About 75 people rallied at the Civic Center to support Lesley Williams, head of adult services at the Evanston Public Library, at a disciplinary hearing regarding recent conduct. RoundTable photo

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Updated on April 21. Almost 100 people gathered on the fourth floor of the Civic Center in the corridor leading to Room 4802, where a disciplinary hearing was scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. concerning Lesley Williams, an African American librarian. People held signs saying, “We stand with Lesley,” and “Lesley is a Beacon of Hope,” and at times chanted their support.

At about 3:50 p.m., Reverend Michael Nabors, Senior Pastor of Evanston’s Second Baptist Church and President of the Evanston Branch of the NAACP, spoke in the corridor, flanked by people, a television camera, and a host of microphones. Ms. Williams is “one of the great librarians in our nation,” he said.

Ms. Williams has been “so active in the Evanston community,” including coordinating a number of different rallies supporting Muslims, the LGTB community, the black community, Rev. Nabors continued. “I’m here because something is wrong with the Evanston Public Library if they are putting the only African American librarian in a situation where she will not be able to continue to produce results, to produce amazing resources for the community, not just for African Americans, but for every marginalized group, for every group that stands on the fringes. We need her in Evanston.”

Dilanaz Waraich, a member of the Board of Open Communities and from the Muslim Community Center in Morton Grove, said, “I am here to support Lesley Williams, a human being , a person who cares. She is here for all of us. She’s not just here for one group. She’s here for all marginalized communities. Leslie’s a leader.”

Lynn Pollack, an Evanston resident, said Ms. Williams’s programming at the library “is equal opportunity for everyone. We need her desperately to stay here and continue to produce challenging materials and programing that really invites us all to take a harder look at our society and our history.

She said the disciplinary proceeding against Ms. Williams “was heart-breaking. It’s wrong.”

Three police officers cleared a path through the peaceful crowd gathered in the corridor leading to the hearing room for Library Director Karen Danczak Lyons and the panel hearing the disciplinary charges. The police officers waited down the hall while the hearing, which was not open to the public, was held in Room 4802. Several people told the RoundTable they were upset police were called.

After a 35-minute hearing, Ms. Williams emerged from the hearing room and said she would be advised of the decision in about five days. She said if a finding was made against her, she could receive a reprimand or a suspension, but she did not know how long a suspension could be.

About 75 people were still in the corridor. “I can’t tell you how overwhelmed I am to have this support,” Ms. Williams said. “This really reflects why this job is so important to me. Why I love working as a librarian at the Evanston Public Library. It really is because of all of you.”

The RoundTable asked several of the organizers of the rally if they knew what the disciplinary charges were; no one knew. Ms. Williams declined to say, although both she and her attorney said they had no objection to the RoundTable’s being present during the hearing. Nonetheless, the RoundTable was not allowed into the hearing room because it was “a private disciplinary hearing.”

Larry Gavin

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...