Library director tenders resignation
From Staff Reports

Dec. 11, 2005 -- Kitty St. Claire, who oversaw the modernization of the city's library and fought a seemingly continual battle for expanding the program, turned in her letter of resignation Friday.

St. Claire has accepted a position in Weatherford. She had no other comment on her resignation Friday.

City officials also had no immediate response, as the resignation was turned in to the city manager late in the day Friday.

During her 12-year tenure as the city's director of library services, St. Claire headed the transition from a collection in disarray to a modern library offering thousands of volumes in a multitude of media.

In 1996, she oversaw the book-by-book conversion of the bibliographic records -- the library's database -- to an electronic listing that  could be read by a computer. It was no easy task -- the "shelf list" at the time contained 40,000 records that did not exist, and another 4,000 to 5,000 records that were inaccurate.

"And we have records here that have nothing," St. Claire said as she began the daunting task in January of 1996. "We have books all over the library that are not even registered as being here."

Also, by doing the conversion in-house, St. Claire and her staff saved the city a minimum of $31,000.

She also helped push for the construction of a new library, which opened on North Davis Street in February of 2000. Four months later, the city's library was honored with the Association of General Contractors regional chapter's 1999 Summit Award for Outstanding Project.

St. Claire also oversaw a dramatic increase in usage at the new library. Three months after the new facility opened, a total of 10,714 books, tapes, videos and other items were checked out. Prior to moving into the new facility, checking out 5,000 items would have been "amazing," according to St. Claire.

But the road was not always smooth for the librarian. She was constantly seeking more funding for more books and other items, and there were disagreements over the level of support of the city's leaders for the library.

At one point, St. Claire was fired from her job. City Manager Marc Maxwell ended her tenure on Sept. 3, 1997, within hours of viewing a videotaped interview in which the librarian was asked about recent issues that have led to hard feelings between opponents and proponents of a proposed $3 million public library.

St. Claire criticized the Sulphur Springs City Council's decision to withhold nearly $1 million in funding for a new library. The council had originally dedicated an estimated $975,000 to the project when it passed a resolution dedicating fundsfor the library.

St. Claire said in the interview the library could lose its state accreditation because it would not meet the minimum requirements of a county library if it were to be scaled back.

"She was just pointing out stuff that was true," said KSST's Jimmy Rogers, who conducted the interview.

The next day, Maxwell sent out a memo informing St. Claire she was being fired.

"When we spoke Friday, I told you it is important that we not only support the Council's decision, but that we do so enthusiastically. I also asked you to counsel your staff regarding the same," Maxwell wrote in the memo to St. Claire. "In my estimation, your interview with KSST was a willful act of insubordination which I cannot tolerate.

"It is with deepest regret that I terminate your employment with the City of Sulphur Springs effective immediately."

Two weeks later, however, she was back on the job after St. Claire read an apology from a prepared statement that attorneys for both the city and St. Claire wrote and approved.

Maxwell acknowledged after St. Claire was reinstated that her firing had nothing to do with her abilities as director of library services.

"She's just back, and I'm glad to have her back," Maxwell said at the time. "She's a great librarian and we need her services."

St. Claire's tendered resignation comes not long after her husband, former Hopkins County Tourism Director Frank Smith, found a new job not far from Weatherford. Smith will be working in the city of Graham, which is about 50 miles west of Weatherford.

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