Long-time South End Library branch manager Anne Smart has found the community rallying around her over the past week as the news of her suspension from her job has trickled out into the public square.
Smart has led the branch for more than a decade and has been very popular in the neighborhood with children, adults and neighborhood groups whom she has always accommodated at the branch. However, once the branch opened up for in-person business a little over a month ago, many began to wonder why Smart wasn’t at her traditional post.
Soon, members of the Friends of the South End Library (FOSEL) and some public officials learned that she had been suspended with pay for allegedly accommodating some people during the pandemic closure, as well as for some sort of staffing issues as well.
The Boston Public Library (BPL) said it could not comment directly on the matter, but that the branch remains open. The matter is a personnel issue, so public discussion by the library and the City is not always possible.
“While we cannot comment on ongoing personnel matters, the South End Branch of the Boston Public Library does remain fully operational, with ongoing patron service,” read a statement from Library officials.
Former FOSEL President Marleen Nienhuis said she learned that Smart had been suspended in May, and has been advocating with the Central Library and Smart’s superiors at the BPL to allow her to return.
Neinhuis said while there were some issues with the staff under Smart – which she termed as a vendetta – some of the issues revolved around Smart occasionally allowing people in the Library during COVID lockdowns. One of those occasions was to allow FOSEL volunteers to change the window display early in the mornings before any staff arrived. Nienhuis said she knew that Smart had allowed some people to use the library to quickly fill out job applications. Other allegations revolved around those same kinds of accommodations during COVID restrictions.
“I believe people in the South End will become quite upset if they learn an internal conflict has led to the suspension of Anne Smart,” wrote Nienhuis in a letter to BPL in May. “She has always been accommodating, welcoming and even-keeled in the sometimes contentious world of the South End branch. I hope this situation can be resolved fairly and amicably so that the staff can heal and move forward with respect for one another.”
This week, Nienhuis said she is hoping for a resolution to the matter.
“I hope it can be resolved and people will become more aware of the staff issue and more aware of how much support she has,” said Nienhuis. “It’s not right to hand down judgements on a group that was battered by COVID-19 and tried to always tried to do the best thing for the customers in a critical time. Kiss and make up is my hope right now.”
FOSEL President Yvette Jarreau said the Friends are hoping for a positive outcome for Smart, who has been a great partner at the library branch.
“FOSEL hopes that BPL can come to a favorable outcome for Anne in this difficult moment, with consideration of her long tenure, her devotion, and her personal needs,” said Jarreau.
Hundreds of residents reportedly have sent e-mails in support of Smart over the past week to BPL leadership, and all support the reinstatement of Smart.
In addition, State Rep. Jon Santiago, and Councilor Ed Flynn have also written letters of support for Smart.
“Anne is a capable librarian and is well loved by the South End community, and I hope that the issue leading to her suspension will be resolved quickly, and that Anne will be reinstated soon,” wrote Councilor Flynn.
“I know that Anne is considerate and empathetic, and might have exercised her own judgment on how to best serve those who need library services in the South End. Her actions may be rooted in her desire to help those in need, and wanted to act with flexibility that would best suit the situation. Anne has been with the library for 20 years, and she is a valuable member of our community. I hope that she will be treated fairly, and that she will be afforded the opportunity to be reinstated in the South End Library.”