if you advertise in a language I can't read. The flyer stayed up.

3. Called the library on Monday and voice mail said Library Closed. Check the phone book for branch library hours. PHONE BOOK ????do they still publish them. I was waiting for the voice mail to tell me to look them up on the internet. (which a lot of voice mails tell people that don't have internet and that's why they  go to the library to use them ) If I don't know branch name I can't even call 411.  I asked her if there was a budget constraint in prompting the voice mail to branch telephone numbers and hours of operation by area of town. I know ------I did not ask the question right but sometimes, I just have to believe that it's got to be something other than incompetence and lack of insight or empathy so I first assume that it has to be cost prohibitive to provide good customer service. 

If I question the staff sarcastically in an UNFAIR PARK manner.  They respond, I don't have to serve rude customers. So will somebody else with a PHD or Miss Manners make the suggestions.   

 

heyheymama
heyheymama

Re: "I did have an offer from Dallas on the same day".  A Chattanooga online article adds "She had come to Chattanooga almost a month earlier for an interview. The Dallas Public Library is searching for a permanent director and had offered Hill that position."  But not a word from the City about the offer.

Is there more to that story?  Were these same-day offers a coincidence?  Or did they make the offer because they learned about the Chattanooga offer? Why was the Chatanooga offer more attractive? 

Chattanooga library spending $34.00 per capita; Dallas $15 per capita, estimated from:Chattanooga has a population of 168,000;  Dallas, 1.2 million.Chattanooga Public Library budget: $5.7mil;  Dallas $18.4 mil.

Chatanooga director salary: $121,000Dallas director salary:  unknownMs. Hill's present DPL salary: $81,085 (source: TX Tribune database)

G_David
G_David

I would rather hear news of May Suhm's resgination than her apology.

Darrd2010
Darrd2010

key phrase... There's a lot of work to be done there, and they know it, and they're willing to take it on."  Good for her. Congrats.

RTGolden
RTGolden

In the interest of accelerating global warming, Dallas is limiting itself to two glacially paced activities at a time.  Currently, the searches for DISD superintendent and Dallas' head bookworm are occupying the glacially paced category.  The search for fire chief is in the more global warming friendly category of evolutionary paced.

Guesty McGuest
Guesty McGuest

Monday the 16th was ML King day. More to the point, ever since the budget cuts two years ago, the Central Library has been closed on EVERY Monday. Don't get down here much, do ya, Ms. Crenshaw?

cockadoodledoooo
cockadoodledoooo

Are you implying that you have a, Ph.D, and yet not know that, Monday, was Martin Luther King Jr. Day??? I bet that "raggedy dressed" staffer knew.

Ellum08
Ellum08

I assume you are a Friends of the Dallas Public Library member?

RTGolden
RTGolden

homeless cell phone violators?

yes they do still publish phone books, in fact if you live in an apartment in dallas you'll get between 8-12 of them a year.

By the way, Monday was MLK, Jr Day, I believe the libraries were closed.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

WOW you called 1/16/12 and the Library is closed ?

I guess you have never Heard Of DR MARTIN LUTHER KING Jr ?

Or that his Birthday is a City of Dallas Holiday .

Are you from Highland Park or what ?

S Aten
S Aten

Actual per capita spending for the city of Dallas with a population of about 1.1 million is a little over $17 per person including staff, buildings and materials.   We rank last in the US for any major urban center and last among the 5 largest cities in Texas.

Guest
Guest

Hear, hear.  Ms. Suhm's reaction, and her failure to offer even an insincere congratulations to Ms. Hill, was childish and unworthy of a city manager.  

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