BEAUFORT — After a somewhat tumultuous first year for the independent Carteret County Public Library System, county staff has fired its director, Lesley Mason, over “unsatisfactory job performance” and is searching for someone new to take her place.
County manager Tommy Burns confirmed the recent termination in an email to the News-Times Friday.
“Ms. Mason was terminated from employment with the County on Tuesday, October 26, 2021 due to unsatisfactory job performance over a period of time,” he wrote.
Mr. Burns said a temporary library director has not been named, but he and assistant county manager Gene Foxworth are “ensuring the continuity of operations” until a new director is hired. He said the job opening has been posted and the county hopes to fill the position shortly.
Mr. Burns did not provide any other details of the circumstances around Ms. Mason’s firing.
She took the helm as Carteret County library director in February 2020, just weeks before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. In May of the year prior, the Carteret County Board of Commissioners decided to withdraw from the tri-county Craven-Pamlico-Carteret Regional Library Board, putting the responsibility on Ms. Mason to lead the transition from a regional system to an independent county one.
The transition sparked a controversy that hasn’t let up in the almost year-and-a-half since it became effective July 1, 2020, prompting a number of library staff to leave their positions and patrons to speak out about concerns. In July, several former library employees and patrons spoke during a County Board of Commissioners meeting to express concern over library management practices that had been put into effect under Ms. Mason, such as the culling of book collections and reorganizing of staff.
Ms. Mason defended the practice of book weeding, saying it is necessary to keep collections updated.
Susan Wilder, president of the Friends of the Down East Library, said Friday she and other library friends were “relieved” to learn about Ms. Mason’s departure and were looking forward to bringing in a new face.
“I commend the county commissioners for responding to the significant public concerns about library management that have been raised since early 2020,” Ms. Wilder said in an emailed statement to the News-Times. “I look forward to moving ahead with a new director and hope our five Friends of the Library groups, all separate nonprofits, will thrive.
“I also hope for a strong pool of applicants and that library trustees are included in the hiring process,” she continued. “Above all, I hope our new library director will be an excellent people manager, and some one who will devote time to learning about the varied communities served by our five libraries.”
Ms. Mason was not immediately available for comment by the time of publication.
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