GARY | About five months after taking over the embattled Gary Public Library system, Director Otis Alexander is stepping down, the Library Board president said Tuesday.
Board President Tony Walker said he accepted Alexander's resignation, effective May 1. Diana Morrow has been appointed acting library director and Alexander will assist in the transition, Walker said.
"Hopefully at the next Library Board meeting next Tuesday, Diana Morrow will be named interim director," Walker said.
He said several Library Board members thought Morrow would have been the best choice when the position opened last year after Sherri Ervin, the former library director, did not receive a contract extension.
Alexander, former director of the Danville Public Library in Virginia, was chosen in November.
A Gary native, Morrow has served in various positions in the Gary system, including as director of technology services. Most recently she was head librarian at its DuBois branch.
She will be paid $81,000 a year plus benefits, Walker said.
Her salary versus Alexander's original salary of $90,000 reflects a 10 percent wage decrease library employees agreed to, Walker said.
Since Alexander became director, the Library Board has been bombarded by critics who opposed closing the downtown main library Dec. 28 and its planned conversion into the South Shore Museum & Cultural Center.
Walker cited tensions between Alexander and library union employees as a contributing factor to the resignation. Local 2760 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, which represents Gary library workers, spoke out against the library's closure and possible employee layoffs.
In January, Alexander was scheduled to present a reorganization plan to the Library Board. He did not attend that meeting, however, and the plan was postponed.
About 3,500 residents and library supporters have signed petitions opposing the closure and demanding the recall of board members who voted to convert the main library into a museum, according to opposition organizers.
The opposition, led by former Library Board President Ben Coleman, successfully petitioned to have the Lake County Council's board appointee, Cynthia Watts, removed from the board.
Coleman also requested the Gary Community School Corp. board recall its appointees, Walker and Jonathan Boose. That effort was unsuccessful.
On March 29, Coleman hand-delivered a letter to Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, asking her to schedule a public hearing to remove Rayfield Fisher, a member of the Gary Public Library Board appointed by former Mayor Rudy Clay.