Fourteen employees of the Manhasset Public Library are defending library Director Margaret “Maggie” Gough in the midst of an investigation into an incident in which she was accused of making comments perceived as racist.
Violinist Roslyn Huang, who held a recital in the library’s community room for her music group, the Long Island Camerata, on Dec. 14, said that parents of her students told her that Gough had called the performers, many of whom were of Asian descent, “foreigners.” Huang also said that Gough complained about the catering, provided by Pearl East Restaurant, and threatened to fine her $20,000 for water spilled on a carpet.
Huang further said that two days later Gough canceled the Camerata’s contract for a similar recital in the spring. A petition was later created called “Eradicate Racism from the Manhasset Public Library,” which has received over 800 signatures.
Gough called the allegations “horrendous, deeply hurtful, and completely unfounded” in a statement two weeks ago, and also said that “legal counsel is requesting meetings with all those involved to determine if the facts in this matter have merit or are meritless.”
Written statements from library employees were sent to Blank Slate Media by a public relations firm representing the library.
Ellen Majorana, who has worked as Gough’s administrative assistant for nearly seven years, wrote that she had “never, ever heard Maggie use any racial slurs or insensitive remarks.”
“On the contrary, I find her to be totally inclusive and she has worked very hard to bring in programs, books and other materials that support our diverse community,” Majorana wrote.
Four-year library employee Charisse Relyveld-Osnato wrote that she had “never seen or heard [Gough] exhibit discriminatory or racial behaviors toward anyone.”
“[Gough] is always looking for ways to help the community in any way possible,” Relyveld-Osnato wrote.
Linda Palmieri, who has worked at the library since 2013, wrote that she has “never witnessed Maggie Gough to speak or write racist remarks to staff or patrons,” and said the accusations “have made our dignified work of serving this library and the Manhasset community humiliating.”
“Maggie maintains an ‘open door policy’ for staff and patrons alike to come to her office any time with any issue,” Palmieri wrote.
“To Maggie, it is all about the patrons,” wrote Alice Pastor, the senior clerk in the library’s children’s room.
“I have found [Gough] to be very inclusive in her manner and effort as library director,” wrote employee Linda Giacalone.
“Actions speak louder than words; I urge everyone to look at Maggie’s record in the community; it is stellar,” wrote employee Stephanie Catlett.
Michael Marino has worked for Gough in the Manhasset and Elmont public libraries since 2011.
“For the nine years that I have worked under her leadership, I have never met such an articulate, hardworking, professional and truly dedicated director,” Marino wrote. “I have been in her presence in a vast amount of staff meetings and as well as one on one meetings, and I can vouch for her character as a fair, caring and most respectful human being when dealing with her employees and the patrons of the library.”
Library building maintainer Garry Serraino has worked in Manhasset since 2008, and has worked with Gough since she took her position in 2011.
“Any supervisory position is never easy, especially the position of being the director of a public facility, but I have to say with all honesty that Maggie is always working on moving the library forward to meet the needs of ALL patrons, not just a select few,” Serraino wrote.
Karen Annunziata, a library services coordinator in the Sewanhaka Central High School District who said she has worked with Gough, wrote that she has “always observed Maggie being professional and courteous.”
“[Gough] is always concerned for everyone’s safety and has implemented security measures to allow us to feel safe,” Annunziata wrote. “To hear Maggie’s character attacked saddens and disgusts me.”
Mary Glynn, a youth services and art coordinator at the library, wrote that she had never heard Gough uses racial slurs of any kind in her three years working in Manhasset, and described the director as a “very caring person who is very concerned with the community and ensuring that the library is as diverse as possible.”
“I am shocked by the accusations against Maggie and wish her nothing but the best,” Glynn wrote. “Manhasset Public Library is a wonderful place to work, and I am certain that will continue under Maggie’s direction.”
None of the fourteen statements explicitly discussed the incident on Dec. 14.
Efforts to reach other library employees were unavailing.
Lisa Hendrickson, whose LCH Communications conducts public relations for the library, said last week that the investigation would be finishing by the end of this week, with the findings presented soon afterward.
“I am hopeful that the conclusion of the investigation regarding the original accusation will allow us to move forward with our mission to serve this wonderfully diverse community,” employee Maria Migano wrote in her statement.