Battle over Gwinnett Library Leader coming to a head.

Monday night, the Gwinnett Library Board will likely decide wether or not to fire Jo Ann Pinder, who has led the Gwinnett County Public Libraries(GCPL) for fifteen years and garnered national recognition for Gwinnett’s libraries. This battle has been brewing for years and in recent months has reached the boiling point.

Last year Pinder recommended eliminating DVDs and CDs the GPCL’s stock as theft was enormous. The Board rejected the proposal after a rather large public outcry. Pinder also apologized recently for getting into a verbal altercation with two Home School Moms. GCPL has come under fire for stocking many books from best-seller lists at the expense, some say, of other more worthwhile books. One Library Board member told the AJC:

(Dale) Todd did say last week that she doesn’t agree with the library system’s focus on stocking bestsellers, such as John Grisham novels, and other popular culture materials. Todd said she also is bothered by a lack of genealogical and educational materials.

“I disagree with the mission, I really do,” she said. “I feel like there’s missing elements. There’s not an open door to listening to the community’s wants.”

Pinder has defended the library’s popular culture focus, which she has spearheaded during the past six years.

“What we’re trying to do is spend the taxpayers’ money for materials that they want,” Pinder said, noting that the system’s popular culture materials attract high checkout rates.

Todd says she doesn’t believe the numbers.

Last week, a group called “GCPL Watch” launched a website to provide information on what they see as problems with Pinder’s leadership. The group includes the Home School Moms involved in the incident with Pinder as well as others who have opposed GCPL policies at various times over the past fifteen years.

Personally, I quite like the availability of popular books, and I completely understood the proposal to remove DVDs and CDs. Having a library is not a sacred right and if people abuse the privilege of obtaining certain materials then too bad, buy your own DVDs and CDs. I suppose the privilege I enjoy of checking out popular books could be revoked, but I’d respond by spending more time at the bookstore. If GCPL should focus on more educational books for Gwinnett’s students then let the Library Board set that policy. Why Pinder needs to be fired I don’t understand.

Something else is at work here that I haven’t yet discovered.


  1. Booray says:

    A library should not be competing with a private bookstore – that’s taxpayer-subsidized competition against the free market.

    A library’s mission is also supposed to be about providing the classics of literature, not junk-food reading. If this Pinder lady is really pushing too much pop-culture stuff, I have a strong educational objection to that.

    No skin in the fight since I’m on the other side of the lake, but can understand why people would have strong objection to this.

  2. Fuzzyslippers says:


    But it’s not like GCPL is the Blockbuster Video of Library Systems either. I don’t believe the “junk food” books take up that much room, and seem to be always checked out anyway.

    In my opinion, those books sometimes bring people to the library that wouldn’t otherwise visit. GCPL does have the highest usage rate of any county in the metro area by a large margin. (I remember seeing it on AJC’s website a while back) Coincidence? I think not.

    As for the DVD’s… they were always missing. The only way to solve that problem is sinking a large amount of money into security. TO me, that doesn’t seem like a good use of money.

    This seems like a couple of home school moms with too much time on their hands and wanting someone to cater to THEIR wants and needs. In the end, someone is always upset.

    I can’t believe I responded to this post. I’m writing about a library system. I feel like such a loser.

  3. duluthmom says:

    I completely disagree with booray’s opinion re: a library’s mission. The entire idea behind the first subscription library in this country (started by Frankin) was to allow citizens who did not have the means to purchase books to have access to them. That is true today as it was then. Low and limited income families depend on the library as their means for reading material and that includes current novels. If the majority of customers (patrons) are asking for these books, then they should be stocked.

    And as for the classics vs. pop-culture argument, who is to say that one of these current best-sellers won’t become a classic of the future? Remember, Jane Austin was pop-culture author in the early 1800s, yet her books endure today as classics. It is wrong and short-sighted to be so dismissive of current books as being nothing but junk-food reading.

    Pinder’s focus is completely appropriate.

  4. kspencer says:

    A guess of what’s behind it comes from following links – and in particular the link to the GCPL website.

    Judy Craft and Denise Varenhorst were and are leading members of the Gwinnett County branch of the Citizens for Family Friendly Libraries. They state they are intending to make that organization an active and significant one once more. The CFFL’s goal is to make all public libraries follow a highly restrictive policy for both purchases of and access to materials. As a critical step in this process, the organization demands that libraries renounce all ties with the American Library Association (ALA).

    The fact that the petition on the GCPL website says nothing about the Executive director or book selection but is solely a demand that the board disassociate itself with the ALA supports my suspicion. The fact that CFFL (in the person, iirc, of Ms. Craft) and Ms. Pinder butted heads in the past may also be a factor in the situation.

    Again, it’s a guess, but one for which there’s adequate evidence to support.

    I’ve got to put in a disclaimer on this subject. While I neither work nor live in Gwinnett county, I am a professional librarian in this state. I have also had personal experience with other chapters of the CFFL, mostly with them using tactics I’d label as being at odds with their professions of moral high ground. Both, in the ABSENCE OF THE WHOLE STORY, leave me leaning to support Ms. Pinder. That same absence, however, makes me unwilling to be definitive on “who is right”.


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