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Harsh, corporate-style dismissals have no place at ALOUD or the L.A. Library Foundation

Harsh, corporate-style dismissals have no place at ALOUD or the L.A. Library Foundation
The L.A. Central Library in downtown Los Angeles, where most ALOUD events were held. (Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Library Foundation President Kenneth Brecher claims the ALOUD series was “stagnating”; we believe the 25-year record — to the present — of cultural and literary programming at the Los Angeles Public Library speaks for itself.

Throughout our working career with the Library Foundation (a combined 33 years), we guided conversations among authors and artists, politicians and scientists, activists and community members that were rooted in trust, respect and diversity. The vast majority of programs were free and open to all members of the public.

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ALOUD held a unique place in the larger cultural landscape in the way that it fostered civic debate within the sanctity of the public library, a place where all are welcome. The success of projects like “Visualizing Language: Oaxaca in L.A.” or a public reading of Nelson Mandela’s prison letters (with local writers joined by Mandela’s granddaughter) are just a few examples of how public programs can reflect the most urgent issues of our time, provoking engaging discussions among a multi-generational, culturally diverse cohort of Angelenos.

We believe that all workers deserve to be treated with respect and dignity and that a competent leader can implement a transition without inflicting personal harm and endangering a community’s trust in an organization. All nonprofit charitable organizations are accountable to their stakeholders — in this case, foundation members, donors, the public at large and the Los Angeles Public Library.

We hope that our distressing experience — and the robust community reaction — result in a commitment to ethical leadership at the Library Foundation and a scrutiny of corporate-style dismissals used by nonprofit organizations to silence those who have worked in service of something larger than themselves.

Louise Steinman and Maureen Moore, Los Angeles

Steinman is the former ALOUD curator and cultural programs director of the Library Foundation; Moore is the former associate director of ALOUD.

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To the editor: As someone who attends many ALOUD events, I wrote to the Library Foundation soon after Louise Steinman’s and Maureen Moore’s firing and received a bland, non-informative, public relations response.

Brecher’s decision to alter the foundation’s programs seems to have been thoughtfully made. However, there is no way that I can accept the arbitrary and presumptive way the firings were made.

Steinman in particular worked many years to develop the program and form relationships with many wonderful writers. This is why so many authors signed the letter of protest and why they continue to be upset over the abrupt severing of their connection to a person who has been so supportive of their work.

The foundation leadership’s arrogant refusal to step back and give all of us a chance to honor and thank Steinman and Moore for their years of work does not give me confidence in its ability to manage this transition. It makes me sad and angry.

Deirdre Catalano, Long Beach

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