WOBURN - The local library's top brass resigned under protest on Tuesday afternoon, while just hours later, the City Council unanimously endorsed a reform package that would empower Mayor Scott Galvin to hire and fire the department's library director.
Classifying the Home Rule Petition backed by the council last night as nothing short of a power grab, embattled Library Director Bonnie Roalsen reportedly tendered her resignation right before the City Council was set to act on Tuesday night upon a Home Rule Petition proposed earlier this month by Galvin.
"I truly love this library. However, the political takeover of this library — of any library — is incredibly dangerous and goes against our core values as Americans," Roalsen wrote in her resignation letter. "It reduces this library to nothing more than a political tool, which is not what I signed up for when I accepted my position. I therefore regretfully submit my resignation to the trustees."
Assistant Library Director Rebecca Meehan also circulated her own resignation letter to Roalsen on Tuesday and will step down immediately from her position as the library's second-in-command.
Ultimately, the council voted unanimously in favor of a major library leadership shakeup, which would eliminate lifetime appointments to the Board of Trustees and strip library director appointing authority powers from the nine-member oversight board.
The amendments to Woburn's City Charter will require a special act of the state Legislature, and the aldermen's action last night ensures the proposal is forwarded off to the city's Beacon Hill delegation for consideration.
At a minimum, city officials estimate it will take at least two months for the legislation to make it through the Statehouse's vetting process and be signed into law by Mass. Governor Charles Baker.
With Roalsen's resignation letter including a March 24 date for her departure, the remaining Library Board of Trustees could potentially act to hire a new library director before Galvin officially obtains his new appointing authority powers.
However, since a months long controversy over a library workforce labor dispute reached a boiling point last month, the makeup of the Library Board of Trustees has already changed drastically.
Specifically, in late January, Galvin notified Board of Trustee President Janet Rabbitt that she was being forcibly removed from her lifetime seat on the oversight board due to alleged Open Meeting Law violations.
Though Rabbitt is contesting the mayor's authority to do so, she has not been present at recent library board meetings. Meanwhile, fellow veteran Library Trustee Judith Kelley, another lifetime appointee, has also tendered her resignation, while Galvin is moving to replace two other trustees whose three-year seats on the board are expiring.
Explaining her reasoning for stepping down, Meehan, whose work performance was not the subject of controversy, explained in her letter to her boss that she believes the library will be set back decades by the proposed leadership shakeup.
Meehan argues that today's library critics wrongly believe that the historic Pleasant Street facility should primarily serve as a book repository, which the assistant library director believes is an outdated concept that fails to recognize awesome technological advances over the past decade.
"It is clear Mayor Galvin and the city council either did not understand [the library leadership's] vision or choose not to believe it. Their plan for the future of the library looks more like 1950s America than the impending, radically different post-pandemic world," wrote Meehan. "For this, and for the small mindedness of the political takeover of the Woburn Public Library, I am deeply saddened."