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Llano head librarian resigns as county library staff wanes

LLANO COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Tina Castelan took over as head librarian at the Llano Library last December. This month, she said she submitted her resignation to Library Director Amber Milum.

On Monday, she said she was asked to pack up her belongings and leave early.

”I just really did not want to work here anymore,” said Castelan. “I wanted to be supported. I want people to trust my professional decisions and how I work.”

Castelan said she resigned a day after presenting a letter of grievance signed by other librarians in the Llano County Library System. The grievance letter given to KXAN highlights several issues, including claims that the Llano County Library System is inadequately staffed and the director is operating outside the guidelines of the currently approved policy and procedures.

Castelan's departure comes after Suzette Baker was fired as head librarian at the Kingsland Branch Library in Llano County on March 9.

“This is the final warning and termination,” Baker said in March, as she pointed out why she was removed from her position. “For creating a disturbance, insubordination, violation of policies and failure to follow instructions.”

Baker said she was given the warning to remove books by her boss, but she did not comply.

Castelan says she believes libraries are a place for everyone, but there are issues that need to be addressed.

"Censorship is happening," Castelan said.

KXAN reached out to Llano County for comment to discuss censorship claims and the resignation of the Llano County head librarian. Llano County Judge Ron Cunningham sent the following statement:

“As you know, Llano County is involved in a federal lawsuit regarding our libraries, therefore, information I can provide at this time is limited and unfortunately, we cannot accommodate your invitation for an interview at this time. With respect to our current and former employees, I will not discuss discipline or departures.”

Llano County Judge Ron Cunningham.

Judge Cunningham tells KXAN that Llano County intends to continue to operate the library system and just approved the Llano County FY 2022-2023 budget which includes a Llano County Library System staffing and operation budget of $448,501.

"While the FY 2022 budget was $$600,967, this new approved budget is more in line with the previous year’s budgets of $447,747 in 2019, $467,708 in 2020, and $460,630 in 2021," said Judge Cunningham.

The director of the Llano County Library System is over all three libraries and staff. She determines staffing and hours of operation of each location.

Llano County Response to book ban claims

In March, Judge Cunningham gave us this statement after the Kingsland head librarian was fired.

In recent months there has been growing attention on parental controls and age appropriateness in libraries across Texas and the U.S.

"In response to community concerns, Llano County Commissioners recently expanded citizen participation in the county’s Library Advisory Board and embarked on a review of library policies and online vendor controls.  During this review, Llano County temporarily ceased the acquisition of new material and use of the OverDrive online library app so the Llano County Library Advisory Board could review and make recommendations regarding library policies and procedures to the Llano County Commissioners Court for possible action.  

During our review, we discovered that parental controls built into the OverDrive library app which Llano County was utilizing can be easily disabled by children using the app.  We contacted OverDrive and they advised that any user can go to their account settings and change the filters to display different content within OverDrive. According to an OverDrive representative, OverDrive does “not provide a way to block specific content from showing for specific users.” Therefore, parents who choose to implement a content filter for their children’s account are not able to do so.  

During this same review period, the Llano Library System reviewed and recategorized the children’s book section to provide parents a better insight as to the sections of books available to young readers and the content within those sections."  - Llano County Judge Ron Cunningham

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