Becker Defers to Library Board on Director Controversy

(KCPW News) While Salt Lake City Library employees, volunteers and now fundraisers have vocally given their input on the controversy over Library Director Beth Elder, one person who’s mostly staying on the sidelines is Mayor Ralph Becker. The mayor says while he certainly has an interest in ensuring the library is successful, it’s the library board that has the power to hire and fire.

“They really are independent, as they should be,” he tells KCPW. “A library institution is our bastion of free speech and interaction in the community, so I think that’s appropriate. So, my involvement tends to be tangential, but it is the Salt Lake City Library.”

As mayor, Becker is responsible for appointing library board members, who voted overwhelmingly to extend Elder’s contract earlier this year.

He says he knows Elder understands libraries well and has a strong vision, but at the same time:

“I don’t want to discount that there may be some serious issues there, and I think those need to be looked at carefully, and I’ll be getting, I’m sure, more involved in trying to make sure I understand it, so that Salt Lake City is well represented,” says Becker. “But it is first and foremost a library board decision. I think we have a strong board there.”

Library employees have recently complained of their free speech being stifled, but the board’s president responded with a statement that employees have internal channels to express their concerns. Elder is scheduled to be a guest later this week on KCPW’s CityViews program, which airs Monday through Thursday at 9 a.m.

UPDATE: Elder later canceled her appearance on KCPW’s CityViews.