Closed Book 

Sometimes you have to read between the lines.

That's what library supporters did after Mayor Willie Herenton chose not to reappoint longtime library director Judith Drescher late last year, surmising the decision was for political reasons.

Under Drescher's leadership, the library had thrived, recently winning a 2007 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. Drescher's replacement, former Public Services and Neighborhoods director Keenon McCloy, does not have a background in library science but is a longtime administration official. Politics was the only thing that made sense.

Last week, that theory gained more credence after it was reported that Herenton was appointing several new deputy directors, including a former mayoral bodyguard and retired Public Services deputy director, to be the library's new deputy director under McCloy.

"This removes any doubt that this was not intentional," says Perre M. Magness.

After being tapped to replace Drescher, McCloy was criticized for lacking a master's degree in library science (MLS). The mayor defended his choice by saying that McCloy was a good manager. Local library supporters consoled themselves with the possibility that, if McCloy was to be the manager, the new deputy director might be a librarian.

Magness, a local author and historian, attended last week's retirement party for Drescher, former deputy director Sallie Johnson, and longtime Human Resources manager Val Crook. She says she went to "swell the crowd" but found it wasn't necessary.

"It was a huge crowd," Magness says. "I stopped to talk to some of my friends in line, and everyone was very distressed. It was like, What are they going to do next?"

Michael Gray, the library's new deputy director, retired from the city several years ago. His retirement benefits "freeze," according to city human-resources director Lorene Essex, and he becomes a "regular salaried employee."

Unlike division directors, deputy appointments do not have to be approved by the City Council.

Asked if Human Resources gives the mayor a short list of qualified candidates for appointed positions, Essex says no. "Those are the mayor's appointees. As soon as he makes a decision, I implement that decision," she says.

Former City Council member Janet Hooks was appointed to deputy director of the city's Community Enhancement division, with a pay increase of more than $25,000 from her former city job as manager of multicultural affairs.

Former bodyguard Yalanda McFagdon also received a $25,000 raise from her job as director of the city's Second Chance program to her new position as deputy director of Public Services and Neighborhoods. Tony Elion, a member of Herenton's security team, was promoted to Public Works deputy director, getting a roughly $40,000 raise.

Gray will make more than $103,000 as the deputy director of the library.

"Many libraries in Tennessee do not have directors with their master's," says Jeanne Sugg, state librarian and archivist. "But those positions do not pay well enough to support a person with that degree."

For the last decade, the state library has run a three-year program to train those people how to be library directors, but Sugg says that at other urban libraries in the state, the directors have their MLS.

"With your salary level, you could have almost anyone. You would have your pick among the top level of librarians," Sugg says of Memphis. McCloy will be paid more than $134,000 a year.

"Urban libraries are able to hire exceptional librarians," she says. "Judy was a good example. You wouldn't have won the national medal if she wasn't a good manager."

Asked why an MLS is so important, Sugg says that in the library world, a person is not recognized as a professional if they don't have their master's.

Library Journal editor John Berry has said that an MLS program certifies that library service meets specific standards and ensures citizens are treated ethically and equally.

"The MLS program teaches a librarian to make sure the pressures of business, government, religion, and ideology do not impact the library's services and collections," he says. "It teaches the librarian the way these corrupting influences can enter the information channels, and how to protect the agency from that corruption."

What that says for the library's next chapter is anyone's guess.

"The mayor said that he was confident [McCloy and Gray] could take the library in a new direction," Magness says. "I thought, What direction did he have in mind? Down?"

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