Douglas Branch has new manager

Dublin Core


Douglas Branch has new manager


Essie Harris has appointed branch manager of the Douglas Branch Library. On August 1st 2003 while the previous manager retired after being there for a few years.



News Gazette


1 August, 2003

Contribution Form

Online Submission



Document Item Type Metadata


CHAMPAIGN – Longtime Champaign library employee Essie Harris has been appointed manager of the Douglass Branch Library, capping a difficult and divisive episode that pitted Douglass patrons against the library board over the firing of the previous branch manager.

In another administrative decision, Mary Bissey has been appointed assistant director for the main library, filling the position left by the retiring Cecilia Gaines.

Harris' promotion, made last week, has been greeted enthusiastically.

Paula Abdullah, chair of the Douglass advisory group formed in the wake of last year's controversy, said Harris was the best choice.

"It's a very good decision for the community. She has the respect of the community after being there so long. Her knowledge base and experience will be invaluable," Abdullah said.

Circulation is already up 10 percent over last year. Hours have been extended as well. The branch, at 504 East Grove St., used to be open only two evenings a week.

Now it is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and to 6 p.m. on Friday. It is also open on Saturdays now, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Library Director Marsha Grove said programming for children and families has increased and improved also.

"We've gotten lots of positive response from what Essie's doing there, lots more people are coming in and more going on. That's the basis for the decision – the success she's shown," Grove said.

Harris has been interim manager since March of last year and has been at the library since 1969, when it was housed in the old Burnham Athenaeum on Church Street.

A Champaign native, Harris has worked in circulation, at the information desk, as an assistant to the head secretary and in the children's department.

She has shelved, ordered materials, done programming, done graphics and even drove the bookmobile one summer.

She also worked at the Douglass Branch Library when it was located in a house on Bradley Avenue. -

And she managed to do it all without a master's degree in library science.

Grove said the job description for the manager's job initially required that degree, but has been changed to allow experience to be considered as an equivalent for that level of education.

It took two years to find Harris' predecessor, Charles Moore, who started in mid-2001 but was fired for performance-related issues before his probation was up, leading to a series of confrontations between the local black community and the library administration.

Since that period, in - spring 2002, the advisory board was formed, the previous library director resigned, Grove was appointed and Harris kept the branch going.

"I think things are going a lot smoother," said Harris, who consistently refused to let herself be drawn into the controversy. "They've addressed most of the concerns from the citizens. I think things are going great."

In an unrelated change, Grove said Mary Bissey has been appointed assistant director following a national search.

Bissey has been at the library since 1985 and manager of technical services for the last 13 years.

The administrative structure has positions for two assistant directors, but Grove said the second position will be put on hold for at least a year, and perhaps permanently.

You can reach Phil Bloomer at (217) 351-5371 or via e-mail at




"Douglas Branch has new manager," in eBlack Champaign-Urbana, Item #252, (accessed May 26, 2020).

Social Bookmarking