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Library board elects new leadership after failed attempt to delay vote

Gianna Jacks sits in the middle of the frame, looking down at a desk.
Bert Johnson
Gianna Jacks (center) tried to delay voting in the library board's annual leadership election during a public meeting on June 26, 2024.

Trustees chose Ann Silver to chair the board for the next year, rejecting Gianna Jacks’ leadership.

Around three hours into the June meeting of the Washoe County Library Board of Trustees, chair Gianna Jacks made some changes to the agenda – she announced she was tabling the previously-scheduled election for her own position.

“Unfortunately, we’re out of time,” she said.

The announcement was met with boos from residents and disbelief from her fellow trustees. Amid the uproar, Jacks called a recess, then reversed course and allowed the election for chair and vice-chair to move forward.

Trustees elected Ann Silver to replace Jacks as board chair, and Tami Ruf as vice-chair.

Jacks’ attempt to delay the vote flew in the face of library board protocol – trustees usually choose their leadership for the next year in June. Jacks, who was appointed after the last chair resigned, was facing her first election.

Deputy District Attorney Herbert Kaplan provides legal advice for the board. Before the vote took place, he sharply criticized Jacks’ attempt to delay voting.

“I’m not going to support those items being pulled. We have plenty of time to address this,” he said.

Community member Barbara Perlman-Whyman gave public comment after the vote. She celebrated the outcome – but lamented how it played out.

“It was embarrassing that you had to put yourself through that publicly,” she said.

A recent investigation by KUNR found Jacks had been using her position to pursue a Republican agenda of defunding the library and canceling LGBTQ programming. She also set her sights on library director Jeff Scott.

Members of the Washoe County Republican Party have been after Scott’s job since at least the fall of 2022. They’ve criticized him for overseeing Drag Story Hour events at library facilities, which they falsely equate to “grooming” children.

While Jacks no longer chairs the board, she still has three more years in her current term as a trustee. And she’s not the only member of the library board to denounce Scott.

Silver, who replaced Jacks as chair, has criticized his response to Republican activists who oppose LGBTQ+ books and programming in the library.

And during Wednesday's meeting, trustee Lea Moser publicly chastised Scott. She accused him of failing to clarify the application process for members of the public who want to host events in partnership with the library.

“There [has] been, at various meetings, the want for different programming,” she said. “I have seen the obfuscation of that programming from the director.”

But according to library staff, it’s not up to Scott which events are approved. Community members can suggest new programming through an online form.

Then, the Youth Services and Events Team reviews the application. They’re the ones who decide whether it’s a good fit.

Even if the team declines to partner with someone on a new event, library facilities are open to the public – so anyone can reserve a room to host whatever kind of event they want.

Bert is KUNR’s senior correspondent. He covers stories that resonate across Nevada and the region, with a focus on environment, political extremism and Indigenous communities.
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