Whiting Library board reorganizes with six new members

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2022 Telegraph Publishing LLC

One week after being appointed by the Chester Select Board, six new trustees of the Whiting Library joined Donna McNeill-Hudkins — the sole remaining trustee — to reorganize the board. The appointments became necessary when six out of seven trustees resigned in the wake of controversy over a library program — Drag Queen Story Hour — that resulted in the resignation of the library director.

New trustees begin the process of reorganizing the board. From left, library director Deirdre Doran (hands visible), and trustees Matthew Gorskey, Bill Dakin, Sam Comstock, Lora Cokolat and Donna McNeill-Hudkins. Attending via Zoom were John Garison and Jesse Bailey.

The new trustees are Carlton (Sam) Comstock, Bill Dakin, Matthew Gorsky, John Garison, Jesse Bailey and Lora Cokolat.

McNeill-Hudkins, who was elected to the board in March and had attended only one or two meetings before the controversy erupted, chaired the meeting and confirmed that the new trustees had reviewed the orientation packets they had been provided. The new board also discussed the draft minutes from the previous board which will remain unapproved since the new members were neither in attendance, nor members at the time.

Dakin nominated McNeill-Hudkins to serve as board chair, while she replied she was about to nominate Dakin,

“You’re the only one here who’s actually elected,” said Gorsky. In turn, Dakin was nominated to be vice chair, a new post created recently by the previous board.

Cokolat, a professional librarian, was nominated to be the library’s treasurer. And Comstock volunteered to serve as secretary when none of the remaining directors would.

McNeill-Hudkins, Dakin, Cokolat and Comstock were all elected to the positions for which they were nominated.

Re-establishing committees considered

The board considered whether to continue using three committees — Program, Fundraising and Personnel — or just work as a board. Library Director Deirdre Doran, who resigned when she was pressured by former board chief to cancel Drag Queen Story Hour a month before it was to take place, told the board that the Program committee was created out of feedback from focus groups held last fall.

The groups concluded that the library needed to have more programs but Doran — who is not a full-time employee — said she did not have the time to create more programs, which are not her strong suit.  Children’s librarian Carrie King also  sets up programs — including Drag Queen Story Hour — but she also is a part-time employee. According to agendas of meetings posted online, the trustees established the Program committee  in January 2022.

Bailey moved that the board re-establish the committee. While some thought it would be best to wait for a new librarian to form the committee others were concerned that there would not be enough programming while a search for a librarian was conducted.

McNeill-Hudkins said she had learned that the state library department has a list of librarians available on an interim basis and that she would call to inquire about finding a temporary replacement.  Cokolat said that it’s the job of the librarian to create programming and called having the board involved “overstepping.” In the end, the trustees voted not to re-form the Program Committee.

At the same time, the Fundraising and Personnel committees were quickly re-constituted. Trustees felt these were particularly necessary since fundraising accounts for a substantial portion of the annual budget and so far this year, none had been done. At the same time, the board felt that the personnel committee was important as it would be both heading up the search for a permanent librarian and conducting an exit interview with Doran whose last day is June 30.

There was further discussion about the library’s hours over the next few weeks as King would be taking an already scheduled vacation shortly. Cokolat said the library needs to get the word out about its open hours during that interim.

Trustees decided that regular board meetings will be held on the second Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. The next board meeting will be July 12, 2022.


May 16: Library director resigns amid questions of board censorship

May 23: Weston Library hosts Drag Queen Story Hour to much enjoyment

May 24: Whiting board emails, texts tell a fuller story of drag queen event

May 25: Nied quits as Whiting Library trustee, resigns from other Chester town offices

June 1: Five more Whiting Library trustees resign

June 7: A day filled with parade, pizza and pride.

June 7: OPINION: What Drag Queen Story Hour could have meant to my younger self.

June 8: Chester Select Board discusses Whiting Library problems

June 22: Chester board … appoints six library trustees

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