116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The Vinton Public Library, which lost two directors in two years amid community complaints over books, is now closed indefinitely as the interim director has left, too.
The previous directors left after city residents complained about the library’s display of LGBTQ books and books about Democratic President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
The library board met Tuesday to accept the resignation of Colton Neely, the interim director. Neely, formerly the library’s children’s director, will become a museum curator in Burlington. His last day — and the library’s last day to stay open for now — was Friday.
Vinton, a town of about 5,000 and the county seat of Benton County, will now be without its library for at least the next week, Library Board President Jimmy Kelly told The Gazette.
“As a board, we decided we are going to shut down the library for all of next week and use our meeting time next Wednesday to determine a pathway to provide limited hours and services until the new director is hired,” Kelly said.
The closing date for applications for the new library director was Friday as well.
“We’re hoping we can get a process moving quickly to identify a good candidate,” Kelly said. “It can sometimes take weeks or over a month to get a schedule in line, if the candidate has to put in two weeks at another job, different things.”
Most recently departing the library before Neely was Renee Greenlee, its director for six months. She had been the children’s and family services library assistant at the Marion Public Library and had worked at the Hiawatha Public Library and the Kirkwood Community College library.
Greenlee, who left the Vinton post in May and started a new job at the Cedar Rapids Public Library, declined to comment.
While the Vinton library board members accepted Greenlee’s resignation, they also adopted an ethics statement and new rules for the board's public comment period. The ethics policy says, in part, that board members will respect colleagues’ opinions and will not be swayed by public pressure or fear of criticism.
“It’s been a challenge. It’s one more thing after the other and it’s been a slow progression,” Kelly said. “We totally understand with Colton … his training prior to this is in museums. It’ the perfect fit for him and the timing is how it happened.”
Vinton also saw another director, Janette McMahon, resign in July 2021. She now is director of the DeWitt Public Library in Clinton County.
McMahon previously told The Gazette that she received complaints about children’s books on display, including “Joey,” written by first lady Jill Biden, and “Superheroes Are Everywhere” by Vice President Kamala Harris. She said some residents argued the library should have more books about former Republican President Donald Trump on display.
“I can’t buy what doesn’t exist, and there weren’t quality books about Trump. It’s a long process to choose materials typically. We pay attention to reviews and publishers and our collection needs as a whole. We don’t just say what looks good on Amazon,” she told The Gazette last month.
However, no formal complaint was made about those books.
“A librarian is a public servant and they are not operating under a partisan agenda,” Kelly said. “But perception is reality to some people.”
Kelly said the board plans to set up better support for the next director.
“We could’ve done better with our previous directors, but we are going to set up our next director for success,” Kelly said.
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