Fulton County names finalist for library director; process questioned

Fulton County commissioners named a Louisiana librarian as the sole finalist to take over the county system, but two commissioners claimed the proper procedures had not been followed for choosing the candidate.

Gabriel Morley, the commissioners’ choice to lead the Atlanta-Fulton County Public Library, would be the first permanent director since John Szabo left to head the Los Angeles Public Library in 2012. Since then, two interim directors have been at the system’s helm.

Morley, the director of the 13-branch Calcasieu Parish library system in southwest Lousiana, said in his application for the position that he sees libraries as “an incubator for social justice and community initiatives.” He told the library’s Board of Trustees, which recommended him for the job, that there is an opportunity to make the library system “one of the most forward-thinking libraries in the country.”

Fulton County will advertise Morley’s name for 14 days before officially voting on whether commissioners want him to lead the 34-branch system.

In opposing his appointment, commissioners Emma Darnell and Marvin Arrington didn’t question Morley’s qualifications. But they said the board did not go about things the right way in selecting him. The commission voted 4-2 to put his name forward as the finalist, with Arrington and Darnell opposed.

“It has an impact on our credibility,” Darnell said. “I want to make sure the processes we use are fair and in accordance with the law.”

Though most library board meetings are held at the Central Library in Atlanta, a key meeting, where the slate of candidates was narrowed, was held in Sandy Springs, Darnell said. That meant that some board members from South Fulton and Atlanta were unable to attend.

The result, she said, is that the interim director, Gayle Holloman, was taken out of the running.

Stephanie Moody, chairman of the library board, said that was untrue and that Holloman was among the final three candidates for the position.

Commission Vice Chairman Liz Hausmann said she felt comfortable with the process of the library board, which is made of volunteers.

Moody said there were several qualified candidates, but that Morley would help the county become a top-tier system. He has written a book on how to bring more people into the library system and had brought innovative programs to the Louisiana system, like a Monster Truck rally at the library to help crush illiteracy.

“We need a really visionary director,” she said. “I liked a lot of the candidates, but I just felt that Gabriel Morley was the brightest star among them.”

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