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June 06, 2024

Former Author Events team of Philly's Free Library speaks out after unexpected firing

The four members claim they planned to resign, but the foundation dismissed them before submitting their notices.

Jobs Free Library of Philadelphia
Free Library Author Events Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

Despite the ousting of the four Author Events team members, the Free Library of Philadelphia said talks from writers and artists will continue as planned.

After a confusing turn of events with contradicting messages at the Free Library of Philadelphia this week, the dismissed members of the Author Events team spoke out to provide clarity.

A statement released by former Author Events team members Andy Kahan, Laura Kovacs, Jason Freeman and Nell Mittelstead on Wednesday attempted to shed light on the situation. The statement claims the four planned to resign and give one month's notice to transition their roles to others, but they were unexpectedly fired Monday afternoon.

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"Because we deeply believe in this program and what it means to Philadelphia, we felt we owed it to our patrons, authors, and colleagues to complete the summer season of events (which would wrap up at the end of June) and pass this program into the hands of others," the statement read. 

They said they were locked out of their emails and denied entry to the building just before being dismissed. 

According to the statement, the team sent out the notice that scheduled Author Events had been canceled as they found it impossible to "effectively manage these programs." The team members learned of their termination by the Free Library's foundation shortly after, and the Free Library released a message clarifying that scheduled events would still commence.

While the team's statement did not provide specifics on what led to the planned resignation, it mentions that the team members discussed their concerns with the Free Library and foundation leadership as recently as the week prior to their firings.

"It was an honor to bring you together with the authors you love," the statement concludes. "We continue to stand with current and former colleagues of the Free Library and the foundation."

Jeffry Benoliel, the foundation's Chairman of the Board, released a statement Tuesday evening again clarifying that Author Events are still taking place as scheduled. He claims the four staff members resigned and that one of them sent the note claiming that events had been canceled without authorization.

"We have not had exit interviews with any of them, but based on prior conversations there was a fundamental disagreement on the strategic direction chosen by the Board for the Foundation," Benoliel wrote.

The statement from Benoliel goes on to praise the leadership of Monique Moore Pryor as the foundation's executive director and Kelly Richards as director of the Free Library.