Former CSUF library dean Clem Guthro was fired after a struggle for control over Pollak Library space, emails allege

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graphic displaying cal state fullerton's administration
(Tracy Hoang / Daily Titan)

A turf war over space in the Pollak Library may have brought down former CSUF library dean Clem Guthro, who will be replaced by Emily Bonney, interim assistant vice president for academic human resources.

It appears the dismissal resulted from a “conflict over allocation of space” between Guthro and the Division of Information Technology as part of the work being carried out to repair and remodel Pollak Library, according to an email sent to faculty by the Emeriti Association webmaster.

Cal State Fullerton’s Vice President of Information and Technology Amir Dabirian denied being in conflict with former library deans.

“I worked with (Guthro) very professionally for the past year, and professionally with the previous librarians and with Dr. Bonney. My job is to partner with whoever is in that role moving forward, and I look forward to working with them,” Dabirian said.

Guthro was abruptly terminated on March 2. The same day, Kari Knutson Miller, provost and vice president for academic affairs, emailed the library faculty and staff to tell them they had a new temporary leader.

Not all faculty have been happy about the decision. 

“Here is a provost who did not support the academic Dean of the Library, rather she submitted to the wishes of the VP of IT,” said a faculty member to another faculty member in an email obtained by the Daily Titan.

“The librarian is responsible for the library and should protect what it does and how it does it. He should not be fired for doing so. Rather it is the provost who must work out any issues the VP IT has and then work with the librarian to either accommodate the VP IT or tell him ‘No,’” the faculty member wrote in the same email.

Knutson Miller said the entire campus community, including Dabirian, has a voice in what happens with the library.

It really is a partnership in terms of supporting the space initiative and the programming initiatives as well,” Knutson Miller said.

Academic Senate member Jon Bruschke said any “substantive issues” occuring in the library should have come to the attention of some senate entity, like the library committee or executive committee, which handles problems on campus.

“There was no opportunity for anyone other than administration to have any input or do anything that could have helped,” Bruschke said. “There was no indication that there was any problem that should result in the dismissal of a high-ranking person when it was so abrupt and there was no obvious replacement.”

Some faculty and Patrons of the Library were not only upset by what they believed led to Guthro’s firing, but that he was fired without warning after 11 months. 

“That they would do this to him, whether its legal or not, just seems so inhumane and so unlike Cal State Fullerton,” said Beverly Toy who attended a recent Patrons of the Library board meeting where Knutson Miller spoke.

The Dean of the Library position is an “at-will position that does not attain permanent status,” said Jeff Cook, CSUF chief communications officer, in an email.  

“They’re not going to be able to get anybody of any stature. The word is going to get out,” said Toy, whose husband, Ernest Toy, was the founding librarian at CSUF. “Who’s going to want to come to Cal State Fullerton if they’re treated like that?”

Before Guthro was hired in December 2016, there had not been a permanent dean of the library since Richard C. Pollard retired in 2013.

Knutson Miller and President Framroze Virjee appointed Bonney as interim library dean on March 9. This takes Bonney away from her position as interim assistant vice president for Academic Human Resources.

timeline of Pollak library deans
(Tracy Hoang / Daily Titan)

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