August 22, 2014 at 11:31 pm

Librarian accused of poor people skills drops case

Gobles, Mich.— A librarian in southwestern Michigan who refused a transfer after being accused of mistreating visitors is dropping her discrimination lawsuit in federal court.

“I was fighting Goliath,” Shirley Whitt, 67, said Friday.

Whitt retired in 2011 after nearly 25 years, instead of accepting a transfer to the Decatur branch from the Gobles branch in the Van Buren District Library system in Van Buren County.

In court filings, the library, west of Kalamazoo, denied age discrimination and said patrons complained about Whitt’s “poor demeanor” and “unwelcoming attitude.”

“The library’s former director transferred plaintiff to a position he felt better matched her skill set. The library did not reduce plaintiff’s pay, benefits, hours or otherwise demote her,” library attorney Susan Finnegan wrote.

Over the years, Whitt was accused of pulling a sucker from a child’s mouth, treating kids harshly and taking a stuffed animal from children. “The child was having a temper tantrum,” Whitt said. “He was flat on his back. I took the sucker out so he wouldn’t choke.”

Whitt denied being a grumpy librarian and blamed the complaints on kids who were denied access to computers.

“You have to have your library card with an Internet sticker if you’re under age 18. We would have problems there,” she said. “My job is to enforce the policy.”

Notice of a settlement was filed in Kalamazoo federal court. Whitt said she expects to receive a “minuscule” amount of money from the library.

Email and phone messages seeking comment Friday were left for her attorney and Finnegan.