Who's in, out at Hamilton East Public Library board and what's next for book placement

John Tuohy
Indianapolis Star
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Hamilton East Public Library Board after it voted to reverse book relocation policy. President Tiffanie Ditlevson joined by video.

Events at the Hamilton East Public Library Board are moving at a dizzying pace, with changes in membership and the repeal of a book relocation policy that was in play for less than a year.

The 4-3 conservative majority on the board that passed the contentious policy last December will soon have just one member left — and the book program they championed is dead.

At the same time, the library director the conservatives targeted for firing just a few months ago has decided to leave on her own.

Here’s a guide to who’s in and who’s out at HEPL and what's next for book placement policy.

OUT: Library Executive Director Edra Waterman will resign, effective Dec. 22. Waterman served as director for 12 years and will take a job heading the Anderson Library on Jan. 8. She frequently sparred with the conservative majority about removing books.

IN:  A search for a new executive director is underway. A leadership team will put in place a temporary executive structure to fill the void until a replacement is found, said Kesley Sweet, a library spokeswoman. No timeline has been set.

OUT: Board President Tiffany Ditlevson announced she will resign Dec. 31. She was elected to the Fishers City Council on Oct. 7 and will begin that job Jan. 1.  She was elected president last August. The Hamilton County Council appointed Ditlevson to the board in April 2022.

IN: The board elected Craig Siebe president and Ditlevson vice president Nov. 16 after her announcement. The County Council will appoint a replacement for Ditlevson to fill out the term until August 2026.

OUT: Ray Maddalone. The conservative member resigned in October after the state's public access counselor ruled he and former Board President Laura Alerding violated Open Door Law when they met privately at a coffee shop with board attorneys Chris Greisl and Mark Crandley to discuss library business.

IN: Noblesville author Susan Crandall was appointed this week by the Hamilton County Commission to replace Maddalone. She will serve out the term, which expires August 2024. Her husband, Bill Crandall, previously served.

OUT: Laura Alerding. The conservative former board president was not re-appointed by the Noblesville School Board when her term expired in August. Alerding is also a member of the Noblesville School Board.

IN: Bill Kenley, a Noblesville English teacher, was appointed to a four-year term. Kenley is the son of former state senator Luke Kenly.

Book policy: what's next?

What was repealed? The board voted 5-1 with one abstention to end its Collection Development Policy. The measure passed in December 2022, by a 4-3 vote but was placed on hold in August.

It required library staffers to read thousands of books in the young adult section to determine if they were “age appropriate.” Among the content that could be considered harmful to young readers were descriptions of sex and violence or the use of profanity. Many of the books removed contained LGBTQ+ themes.

The staff estimated in August it had spent about $60,000 to move nearly 3,500 titles. Completing the review would cost more than $300,000, the library previously projected.

What’s next: The board expects to put back most of the books that were moved but some could stay on adult shelves, including about 800 Manga Japanese graphic books. The others will again be reviewed before returning, which could take time, Waterman said.

The board will save some elements of the policy that include guidance that “parents and legal guardians know what is best for their own families.” The library could promote a publicity campaign that encourages parents to be aware of and “responsible to monitor their child’s access to materials,” board member Michelle Payne said.

The library could also continue with a review committee with which to lodge concerns.

Call IndyStar reporter John Tuohy at 317-444-6418 or email him at john.tuohy@indystar.com. Follow him on Facebook and X/Twitter.

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