SALISBURY – It was a no-holds-barred discussion this week as Wicomico Public Library’s outgoing executive director shared with county leaders the challenges leading to her resignation.
On Tuesday, Wicomico County Library Executive Director Ashley Teagle met with the Wicomico County Council to discuss the library’s plan for reopening all branches by appointment only beginning Oct. 13.
“Pittsville and Centre branches are actually already open and accepting appointments for customers. The downtown library will be the last branch to reopen, as of Oct. 13,” Teagle said. “Basically, customers need to call the branch they are interested in visiting to schedule their appointment. We are starting out with 45-minute sessions and that will be an opportunity for customers to do whatever library business during that time, if they need to send a fax, get a document notarized or if they need to make photocopies.”
But what started out as a presentation on appointment services and safety measures soon turned into a lengthy discussion about Teagle’s resignation, which was submitted in writing to the county council on Tuesday.
“Absolutely, the relationship between the library and the local government is my number one reason for leaving my post,” she said this week.
Teagle – who joined Wicomico Public Library as its new executive director in January 2019 – attributed her resignation to several issues, most of which pertaining to the legislative body’s control over the library.
“The county charter and the control it gives the county government over the library I think is very dangerous because I think it gives the government a lot of control in what information the library is making accessible to the community,” she said. “And I personally received questions from members of this body about matters ranging from library programs that we’re offering to what grants we’re accepting.”
Teagle also highlighted threats that resulted from a proposed Drag Queen Story Hour program, as well as ongoing funding challenges. She noted Wicomico’s per capita spending on library services – at $27.11 – is one of the lowest in the state.
Lastly, Teagle noted the library’s outdated facilities, as well as an unsuccessful attempt to construct a new Pittsville branch. She said the county had proposed relocating the branch from its current trailer to a former auto body shop, disqualifying the county from receiving millions of dollars in state funding.
“I feel it’s time to make a sustainable investment in this library, and I feel like I beg and I beg and I scrape and I scratch …,” she said. “A very successful library colleague of mine, who gets a lot of library projects done, once told me the library cannot be successful without the support of our government. I know this is true.”
Teagle said she was proud of the work she had accomplished in her nearly two-year tenure, but was displeased with the county’s response.
“I’m less proud of the fact that the county government – and I’m a hometown girl from Salisbury, Md., born and raised and graduated from Mardela High School – has at times bullied me and attempted to intimidate me as I worked to serve the citizens of this county,” she said.
Council President Larry Dodd was surprised to hear of the issues and vowed to investigate. Councilman John Cannon added the county could explore charter changes to prevent those issues from reoccurring.
“It’s a lesson we are learning a little too late,” he said. “And we are having to pay the price with you leaving.”
Later in the meeting, however, Councilman Joe Holloway took issue with one of Teagle’s comments about the Pittsville branch.
“Citizens involved with this were very happy,” he said. “It was going to triple the size of the library and would be next to the school down there. It was going to be a lease on the building, so there wouldn’t have been anything that was going to last forever in that building. There was a chance in the future of putting a new library on the east side. But apparently this didn’t sit well with the library board or the director of the library, and I really feel the citizens on the east side of the county were short-changed.”