The National Conference of African American Librarians has decided not to hold its annual convention in Indianapolis this year after one of its leaders was passed over for the job of CEO at the Indianapolis Public Library.
A press release issued Friday by the conference said it decided not to hold its convention in Indianapolis because it is an “inhospitable” location. The convention had been scheduled for July 11-16 at the Hilton Indianapolis Hotel & Suites.
Nichelle Hayes, listed as conference vice president on the organization’s website, was the Indianapolis library’s interim CEO and a finalist for the permanent position. The library board last month offered the permanent CEO post to the other finalist, prompting protests from community members who favored Hayes.
Gabriel Morley, who is white and the former leader of the New Orleans library, declined the job, and the library board opted to re-start its search rather than offer the job to Hayes.
Despite calls Thursday from a majority of the Indianapolis City-County Council for the library to hire Hayes, several library board members issued a statement defending their decision, saying it was incorrect to assume that Hayes is qualified because she was interim CEO, or that her status as a finalist meant the majority of the library board believed she was qualified to be CEO.
In its statement, the National Conference of African American Librarians never mentions Hayes by name but makes reference to the library board’s decisions.
“The actions of the Indianapolis Public Library Board are a reflection of what happens within our profession, where hardworking, talented and qualified people are used to clean up messes, fix problems, and to just be seen enough that a diversity goal is ticked without any substantive change,” the organization’s conference committee said in a written statement. “When entities believe you are not “the person” they create imaginary barriers designed to stop progress [for] both the professional, and the profession. Our members deserve better.”
Hayes became interim CEO after former CEO Jackie Nytes resigned amid allegations that she contributed to racism and a toxic work environment. Nytes denied those allegations.
As for this year’s National Conference of African American Librarians, the organization’s press release doesn’t specify whether the event will be held in another city or has been canceled. It said the 2024 convention will be in New Orleans.