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Beloved Myrtle Point library director fired

Myrtle Point, Oregon Library
City of Myrtle Point
Myrtle Point, Oregon Library

Residents in Myrtle Point are frustrated over the firing of a beloved library director.

Near the Southern Oregon Coast, Myrtle Point’s small library weathered the COVID-19 pandemic under the guidance of Director Lou Allen.

But on June 1st, Allen, who uses they/them pronouns, was surprised to find they were being fired over a paperwork dispute. They’ve been dealing with symptoms from long COVID the past few months and had difficulties getting paperwork signed by doctors. Allen has had to travel up to Portland frequently to receive care.

Allen says they were shocked they didn’t receive more help from the city in managing their illness.

“I had good performance reviews my whole life," Allen says. "Even from this city manager. So it was surprising and distressing.”

Allen says they’re concerned the city manager, Darin Nicholson, hasn’t been respectful of their sexuality or gender identity. Allen says they received an opportunity to re-apply for the position – but they’re not sure it’d be safe to return.

“I didn’t think it was right to do that, to go back," Allen says. "It just didn’t feel comfy. Like what could they do to make it safe to be a person with a chronic illness, or a member of the LGBTQA community?"

City Manager Nicholson declined to comment on the matter. In a library board meeting earlier this month, Nicholson said Allen had been difficult to communicate with for the past six months, according to the meeting minutes.

Nicholson said he extended the deadline needed to turn in the required paperwork many times to encourage Allen to finish it.

At one point in hearing public comment at the meeting and answering questions, Nicholson left the room early. The library board approved a motion of support for Allen.

At least 50 community members signed a letter delivered to the library board expressing their support for Allen and the work they've done for the library: including identifying weaknesses in the library's collection, submitting grants for additional funding and listening to the needs of the community.

The Myrtle Point City Council is meeting this Thursday to discuss potential litigation, as well as hear from members of the public. Allen says they’ve thought about filing a lawsuit against the city; but worries the settlement could bankrupt the city, and hurt the library even more.

The town’s former library director is volunteering to help keep the doors open while the city finds a new director.

Allen says they’d like to stay in Myrtle Point, but no longer wants to work in city government. They've been grateful for the outpouring of community support for the work they've done at the library.

Roman Battaglia is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. After graduating from Oregon State University, Roman came to JPR as part of the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism in 2019. He then joined Delaware Public Media as a Report For America fellow before returning to the JPR newsroom.