The outgoing director of the Buffalo & Erie County Library heard dozens of pleas Wednesday requesting that she not transfer the longtime head librarian of the Frank E. Merriweather Jr. Library to the Central Library in downtown Buffalo.
Bridgett Quinn-Carey, who announced Tuesday that she will be resigning her post as director of the library system March 4, insisted that the decision to reassign Merriweather branch librarian Sandra Bush was not made arbitrarily.
Bush, Quinn said, is being reassigned to work in the Grosvenor Room of the Central Library because of her expertise in genealogical research -- skills sorely needed there because of staff cuts.
However, Bush is also highly valued by the mostly African-American patrons of the Merriweather Library at 1324 Jefferson Ave. About 70 members of the neighborhood attended a forum in the library's community room that was arranged by Erie County Legislator Betty Jean Grant to protest plans to reassign Bush, an African-American who has been with the system since 1985. As manager of the branch, Bush is also the steward of the largest resource center of African and African-American history in Central and Western New York.
"As the African-American community, we're being stripped of so many things that are of importance to us and Sandra Bush is important to us. We need her here," said Peggy Heath, who said she patronizes the library three to four nights a week. "She's our librarian, and we love her."
"She's a member of the community [who] is actively involved in things that are happening on a day-to-day basis," said Clifford Bell, a former Buffalo city lawmaker.
Others, such as library patron Carl Matthews, related how Bush helped them traced their own family's genealogy.
Theresa Harris-Tigg, a Buffalo State College professor of education, said Bush was among the first community leaders who responded to an appeal to partner with her student teachers on a local literacy campaign. Michael A. Duffy, who heads the Archangel 8 Chess Academy, discussed how Bush helped him organize a chess club at the library.
Quinn-Carey said she was impressed by the passion of the speakers but was not sure how she and her team of managers would respond to their appeals.
"Please appreciate, too, that we run a library of 37 branches and I understand your passion for this one -- and it's wonderful -- and for Sandra, but we also have to run 37 libraries and figure out what we do with all of the challenges that we have to staff those community libraries," Qinn-Carey said.
"Our library system is funded so much less than any other library system of comparable size across this entire country, and that's very difficult for us as administrators and our board as the policy-making and governing body to do anybody justice," she added.
Quinn-Carey revealed that plans are to replace Bush with two other librarians, Dorinda Darden from the Central Library and Brian Hoth of the Niagara branch. Darden is also African-American.
Quinn-Carey said a final decision will be made before February.