JAMESTOWN – The woman who was hired as the Executive Director of the James Prendergast Library and Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Library System less than a year ago is no longer at that position.
Officials with the Prendergast Library board of trustees announced the departure of Linda Mielke in a short, four-sentence media release Thursday afternoon. According to the release, former assistant director Tina Scott will serve as Acting Director for both organizations. The release also said that library services will continue uninterrupted and both boards will continue to work for the delivery of these services to the citizens of the community and the two counties. The release did not state the reason for Mielke’s release, only that both the library and the system appreciate her services to the community during her tenure.
Mielke was hired in late October of last year and began her position at the library in November. Since that time, she has been credited with expanding the library hours, changing the layout of the reference and video departments to streamline the way patrons find items, and also began the effort to renovate the Prendergast Children’s Library Room and upgrade the library’s restroom facilities.
However, Mielke has also been the center of controversy since February of this year. It was at that time that former employees and patrons criticized her for allegedly significantly reducing the number of books in the reference department, as well as the subscriptions to magazines and periodicals. She was also criticized for changes to the library’s collection policy. Perhaps the harshest criticism came by way of former employees, who stated that Mielke created a work atmosphere that resulted in low employee morale. Since her arrival last fall, several long-time staff members were either let go or quit, along with several other part-time employees.
Prendergast Library Board President Tom Price tells WRFA that the decision to fire Mielke ultimately came down from the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Library System board, and that it only came after a lengthy evaluation process. He adds, however, that the Prendergast Library board acted in concert with the system board during the evaluation process and when making the final decision. He also said that no severance package was given to Mielke upon termination. Her final day was Wednesday and Scott took over as acting director on Thursday morning.
The Library board will decide how to proceed with the director position during its next public meeting, which is scheduled for 12:15 p.m. on Sept. 20.