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Montgomery fired as library head

By Staff | Aug 5, 2016

Martinsburg-Berkeley County Libraries director Sheridan Montgomery was terminated from her position at the library board’s Monday evening meeting.

For months, Montgomery has been criticized in public forums by residents of Martinsburg and Berkeley County, as well as former employees of the library, for removing books from the library’s collection, changing hours and policies, and “creating a hostile work environment.”

About 40 very vocal residents of Martinsburg and Berkeley County who have been speaking out against Montgomery since March attended the meeting, taking more than an hour to give their public comments on everything from termination of employees to the alleged removal of tens of thousands of materials from the library’s collection.

Only a handful of the group stuck it out for the entire duration of the meeting – more than five hours – but for those who stayed to the end, the words spoken by John Douglas Miller, vice chairman of the board, made it worth their wait.

“I would like to make a motion that this board terminate the present library director, Sheridan Montgomery, from her position,” Miller said, after the board spent an hour and a half in executive session. Board member Kris Carr seconded the motion.

The final vote was 3-2, with board chairman Scott Campbell joining Carr, and Miller in their support of the motion. Board secretary Sara Douglass and treasurer Steve Cox voted against it.

After the meeting had officially adjourned, Miller said the board reached the decision because Montgomery “was just not the right fit for our community.”

“Sometimes there’s just a feeling that it’s not working,” Campbell added.

Montgomery became the library director in January. She had previously been employed by libraries in Ellsworth, Maine; Nahant, Massachussetts; and Lake City, Minnesota, among others. Prior to her employment with the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Public Library system, she left the library in Maine after less than six months of employment.

While the meeting was in public session, Douglass said she was “concerned” that Montgomery, who was not present at the meeting, had not been notified. However, Campbell said after the meeting ended that “she has been notified to the best of my abilities.”

Campbell said the termination was effective immediately, adding the board will begin its search for a new library director as soon as possible.

Douglass said the process for hiring a new director will be “similar to the process used in October,” prior to the hiring of Montgomery. The job opening will be posted and the search will be nationwide.

Two former employees of the Hedgesville/North Berkeley branch of the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Public Library system, Colleen Moore and Peter N. Allphin, had grievance hearings regarding their terminations scheduled for Monday’s meeting. After some discussion, each hearing was postponed at the employee’s request.

Campbell said the hearings will proceed and be discussed at a future meeting of the library board.