The Crawford County Library Board recently voted to replace its controversial right-wing chairperson with a progressive leader who has studied library science.

Before liberals rejoice too much over the unanimous vote to put Keith Pigg rather than Tammi Hamby in charge, they should know the change means Pigg no longer will have a vote except in a tie. Hamby, however, can now vote routinely.

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Only one other person was nominated for the position, and that person declined the nomination, Pigg told the Arkansas Times.

All that means disagreements over LGBTQ+ books will likely still go the book banners’ way, but with a different vote count. Still, Pigg said, “It’s good in that I can help promote policy” better as chair.

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The board’s vote for chair — a routine annual procedure — came after one speaker from the public called for Hamby’s resignation during the board’s January meeting and another asked that any board member unwilling to uphold the oath taken for the position step down. No one nominated Hamby to continue serving as chair.

The board also finally moved forward at its January meeting to hire a new director of the county’s library system. The job had been vacant for a year. Charlene McDonnough will succeed interim director Eva White, according to Pigg. McDonnough’s salary will be $61,0558.40 for the year, minus what she would have made in January, White said last week in response to a request under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.

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The job became vacant in February 2023 when the county’s quorum court voted to pay the previous director, Deidre Grzymala, $40,000 in severance pay in exchange for her resignation.

That decision followed complaints from some residents and library board members about LGBQT+ books for children being in the children’s section of the library and within their reach. Under a compromise earlier, Grzymala agreed to create a new “social section” in a separate section of the library catalog and to move the disputed books to the adult sections of each library branch. The books also were color-labeled. The whole legal (not to mention cultural and educational) mess has, not surprisingly, led to a lawsuit in federal court.

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In an email to the Times on Thursday, Pigg said, “I am in favor of all the books in the newly added social section to be returned to their respective locations. I had never believed it to be a sound idea for the establishment of the social section. At the present time, most of the books of social concern are now grouped together in a small area. This arrangement allows for the possibility of segregated children’s books to be in arm’s reach of adult material that has been placed in this section as well.”

White said she will stay at the library in an advisory position for 90 days and perhaps more on a part-time basis.  According to an article in Talk Business recently, the board interviewed McDonnough and another finalist Nov. 15 but made no decision when then-chair Hamby said the panel needed “more time to think about the decision.”

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Pigg said McDonnough brings extensive library experience in South Carolina to the job.

Asked about the status of those segregated LGBQT+ materials, Pigg, a board member since 2021, told the Times, “No materials, LGTBQ+ or otherwise, have been re-categorized into or out of the social section since the lawsuit was served. The board has not placed any new restrictions on the ability of a minor, with a library card, to check out age-appropriate items from the library. A parent or legal guardian has to sign the form to allow their minor to receive a card.”

Pigg complained that during the past year the library board hasn’t been approving or updating any policies other than one placing limits on comments from the public during board meetings.

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Pigg said he was also the board’s only vote against hiring former state Sen. Bob Ballinger as the panel’s attorney and complained about a “huge” bill that Ballinger, a Republican, submitted in November for things like drafting information on parliamentary procedure rules and decorum during board meetings. Here’s that invoice, which has been paid.  It totaled $1,237.50.