February 16, 2018

Critic of Gwinnett Library Joins Board

By Norman Oder

  • Board member who supported former director leaves after arrest
  • GCPLwatch web site goes offline
  • Goal is to “stay the course”

The president of the national group Family Friendly Libraries and a sometime critic of the Gwinnett County Public Library (GCPL), Lawrenceville, GA, has been named to the GCPL board. Denise Varenhorst in early August was named to fill the unexpired term of Brett Taylor, who resigned after he was arrested on child molestation charges. In a divided community with a changing board, Taylor was the only member who defended fired director JoAnn Pinder, who had won local acclaim and got GCPL national notice—including a Library of the Year award in 2000 from LJ—but drew criticism for both library policies and her personal style. (More from supporters and critics here and here.)

Varenhorst, a registered nurse and president of the Conservative Republican Women, told LJ her appointment is only an interim one, until the end of the year, and scheduling conflicts preclude a continued role. The GCPLwatch web site, in which she and others criticized the library for emphasizing popular materials, for having a high weed rate, and for having too many managers, has been taken offline “in order to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest,” she said. (Now it redirects to the library web site.)

Varenhorst became active in local library issues in 2005, she said, when she felt GCPL was unresponsive “to requests for lifelong learning materials from the community,” while she homeschooled three children. (Her children are now in public school.) “My goal for my very short stint on the library board is simply to stay the course,” Varenhorst said, praising the work of current director Nancy Stanbery-Kellam and her staff.

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