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Library Chief Departs

by Thomas MacMillan | Jan 8, 2014 3:36 pm

(4) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Arts & Culture, Books, City Hall, Social Services, Downtown

Allan Appel Photo (Updated) Head City Librarian Christopher Korenowksy has resigned.

Korenowsky’s contract will expire at the end of January. Until that time, Korenowsky is on administrative leave, said Claudia Merson, head of the library’s board.

Merson said Korenowsky tendered his resignation at the Dec. 17 meeting of the library board. “He told us he would not be seeking a second term.”

Merson said she does not know the exact reason for Korenowsky’s departure. “I’m sure it was personal,” she said.

Korenowsky could not be reached for comment.

The board did not ask Korenowsky to go on leave, Merson said. She said she doesn’t know if the administrative leave is paid or unpaid. That’s a matter between the city and the librarian, she said.

City spokesman Laurence Grotheer said Korenowsky is out on sick leave.

Korenowsky came to the directorship in 2010, from Ohio. He oversaw the library’s celebration of it’s 125th anniversary, and moved the institution toward an emphasis on “customer service.”

“We compete for people’s time and attention,” Korenowsky said during a library birthday celebration. “Free time is at a premium. We can’t be different from any other industry.”

Korenowsky drew heat from some unionized library staff, who stormed a library board meeting last winter and publicly complained about a “hostile working environment.” Issues included a desire to see more racial minorities hired into supervisory positions, poor communication between Korenowsky and staff, and Korenowsky’s efforts to change work rules regarding the use of part-timers and Saturday shifts.

Merson said any dispute with staff was not a factor in Korenowsky’s departure. “It’s not related to the union. I think the relationship between the library and the union is good now.”

“Christopher did a great job of bringing the library through the strategic planning process,” said Downtown Alder Doug Hausladen, who sits on the library board. “We need someone now to implement that process.”

Hausladen said the library will put together a search committee—representing “all aspects of New Haven”—to find a new director.

“The library is in wonderful shape right now. We just completed a strategic planning process that was incredibly inclusive and set the plan in motion,” Merson said. “Finding a new director will be easy because we know exactly what we’re looking for.”

City spokesman Grotheer said Mayor Toni Harp is just getting up to speed on the resignation and will comment after she learns more from the human resources department.

Melissa Bailey contributed reporting.

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posted by: Lady Li on January 8, 2014  2:59pm

The people who “stormed a library board meeting last winter” were city union members and union officials rallying in support of library staff, not library staff themselves. This gave credence to the workers’ claims of a “hostile work environment.”

posted by: Guido Brunetti on January 8, 2014  5:40pm

Dear library employees-

I sincerely hope Korenowskys departure marks the end of your hostile work environment and that his replacement is someone gifted in conducting respectful, appreciative employee relationships.

posted by: fairgame on January 8, 2014  10:07pm

This article does not come close to exploring the issues affecting the library system.  Mr. Korenowsky’s three years followed the long-time tenure of a library director who struggled with health issues for a number of those years.  As a result, the library operated for a long time without both a strong advocate to the city (and state) and a chief administrator who could fix key problems—the most prominent of which was a litany of complaints from library patrons about the sometimes unfriendly behavior of staff.

The struggles with the union reflect a problem that the city has created for itself.  Ten years ago, the library had nearly double the staff it has today. This reduction in staffing has increased the strains discussed in the article. 

Moreover, when Mr. Korenowsky started, he walked right into a budget cut request from the mayor: not much of a welcome for a new director who was expected to bring the library system into the 21st century and improve the library’s image for the public.  Moreover, he was tasked with raising money for operations, materials, and programs after his predecessor’s long illness and consequent absence. 

There were some good things that did happen under his leadership, such as friendlier staff, a new computer lab, expanded weekend and summer hours,a new website etc. Loved the celebration of the library’s birthday with the Broken Umbrella Theater too. 

The question remains, who will pick up the good work that Korenowsky started?

posted by: ohnonotagain on January 11, 2014  11:53am

It’s interesting regarding any comments from our new mayor. She has insulated herself well already. She could have just said this herself that she doesn’t feel she should comment until she gets all the facts. Or why not just say I wish him well and would like to get the facts before I comment further. She needs a driver because I do not believe she knows the city areas very well. I also believe we cannot afford her two police officers to cart her around. I truly understand if she did something similar to what former Mayor D. did, when he used PD sparingly. I swear I will give her a chance, but I am seeing things that are off already.
As far as our librarian director, I wish him well and hope everything is alright with his health. Good luck!

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