Saline County library director Patty Hector removed from job

The Saline County Courthouse in Benton is shown in this 2019 file photo. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette file photo)
The Saline County Courthouse in Benton is shown in this 2019 file photo. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette file photo)

Patty Hector, who has been executive director of the Saline County library for seven years, is no longer employed there, an official said.

Saline County Judge Matt Brumley met Hector on Monday morning with Christy Peterson, the county human resources director, according to Hector. Brumley said Hector's services were no longer needed, she said.

Peterson helped her pack her office and car, Hector said.

Trevor Villines, a spokesperson for the county, confirmed that Hector is no longer employed by the county or its library.

"Out of respect to the former director, we do not comment on specifics of personnel matters," he wrote in an email Monday afternoon. "Also there is no termination letter."

Hector said she did not receive a termination letter from the county. She added that she did not resign.

Villines said in an email to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: “Leigh Espey has been named interim director. We are coordinating a plan to conduct a search for a new library director.”

Brumley did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

This comes after the county Quorum Court voted to remove the Saline County Library Board’s power and increase its control over the library system on Aug. 21.

In turn, the justices granted Brumley the power to hire and fire librarians.

“The last seven years at the Saline County Library have been some of the best in my 38-year library career,” Hector said. “It was a pleasure working with the board and the staff.”

She added that the actions of the Saline County Republican Committee and Saline County Republican Women over the last six months are “reprehensible.”

“They do not reflect the views of all Republicans, and they will eventually find that book banners are always on the wrong side of history,” Hector said.

The Republican Committee has been a vocal supporter of the ordinance approved in August, and a critic of the library system’s leadership. In July, they passed a resolution urging the Quorum Court to “remove Director Hector at the earliest possible time,” and to “replace the three most senior members of the library board and the current vacancy with community members who better reflect the conservative nature, ethics and morals of the county as a whole.”

They also called in recent months for the removal of “x-rated” books from the Saline County Library.

Passionate residents fought for months over the censorship of “controversial” and sexually explicit content in the children’s sections of the Benton and Bryant libraries.

The Quorum Court previously approved a resolution that requested the library move certain materials due to sexual content or imagery.

At the time, Hector told reporters the resolution was unnecessary, saying the materials were already placed in appropriate areas.

Hector said the library was also in compliance with Act 372, which changed the way libraries handle challenges to content that members consider “obscene” and made librarians liable for disseminating such materials.

In May, the library received a total of six Freedom of Information Act requests with 44 questions about the library’s assets and how it spends its money in a very detailed manner, Hector said.

“I’m not sure why anyone would want such detailed information,” she said.

Bailey Morgan, an organizer for the Saline County Library Alliance, has speculated that defunding efforts were brewing for the library, though Brumley and other Quorum Court members have denied that they intend to do so.

The alliance released a statement about Hector’s termination and her “unwavering defense” of their institution and First Amendment rights in the face of immense scrutiny.

“We will continue to stand by the library in defense of the First Amendment and the rights of Saline County residents to access information,” the statement read. “Though we are incredibly saddened to see such an incredible leader removed from her position over partisan politics, we are also confident that she will continue to be of immense benefit to the community regardless, as too will be the Saline County Library itself.”

The alliance reminded residents that it has been “hard at work” on a ballot initiative to strip the quorum court and county judge of the “ill-gotten” powers they have granted themselves.

Hector’s part in the fight for Saline’s library “has been crucial” to raise awareness about what is happening in the county.

“It’s now the turn of Saline County residents to make the difference.”

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