Vote of No Confidence in Free Library of Philadelphia Leadership

Free Library of Philadelphia President Siobhan Reardon, Executive Staff, Free Library of Philadelphia Board of Trustees, Free Library Foundation Board of Directors

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We, the workers, patrons, supporters and friends - the undersigned - of the Free Library, the heart and backbone of this organization, pledge today a vote of absolutely NO CONFIDENCE in Free Library President Siobhan Reardon and her Executive Team.


  • We are alarmed by the utter lack of written safety protocols or communicated best practices from our administration during the Covid-19 pandemic and the re-opening of our libraries and offices—after having more than 100 days to do so! Our libraries are important gathering places in our communities, which means that both we as workers and our patrons are at a greater risk for contracting Covid-19. Robust safety planning is vital, and must be rooted in science and clearly communicated through training for all library workers.


  • We are disgusted by the continued lip-service and insufficient action of this administration concerning racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion within our work spaces and libraries! Our President and Executive Team cut off email access to staff in the wake of recent racism discussions within the library. Instead of listening to staff concerns, they hired a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion consultant firm from the private sector. City Council has recognized and chastised the Free Library’s handling of this ongoing situation and the utter lack of transparency. Promised training and reparative justice discipline have all gone unfulfilled for many years. We fully support our Black coworkers’ recent public statement detailing these serious concerns within the Free Library: tinyurl.com/CBWFLP2020


  • We are frustrated by a completely unresponsive and unproductive Human Resources department! Staff have to contend with consistently lost paperwork, failure to respond to workplace questions and concerns, slow and inefficient hiring and payment processes that allow vital positions to go unfilled for years, and the refusal to implement progressive discipline to address racist harm done to Black and Brown workers.


  • We are furious about the lack of and misallocation of funding over 12+ years for staff to run our vital library programs and services! Rather than advocating for desperately-needed funding, services have been diverted away from neighborhood libraries, Regionals, and public facing Central Departments toward ballooning Executive level positions and pet projects. We have ~70% of the budget we had when Siobhan Reardon joined the Free Library. The past decade of austerity was largely funded by a shift away from family-sustaining entry-level library assistant jobs, towards a cruel reliance on part-time seasonal labor disproportionally consisting of Black and Brown workers. It would take $20 million to achieve the funding levels of fiscal year 2008 now that our total budget is ~$48 million—even more to achieve the kind of racial equity we’ve been demanding.


  • We are embarrassed by the lack of digital equity planning and the absence of technology growth! We have dated hardware for patrons and staff. We have dated software, as compared to the rest of the City, such that we cannot communicate on secure devices using video conferencing, file sharing, and chat functions. We do not offer laptop lending or wireless printing. We do not offer wireless hotspot access, while other public libraries—large and small, rural, suburban, and urban—have done so for years. With thousands of families and students lacking home broadband access, the overnight shift to virtual homeschooling, and the overwhelming need to fill out online unemployment forms, the Library—supposedly an anchor institution—has offered nothing towards these vital community needs.


  • We are appalled that Free Library administrators let our community libraries become a safe haven for the National Guard when they occupied our City! The National Guard, along with the Philadelphia Police Department, are actors and symbols of oppression against residents raising their voices against racial injustice. National Guard troops and cops beat, tear gassed, and held Library workers at gunpoint. To see the National Guard resting in one of our libraries reversed decades of trust from our communities, as well as the City of Philadelphia’s and the Free Library’s publicly-stated support for the Black Lives Matter movement.


This no confidence vote asserts that we believe our current administration is failing in their ability and motivation to lead our organization effectively.

We intend to hold them accountable for the harm they have inflicted on us as workers, to our patrons, and to our communities.

We need new leadership—to recognize the power of our collective voice and to work with us to make genuine institutional change for the good of Philadelphia.


We demand change—IMMEDIATELY!

To that end: we call on the Board of Trustees to end immediately Siobhan Reardon’s presidency of the Free Library of Philadelphia. The process of seeking a new director should begin, and representatives from AFSCME DC47 Local 2187 should be involved in every step of the selection of the next director.

Further: we call on the Managing Director’s Office to investigate the effectiveness and appropriateness of the three Deputy Managing Director positions at the Free Library of Philadelphia.

And finally, the City’s Office of Human Resources should begin an immediate audit of the Free Library’s departmental Human Resources Office in cooperation with all unions, to identify and assess steps to repair it.


Petition by

To: Free Library of Philadelphia President Siobhan Reardon, Executive Staff, Free Library of Philadelphia Board of Trustees, Free Library Foundation Board of Directors
From: [Your Name]

We, the workers, patrons, supporters and friends - the undersigned - of the Free Library, the heart and backbone of this organization, pledge today a vote of absolutely NO CONFIDENCE in Free Library President Siobhan Reardon and her Executive Team.

- We are alarmed by the utter lack of written safety protocols or communicated best practices from our administration during the Covid-19 pandemic and the re-opening of our libraries and offices—after having more than 100 days to do so! Our libraries are important gathering places in our communities, which means that both we as workers and our patrons are at a greater risk for contracting Covid-19. Robust safety planning is vital, and must be rooted in science and clearly communicated through training for all library workers.

- We are disgusted by the continued lip-service and insufficient action of this administration concerning racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion within our work spaces and libraries! Our President and Executive Team cut off email access to staff in the wake of recent racism discussions within the library. Instead of listening to staff concerns, they hired a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion consultant firm from the private sector. City Council has recognized and chastised the Free Library’s handling of this ongoing situation and the utter lack of transparency. Promised training and reparative justice discipline have all gone unfulfilled for many years. We fully support our Black coworkers’ recent public statement detailing these serious concerns within the Free Library: tinyurl.com/CBWFLP2020

- We are frustrated by a completely unresponsive and unproductive Human Resources department! Staff have to contend with consistently lost paperwork, failure to respond to workplace questions and concerns, slow and inefficient hiring and payment processes that allow vital positions to go unfilled for years, and the refusal to implement progressive discipline to address racist harm done to Black and Brown workers.

- We are furious about the lack of and misallocation of funding over 12+ years for staff to run our vital library programs and services! Rather than advocating for desperately-needed funding, services have been diverted away from neighborhood libraries, Regionals, and public facing Central Departments toward ballooning Executive level positions and pet projects. We have ~70% of the budget we had when Siobhan Reardon joined the Free Library. The past decade of austerity was largely funded by a shift away from family-sustaining entry-level library assistant jobs, towards a cruel reliance on part-time seasonal labor disproportionally consisting of Black and Brown workers. It would take $20 million to achieve the funding levels of fiscal year 2008 now that our total budget is ~$48 million—even more to achieve the kind of racial equity we’ve been demanding.

- We are embarrassed by the lack of digital equity planning and the absence of technology growth! We have dated hardware for patrons and staff. We have dated software, as compared to the rest of the City, such that we cannot communicate on secure devices using video conferencing, file sharing, and chat functions. We do not offer laptop lending or wireless printing. We do not offer wireless hotspot access, while other public libraries—large and small, rural, suburban, and urban—have done so for years. With thousands of families and students lacking home broadband access, the overnight shift to virtual homeschooling, and the overwhelming need to fill out online unemployment forms, the Library—supposedly an anchor institution—has offered nothing towards these vital community needs.

- We are appalled that Free Library administrators let our community libraries become a safe haven for the National Guard when they occupied our City! The National Guard, along with the Philadelphia Police Department, are actors and symbols of oppression against residents raising their voices against racial injustice. National Guard troops and cops beat, tear gassed, and held Library workers at gunpoint. To see the National Guard resting in one of our libraries reversed decades of trust from our communities, as well as the City of Philadelphia’s and the Free Library’s publicly-stated support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

This no confidence vote asserts that we believe our current administration is failing in their ability and motivation to lead our organization effectively.

We intend to hold them accountable for the harm they have inflicted on us as workers, to our patrons, and to our communities.

We need new leadership—to recognize the power of our collective voice and to work with us to make genuine institutional change for the good of Philadelphia.

We demand change—IMMEDIATELY!

To that end: we call on the Board of Trustees to end immediately Siobhan Reardon’s presidency of the Free Library of Philadelphia. The process of seeking a new director should begin, and representatives from AFSCME DC47 Local 2187 should be involved in every step of the selection of the next director.

Further: we call on the Managing Director’s Office to investigate the effectiveness and appropriateness of the three Deputy Managing Director positions at the Free Library of Philadelphia.

And finally, the City’s Office of Human Resources should begin an immediate audit of the Free Library’s departmental Human Resources Office in cooperation with all unions, to identify and assess steps to repair it.