G.N. Library candidates discuss ‘divisive board,’ book banning in forum

G.N. Library candidates discuss ‘divisive board,’ book banning in forum
A variety of topics were discussed during a Great Neck Library candidate forum last week. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

Candidates running for the Great Neck Library’s Board of Trustees and Nominating Committee discussed potential enhancements to community engagement, improvements to the library’s internal system, and book banning during a forum moderated by the League of Women Voters of Manhasset-Port Washington.

Incumbent board President Liman Mimi Hu is running to retain her seat on the board against local lawyer Jessica Hughes. Rory Lancman, Christina Rusu and Karen Hirsch

Romero, who was not in attendance for the event, are running for a vacant seat on the board. Both seats will be for a four-year term beginning in January.

Sara Rivka Khodadadian and Kim Schader are running for Steve M. Jacob’s seat on the nominating committee. That position will be for a three-year term beginning in January as well.

Hughes spoke on the need to amend a “divisive board” and touted the ability to be an open-minded trustee that prioritizes the community it serves.

She said that her negotiating ability and constant work with individuals who do not always see eye-to-eye would serve the board well if she is elected.

“That is really what will benefit this board,” Hughes said. “That kind of thinking present at these meetings where there is discord and the ability to take a step back and bring everybody back to the point that is most important, which is how will this conversation further the needs of our community.”

After individuals filed a legal complaint over the way its Board of Trustees filled a board vacancy late last year, the trustees submitted their own complaint claiming they acted within their authority.

Hu acknowledged that the library is in the midst of troubling times right now with pending legal action on both sides, something she is not at liberty to discuss further.

Staffing problems and having the library entrenched in its own culture wars, she said, requires someone who has first-hand experience within the library system to effectively combat it.

“The library is at a critical juncture where we need stability,” Hu said. “We need someone who has institutional memory to carry out all the progress we have made.”

Lancman, a former state assemblyman and member of the New York City Council, said finding out ways for people to work together constructively, despite their differences, is something he has endured throughout his prior experiences.

Understanding the financial aspects and overall management of a library system from his time on the council, he said, makes him an ideal candidate.

“It’s frustrating to see a board that is struggling to perform the basic function of a board,” Lancman said. “I think with my experience and my background, I can enable the board to move forward in a constructive way.”

Rusu, a crime analyst with the New York City Police Department, said that, while experience in these situations does matter, there is also a need for a different perspective.

“I also believe that we are quite divided,” she said. “We have to find ways of resolving these issues.”

Schader said she believes the interpretation of a “divisive board” is slightly exaggerated and lauded the work that the trustees have done over the past few years.

“The vast majority of the board has created great changes and improvements over the past few years collectively and collaboratively,” she said. Khodadadian said she believes there is a need for change after seeing some discourse and slight hostility in prior meetings.

“There are times when we disagree and there’s gesturing and raising voices and I wish that wasn’t the case in our library’s board,” she said.

The candidates also discussed the possibility of banning books, specifically those with sexual and LGBTQ+ content. Hu said the placement of certain books is at the discretion of library professionals, but touted the importance of “intellectual freedom” and said she is against banning books.

“As trustee, my job is to hire the best-qualified staff for the job, trained how to approach these topics,” Hu said. “I rely on their professional opinion and training. I frankly don’t know the best location to place any books, I’m not professional in this area.”

Hughes said the question did not center around censorship, but rather promoting “divisive and exclusionary” content. Library officials, she said, should also be in tune with what the parental input is so they can best serve their community.

“Most people just want to know what children will come up against when go through library stacks,” she said. “The board should be involved with the community’s desires and needs, in these decisions. The library director has a role, but that doesn’t mean the board absolves itself of content for what’s in children’s section, with parental consent.”

Rusu, who emigrated from Romania, said coming from a communist country gave her an insight to what censorship is and said she does not believe in banning books.

Lancman also said banning books has “no place” in Great Neck and that no library should be restricting content to individuals because it may make them feel uncomfortable.

“There is a movement in this country that exists here in Great Neck as well that wants to inject ideology and culture war into schools, libraries, and restrict our freedom to read, learn, study and think about issues we care about,” Lancman said.

The library election will take place on Oct. 31 from 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. Residents living north of Northern Boulevard will vote at the Main Library, 159 Bayview Ave., Great Neck 11023. Residents living south of Northern Boulevard will vote at the Parkville Branch, 10 Campbell Street, New Hyde Park 11040.

Additionally, absentee ballots must be submitted by Oct. 28.

No posts to display


  1. Please correct the misinformation in the article. Absentee ballots may be submitted until October 28. All of the information is available on the library website greatnecklibrary.org/library-election/


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here