Examining The Library Board’s Independence, Positive Or Negative?

Does the Library Board operate with too much autonomy? Or does the independence free it prudently from political intrusion?

The board’s recent firing of Library Director Scott Hughes has raised questions about its self-appointing structure, per the City Charter. City Council President Tom McCarthy opposes it. CT Post reporter Brian Lockhart examines the issue:

“I do not like or agree with the idea it’s a self-appointing board,” he said. “This is not a shot against anybody on that board. All the people in front of us were qualified. I just don’t think it’s appropriate.”

Tom Errichetti, the Library Board’s treasurer, said were the council to turn down an appointment, the board would likely agree to replace that person and it would “look bad” to do otherwise. But he said members can continue to serve until replaced.

Errichetti said giving the board the ability to appoint members makes it “apolitical,” which benefits taxpayers.

“We’re not beholden to any administration, in terms of how to manage a library,” he said.

Full story here.



  1. Citizens of Bridgeport appreciate their Library resources. The programs in the Libraries keep the people coming and using books, technology and community spaces. The vote to separate the Library budget from the balance of City budget decisions went against City Hall during Mayor Finch’s time.

    During the tenure of Scott Hughes much effort was expended to reach out to neighborhoods not adequately served and line them up for new or renewed facilities in three locations. That has been to the good.

    Perhaps Tom McCarthy should reflect on the number of City Boards and Commissions that are not organized as the Library Board. How many vacancies are open at this time for Mayoral appointments? Wasn’t this a subject discussed by the Ganim Transition Committee? Is the Mayor satisfied with the number of vacancies or appointees serving expired terms? If they had the responsibility the Library Board seems to have, they could discover and recruit candidates and nominate them subject to City Council approval ultimately. Instead we have bodies with majority public membership vacancies. Why is that tolerated? Why aren’t experience, intelligence, passion for the mission and representation from various City communities the hallmarks for appointment? Time will tell.

  2. The Bridgeport Library Board has something the Bridgeport City Council does not, credibility. The concept of a self-appointing board may offend members of the city council as if their elected status somehow provides them wisdom and credibility. Current and past library board members have provided guidance with a level of ability and conviction we can only wish the city council could provide.

  3. Rumor Mill:
    A recent survey concluded when it comes to the Bridgeport Library, more people are surfing the web than reading a book and nobody uses their cell phone to reach the BPL’s website.

    1. Local Eyes, you are correct. Across the country with the younger generation, electronics is the way to go. I have my Nook for books I rarely use. I just got back from the Bridgeport Library here in the North End. I am old school. I like to hold the book and turn the page. Use a bookmark and return and browse the aisles.

      I have a James Patterson and Jim Leher book I want to read this week with Anne Rice in the queue.

  4. Totally agree with JML and Tom White. Not in degrading the council but giving merit to a very professional library board that has nothing to do with Scott Hughes. Tom Errichetti’s quote was spot on. I do not think anybody could question his credibility or professionalism or his commitment Bridgeport. That would be the same for all board members.

  5. We need FEWER appointed boards and commissions.

    We have over 80 vacancies/expired terms on boards and commissions. When positions are appointed they are only loyal to those who have the power to appoint. When they are elected by the people, they must be loyal to the People.

    The Zoning, Zoning Board of Appeals, Parks Commission, etc. should all be elected.

  6. This is not a new issue. At least two past Charter Revisions debated proposals to end the self-appointed status of the Library Board. But both ran into heavy opposition from both the Library Board and the City Council and were never adopted.

    At the time, supporters of the existing system argued it had worked well and kept politics out of the library system. They also argued–essentially as John Marshall Lee has here–that other city boards and commissions were not an example to aspire to.

    Supporters of change argued that the current system was elitist, exclusionary and undemocratic. They also contended under the current system the board was largely unaccountable and just substituted Library politics for partisan politics.

    Both arguments were (and are), for the most part, correct.

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