Bronson administration says it will look for new head Anchorage librarian

a person behind a podium at a press conference
Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson announces four directives for city operations on July 1, 2021, his first day in office. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

The Bronson administration says it will appoint a library director in the “near future,” after its previous acting director was denied the job by the Anchorage Assembly at a meeting earlier this week, according to a spokesperson. 

The Assembly voted 7-4 against Bronson’s previous nominee, Sami Graham, on Tuesday. Some Assembly members raised concerns about her qualifications. 

Bronson then named Graham as his new chief of staff, a position that doesn’t require Assembly confirmation. In a statement on Tuesday, the administration said that Graham would also oversee the library system in her new role.

RELATED: The Anchorage Assembly voted down Bronson’s pick for lead librarian, then he appointed her chief of staff

A white woman smiles
Sami Graham at an Aug. 2021 Assembly meeting (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

Some Assembly members raised concerns about whether it was legal for Graham to lead the library system after the failed Assembly confirmation. But the announcement that the administration will now search for a new director seemed to allay some of those concerns.

Assembly member Austin Quinn-Davidson, who voted against Graham’s nomination, said she thinks the administration will be able to find a candidate the Assembly will approve. 

“Making sure you’re putting the word out, and getting as many applicants as you can, increases the possibility that you’ll get highly qualified and good applicants,” she said. “So I’m hoping the administration will do that.”

The position calls for a master’s degree in library science and three years of experience directing a large or medium-sized library.

According to the city’s human resources director, Niki Tshibaka, eight candidates applied to be library director after the previous director resigned in the spring — before Bronson took office. One met the written criteria, but they did not submit an application after Bronson took office, according to Tshibaka. Graham submitted a general letter of interest in working with the Bronson administration, and was recommended to apply for the job of library director, said Tshibaka. He said that during the transition, the mayor did not have access to the candidates who had applied under the previous administration and did not reconsider the applicants once he took office.

“It’s not the mayor elect’s job to go knocking on everybody’s door,” he told the Assembly on Tuesday.

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About $35,000 in library funding from a state grant is contingent on the director having a library science degree.

City code allows the mayor to substitute the degree requirements for equivalent experience. The Bronson administration argued Graham met the equivalent experience requirement. 

During Tuesday’s meeting, Assembly members questioned the administration’s selection process. Assembly member John Weddleton asked the administration to review the applications of the candidates that were deemed ineligible based on the stated criteria. 

“Perhaps they didn’t meet the requirements, but maybe they have relevant experience that, as has been stated, could replace the master’s in library science,” he said at the meeting. “I just think that the community is demanding something a little more rigorous.”

Weddleton ultimately voted in favor of Graham’s appointment as library director. 

The Bronson administration didn’t offer any details about its selection process or timeline for how it will conduct its search for a new head librarian. 

Editor’s note: This story has been updated and clarified with additional information about the application process for the library director position.

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