Finalists for library director to meet public


jcheves@herald-leader.comJanuary 31, 2010 

The community is invited on Thursday to ask questions of the three finalists for the vacant job of Lexington Public Library executive director.

The library will host a public forum for the finalists at 6:30 p.m. at the Central Library's theater at 140 East Main Street. Each candidate will address the public and answer questions, said library spokesman Doug Tattershall.

The library's board of trustees will vote on a new director Feb. 10, Tattershall said.

The trustees, who are appointed by the mayor, want a director who can work positively with library staff and the public and who can manage a budget flexibly in difficult times, said board chairman Larry Smith.

The library fired the previous director, Kathleen Imhoff, last July after the Herald-Leader detailed more than $134,000 she had spent on travel, meals, gifts and other items over five years, with little oversight.

A city audit in December raised more questions about library spending and reported that 1,522 images of "adult materials" — either nudity or sex acts — were found on a library computer assigned to Imhoff, in violation of library policy.

Imhoff hired a lawyer and threatened to sue unless the library pays her $137,035 annual salary and benefits for the remaining two years of her contract. She also filed a gender discrimination complaint against the library with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

She and the library are scheduled for mediation on Feb. 22.

According to the library, the finalists are:

■ Cindy Lombardo, public services administrator at the Cleveland Public Library in Ohio. Lombardo oversees public services for a system that consists of 28 branches, bookmobile service and a large central research library. She has a master's degree in library science from Kentucky State University and a doctoral degree in education from Ohio State University.

■ Don W. Barlow, executive director of the Westerville Public Library in Ohio. Barlow also sits on the boards of directors of the Ohio Public Library Information Network and Ohionet, and he is an adjunct faculty member at Kent State University. He earned a master's degree in library science from the University of Kentucky.

■ Brian Lewis, county librarian at the Tulare County Library in Visalia, Calif. Lewis oversees a system of 15 branches serving a population of about 320,000. He has a master's degree in library science from the University of Southern California and a master's in public administration from Utah State University.

Lewis has been involved in two controversies in recent years, according to California news reports.

In 2008, Lewis fired library assistant Brenda Biesterfeld a week after she called the police to report a man she suspected of downloading child pornography on a library computer. Biesterfeld's supervisor had told her not to call the police, who charged the man with child pornography. The man later was sentenced to three years on probation.

Biesterfeld's firing led to local protests, national publicity and a wrongful-termination lawsuit. The library said she was fired not because she called the police but because of other problems, such as her failure to update her employee manual and improper shelving of books.

In 2009, the Tulare County grand jury criticized Lewis' library system for allegedly hoarding money in its reserve fund while spending less per patron and providing fewer books on average than other California libraries. The library did not always observe its posted hours, and it had parked its two community outreach vehicles, according to the grand jury.

In a response, Lewis disagreed with the grand jury. He said the library received two annual payments and had to budget accordingly, which inaccurately created an appearance of hefty reserve funds. The vehicles were parked awaiting mandatory anti-smog equipment, he said.

Smith, the Lexington library board chairman, said the search committee is aware of both incidents, and Lewis has explained them satisfactorily.

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