If it were a book, Brooklyn Public Library head Dionne Mack-Harvin’s fall from grace would have been a tragedy in which the main character falls on her sword.
That’s exactly what she did earlier this week when she suddenly announced her resignation amid a growing scandal in which an ugly personnel downsizing was clearly outlined in a major newspaper.
Insiders told the Daily News that Mack-Harvin resigned because of the board’s displeasure that its firing of thirteen employees ended up in the pages of the Washington Post.
At the time, the Washington Post wasn’t focused on the Brooklyn Public Library, but the Five O’Clock Club, a company that Mack-Harvin hired to inform the employees that they were being let go.
The Five O’Clock Club, which is hired to dispatch employees “with dignity” was being featured because of its similarities to the company in the Academy Award nominated George Clooney drama “Up In the Air.”
When the reporter was shadowing the company, they had been hired to handle firings at the Brooklyn Public Library. Several of the canned employees were featured in the Washington Post, sources said. Although their names were never released, there were enough details in the story for friends and colleagues to recognize the employees facing the chopping block.
As she announced her resignation, Mack-Harvin, who was credited with being the first African-American woman to head up a public library system, made no mention of the scandal.
“Brooklyn Public Library and everyone who is a part of this great organization will always be close to my heart,” said Mack-Harvin in a press release. “I am proud of the contributions that I’ve been able to make during my tenure and am truly grateful to BPL’s dedicated team of staff and thousands of loyal supporters.”
“The library is an invaluable community resource and will continue to be a place for the people of Brooklyn to achieve their dreams,” she said. “I know that Brooklyn Public Library will continue to do an outstanding job at serving the people of Brooklyn.”
Despite their alleged growing displeasure with her, board members spoke glowingly about Mack-Harvin as she made her final bow, claiming that “she has all of our gratitude and support.”
Mack-Harvin’s rise to lead the Brooklyn Public Library began humbly. The daughter of a sharecropper who had a lifetime love affair with books, Mack-Harvin first started at the Brooklyn Public Library 14 years ago as a librarian in the Crown Heights branch.
When she took over the Brooklyn Public Library three years ago, it was already mired in scandal, according to published reports. Despite some early bumps in the road, she made the job her own, and was well on her way to bringing a seachange to local libraries, making them more community centers rather than quiet, sometimes stuffy, places to read.
It has yet to be determined who would succeed Mack-Harvin when she leaves at the end of June.
-- with Tony Cella