East Cleveland heated over firing of library director

Kevin Chill Heard | 1/8/2014, 10:50 a.m. | Updated on 1/8/2014, 1:55 p.m.
On Monday, Dec. 30, board members William Fambrough (board president), Devin Branch, Charles Bibb and Ed Parker voted to remove ...

When asked about her feelings to the unusual outpouring of support from the community, Marcus-Bey responded, “That was amazing to me. I saw that my 15 years of community work meant something. It meant that although I have never been a loud person, I have made a connection with my community and they respect what I’m trying to do. It’s amazing to know that they are this supportive of me wanting to do the right thing.”

Marcus-Bey feels that the library in East Cleveland is a community asset that gives people in that community the leverage to transform their experiences and can enable them to be whatever it is that they need to be in the future.

She describes Ohio as “The Garden of Eden of libraries.” She went on to say that Ohioans should be proud to know that they have some of the best resources when it comes to libraries and access to information.

“The library world is a small world,” said Marcus-Bey about the previous work that her mentor Andrew Venable had previously committed to the position that she would eventually be hired for. “He had raised it up to where it had earned a good reputation,” she said. “When Mr. Venable left, it was on solid ground. And even under Greg Reese it had earned a good national reputation.”

Former East Cleveland library director, Greg Reese, who the library’s state-of-the-art performance center is named after, was contacted by the Call and Post. Reese did not want to comment on the library or its current situation, but did state that he would be interested in keeping up with Call and Post coverage of what was going on.

“It is important for young people to have access to cultural resources such as a library,” said Marcus-Bey. “The neighborhood [of East Cleveland] has suffered a lot of devastation and that library, in my opinion, is one of the last reputable institutions in the city.

“I was hired unanimously by the library board – seven votes for me and zero against – at which time I had their complete vote of confidence. Despite the obstacles that were structurally flawed, I felt I was doing a phenomenal job. We had diminished staff moral when I came in. They had to face a lot of challenges before my arrival. At one point, from my understanding, the library was shuttered up because they couldn't make the OPERS (Ohio Public Employee Retirement System) payment. Just to get everybody to buy in was a huge hurdle. It’s hard to serve when you yourself are uncertain of your place in an environment.”

By all accounts, and from library staff that spoke to the Call and Post, Marcus-Bey was well on her way bringing back the staff’s confidence.

“I’m very mission-minded,” the beleaguered ex-director went on to say. “I took the risk of leaving a place that I had worked for 13 years to come to East Cleveland and work for the community. I grew up in Hough and I understand how a library in my neighborhood transformed my experience. For me, I felt it was my responsibility to be there and be an example of giving back and making a difference on that level, and in the profession I had chosen to serve in.”