It may be a quiet place, but the public library in Hudson Falls, New York (population: 6,927), is buzzing with drama these days, and the story has all the components of a good novel (albeit a novel set in a library, featuring librarians and a 9-year-old reading-contest winner as the main characters). That 9-year-old is Tyler Weaver — the self-proclaimed "king of the book club" and one of the library's most frequent visitors — who will be taking his book business elsewhere, now that a longtime library aide who stuck up for him in a contest controversy has been fired.
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"The kids call her Gram. That makes it even worse," Tyler's mother, Katie Weaver, tells Yahoo Shine. "Gram" is Lita Casey, a library aide who spent 28 years working at the Hudson Falls Free Library. But Casey says that the library's board of trustees let her go without reason this week, a month after Casey defended Tyler, who won the library's summer reading contest, "Dig into Reading," for the fifth time by reading the most books in a six-week period.
"I’m not very happy. I was not ready to leave," Casey, who's also a former preschool teacher, tells Yahoo Shine. "I loved my job, and I loved the little kids."
Weaver explains that the library controversy started when she called the local newspaper, the Post-Star, asking if they would feature Tyler’s win in the paper. "I called the paper because I was proud of Tyler," she says, "not because I wanted to complain."
The publication then reached out to former library director Marie Gandron for a quote on Tyler's reading success. Instead of praising Tyler's effort, Gandron told The Post-Star that Tyler "hogs" the contest every year and he should "step aside." (And if you don't believe a grown woman would say these things about a little boy who reads a lot, check out the story the paper published.) "Other kids quit because they can't keep up," she told The Post-Star last month, adding that she planned to change the reading program's rules, suggesting they draw names out of a hat instead of awarding prizes, such as T-shirts, water bottles, and atlases, to kids who read the most books. (Gandron has not returned Yahoo Shine's request for comment.)
Disagreeing with Gandron's proposed rule changes, Casey stepped in and stood up for Tyler, who read an impressive 63 books in just six weeks, which made him the clear winner, fair and square. "I don't think it should be a lottery," Casey explains. They all had the same amount of time." The contest only requires kids to read 10 books to participate, and there is no word on how many books the runner-up logged.
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And the plot thickens: According to Weaver, Gandron then left her position at the library, never having apologized to Tyler. Michael Herman, president of the library's board of trustees, confirmed to the Post-Star last week that Gandron was no longer employed by the library but wouldn't say whether she had been fired or quit.
According to Casey, a member of the library board called her Monday evening to let her know she'd been fired but wouldn't give her a reason. Casey, not surprisingly, is convinced that her firing is related to the controversy over the library's reading contest, but she hasn't been given a chance to speak with the board since and isn't happy about the whole thing. "I would say I don't deserve this. I don't know what it is. I wasn't going to quit with all of the flak," she says. (The librarian at Hudson Falls Free Library who answered Yahoo Shine's call said she could not comment on the situation, and Herman could not be reached for comment.)
Weaver doesn't agree with the board's decision, either, and points out that Casey has dedicated her life to encouraging kids to read. "I don’t know what the board was thinking," she says. "For them to let her go and not give her a reason, that's wrong. Someone who stands up for kids, stands up for what's right — those are the kinds of people I want in my kids' lives."
Casey says she's received many calls of support, but she won't be frequenting the Hudson Falls Free Library anymore. "I'm going to miss it," she says. This story could have a happy ending, though: If there's an opening at a nearby library's children's room, she'll happily begin a new chapter there. And Weaver says that she, Tyler, and a few other families will be following suit. "We'll be going to another library with her," she says. Why? The answer is simple, according to Weaver: "She's so sweet."
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