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Lissak Still Working At Urbana Library Following Weeding Scandal

Debra Lissak

Urbana Free Library Executive Director Debra Lissak listens to public comment during a library board meeting on Tuesday, July 9, 2013. At the end of the meeting, it was announced that Lissak would be leaving her post. She has been criticized over her management style and the weeding of books. (Sean Powers/WILL)

Two weeks after the Urbana Free Library's Board of Trustees appointed an acting executive director, it is still unclear who is in charge.

The board named Associate Director Kathy Wicks to replace Debra Lissak, who plans to enter into an early separation agreement after controversy over the culling of books.

Library Board President Chris Scherer said details over that agreement with Lissak are still being worked out between attorneys representing her and the library. When asked who staff report to on a day-to-day basis, Scherer suggested it is complicated.

“Until the attorneys have reported what their results are and how they…I don’t know who people would be reporting to,” he said.

Scherer made it clear that Lissak is still employed at the library, while Wicks takes over when Lissak is not available.

“(Wicks) is in an acting position, but she’s number two,” he explained. “She’s the assistant library director.”

“The apparent appointment of an interim director looked terrific,” said Kate McDowell, who teaches in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois, and previously served on the Urbana Free Library’s board. “If that’s actually not the legal director, then I’m concerned that we don’t have the full story, and that the public isn’t being informed well enough about the actual process of change in this case.”

McDowell said the issue is likely to come up again at Tuesday night’s Urbana Free Library Board meeting at 6:30 in the library’s Satterthwaite Conference Room.

Lissak declined to comment.

Meanwhile, Scherer said more than 2,000 books mistakenly sent to an online retailer when the weeding occurred are back on shelves, and he said staff continue to go through more books.

Since the weeding scandal broke, there have also been calls for the library’s board to revisit its strategic plan.

“The strategic plan is far, way down the road,” Scherer noted.