Earlier this week, Katie Baxter, the director of the Kodiak Public Library was put on administrative leave. The City of Kodiak will not comment on its reasons for taking this action, but as KMXT reports some who have worked with Baxter say this was a long time coming.
On her way to drop off some books at the Kodiak Public Library, Athenia Large saw something unexpected. The library’s director Katie Baxter looking upset as she was escorted out of the building by Kodiak’s city manager.
“My impression of it was that Katie showed up to work that day thinking it was just another day and this kinda came out of nowhere.”
Large went up to Baxter and asked what was going on. That’s when she found out Baxter had been put on administrative leave by the city.
Baxter has been the director of the library for about five years. Athenia Large served on the board of the Kodiak Public Library Association until recently and worked closely with Baxter. Large says she looks up to the director as a mentor, but she knows some people didn’t get along with her.
Since Baxter took charge, Large says, the library’s had a steady turnover of staff.
Large: “We lost a lot of old employees fairly quickly. So, I know that was a little bit of a concern. Why are we losing so many valuable old employees.”
Borden: “When you heard, were you surprised she was put on leave were you surprised?”
Ellsworth: “There had been concerns raised about Katie for quite some time.”
Community members like Aaren Ellsworth, say the loss of so many staff members, among other things, shows a lot about Baxter’s management style.
Another sign, according to Ellsworth is some families with young children haven’t felt welcome in the library since Baxter became the director. She says even her five-year-old doesn’t like going to the library because of how they’ve been treated in the past.
“For a long time, it just seemed like every time we went there we just kinda got in trouble for something. Somebody was being too loud or climbing up in a way they didn’t care for or picking out too many books. You know, doing kid stuff.”
Baxter’s very particular about how the library should be run and former employees say she has high, sometimes harsh, expectations for her staff. David Prantner worked at the library for about five years. He says when Baxter became the director, the library became a hard place to work.
“There were lots of instances where I’d go up and ask a question and be berated for it or I’d see her treating another one of my coworkers poorly. Using the word stupid or backwards or something like that.”
Almost out of nowhere, Prantner says, Baxter fired him. She told him it was because his work was unsatisfactory, but he doesn’t believe this. Prantner says he’s doesn’t care about losing his job anymore though. He just wants Baxter to be held accountable for how she treated her staff.
“It was not a safe or friendly workplace. We were just pretty much scared anytime she was in the building.”
According to many sources, the city was aware of complaints against Baxter. Another former employee, who wants to remain anonymous, was sexually harassed by a patron while working at the library. She says Baxter tried to shame her for how she handled the situation and even questioned if the incident happened. The employee ended up quitting because of Baxter’s reaction to the event.
Before leaving her position, about nine months ago, the employee filed a written complaint with Mike Tvenge, Kodiak’s current city manager. In it, she detailed how she didn’t feel safe in the library building and Katie Baxter’s disrespectful treatment. The employee says Tvenge never followed up with her about the complaint.
KMXT reached out to Katie Baxter and Kodiak’s city manager Mike Tvenge for this story, but both declined to comment.