Library’s silence fuels speculation

June 27, 2014 

The director of the Public Library of Johnston County and Smithfield won’t answer questions about Clayton’s impending departure from the county library network. Margaret Marshall canceled one interview with reporter Nash Dunn and has not responded since then to repeated requests for comment.

Jeff Jennings, vice chairman of the Smithfield library board, did send us an email, but he said little, explaining that his board needed more information before it could comment.

If we might be so bold, Ms. Marshall and Mr. Jennings should think about the impression their silence is leaving and the speculation that silence is fueling.

The impression we get is that something isn’t quite right at the Smithfield library. We have no idea what that something is, but we can’t fathom why Ms. Marshall would repeatedly pass on the opportunity to defend her library or explain its workings.

At least two things merit a response from Ms. Marshall or the library board. First, in explaining their decision to leave the Johnston library network, Clayton leaders said the Smithfield library takes too long to catalog books purchased by the Clayton library and bound for its shelves. Surely Ms. Marshall can explain that. Second, in what proved to be a misleading statement, Clayton leaders said the Smithfield library had chosen not to join N.C. Cardinal, a consortium of libraries that share books and materials. As it turns out, according to a state library official, circumstances, not choice, prevented the Smithfield library from joining the consortium. Surely Ms. Marshall would like to explain what those circumstances were.

When they decline to comment or to be interviewed, Smithfield library leaders fuel speculation about why they’re keeping mum. We won’t engage in speculation, but suffice to say, we’ve heard plenty of it in the weeks since Clayton acknowledged that it planned to leave the library network.

To make this long story short, all of this silence is doing the Smithfield library no good and perhaps a world of harm. Maybe library leaders would be more responsive if their financial benefactors – county commissioners and Smithfield councilmen – demanded an explanation. The alternative is for the Clayton library – and its considerable resources – to withdraw from the county network without so much as a whimper from Johnston’s flagship library.

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