Former Woodstock Librarian Jessica Kerr will return as Library Director in January, replacing Janet Dymond, marking the second time in little more than a year that trustees have filled the top spot.
At its December 15 board meeting, trustees voted to appoint Kerr, who had been recommended by the Personnel Committee. All voted in favor except Elaine Hammond, who abstained and David Lewis, who was absent.
Dymond, who was hired in September 2015, resigned December 16 for personal reasons. Her last day is December 31.
Kerr is coming back after resigning as the head librarian October 19. At the time, she did not state a specific reason for leaving. Dymond recently appointed Kim Apolant as the new Librarian I.
Kerr, who graduated magna cum laude from the University of Buffalo with a Master’s in Library Science, will begin her post as director January 1. The board approved a salary of $61,000 with a six-month probationary period, after which her compensation will be reviewed.
Said Kerr, “I love this community and am excited to lead the Woodstock Library forward with excellent service and innovative programming.” She said she looks forward to working on “big, exciting projects” in the library’s future, including concepts for expansion recently presented at a community meeting. “We’ve got some new board members coming on who are great,” she said, also offering to work with former board members on ideas for making the library better.
Kerr also said she is excited to work on grant writing and exploring more sources of sustainable funding in addition to tax revenue. “I’m really glad to be working with such a wonderful staff and I’m thankful to be a part of this community,” she said.
This is not the first time Kerr has taken the helm at the library. In addition to serving six years in the position of Librarian I, Kerr was interim director from May 31 to September 28, 2015, filling the time between Amy Raff’s resignation and Dymond’s start. During that time, Kerr guided trustees through another budget season.
Kerr was the board’s top choice to take over for Raff, but she decided she didn’t want assume the role permanently at the time. Given the opportunity again to elaborate on why she left the library just two months ago, Kerr declined, noting it is a sensitive issue.
Friction with staff
On Dymond’s short time as director, President Doris Goldberg said, “Janet has done an outstanding job running the library, on top of all budget and administrative matters, initiating a community survey, shepherding us through selecting consultants of the Master Facilities Plan and moving forward with that exciting process with full community input.”
Behind the scenes, however, it appears problems began to mount. Some finally came to a head at the October 20 board meeting, where staff members expressed frustration about vacation scheduling issues and not being included in decisions affecting them, including choice of health insurance carriers. Some also complained Dymond wasn’t addressing their questions and concerns.
The board also voted to earmark $16,000 to pay Dymond for unused vacation and sick time, though that amount may be lower by the end of December. Dymond is working only two out of five days to use up some of that time, said Goldberg.
The motion prompted some confusion when it was discovered Dymond hadn’t actually resigned, but the matter was cleared up the next day when she officially tendered her resignation.
Two new directors since 2015
Kerr will be the second director since Amy Raff left in May 2015. Raff worked at the Woodstock Library for 15 years — 10 of those as Librarian I and the last five as director, leaving after a tumultuous period in which the library was harshly criticized for its handling of a proposed annex on the site of the former Library Laundromat, a space the current consultants say is not feasible for a building. Raff is now director of the Howland Public Library in Beacon.