Librarians across the country react to the firing of former CSUF library dean Clem Guthro

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Founding Pollak librarian Ernest Toy and his wife Beverly, who is associate university librarian emeritus at UC Irvine, have decried the firing of former library dean Clem Guthro as “incredible” and “unjust,” in a letter to Cal State Fullerton President Fram Virjee.

“We write to you because you are the only one who can fix this miscarriage of justice,” said the Toys, who are both current library patrons, in their April 20 letter criticizing Virjee for the university’s handling of Guthro’s firing and warning that the situation could stain the reputation of CSUF.

“Looking for a job under the black cloud of having been fired is a losing game none of us would ever want to play,” the Toys said in the letter. “For Cal State Fullerton, hiring honorable and talented faculty will be equally difficult. The firing of Clem Guthro without warning or just cause has created an even blacker cloud for the reputation of the university.”

Jeff Cook, chief communications officer, would not comment on the letter the Toys sent to Virjee. However, Cook said in an email that he was “confident that President Virjee will provide any necessary and appropriate response to correspondence that he has received.”

The Toys then referred to the situation surrounding the health of Guthro’s wife, who was in the hospital for 150 days after being diagnosed with end-stage liver disease.

“(Guthro’s) dismissal amounted to a lethal blow to this family,” the letter read. “He is having to seek employment in far-flung places, with the understanding that his wife and children will have to remain here in the house they had purchased in Santa Ana when they arrived. She is under UCLA’s medical care with her recent liver transplant.”

The Toys, in the letter, then sought Virjee’s “mercy” and “help” for Guthro’s family.

“His termination was unjust, unwarranted and very unfair,” they said in the letter. “Legal, Yes. (Maybe.) Moral? Not at all.”

Guthro, himself, has responded to his own firing in documents obtained by the Daily Titan

In a letter written to and first published by the Fullerton Observer, current and emeriti librarians from universities across the country like St. Lawrence and Colgate in New York, have also expressed their shock at CSUF’s decision to fire Guthro.

“Clem is a valued and trusted colleague in our profession and we were appalled to hear about the way he was treated. All of us who have signed this letter know Clem to be a thoughtful, wise, and visionary leader,” said the librarians’ letter. “When we learned that Clem had moved from Colby to CSU Fullerton, we thought that this California school was lucky to have him.”

The librarians’ letter, which addresses the transition libraries are currently in, credits Guthro with carrying out a project to bring the library at Colby College into the 21st century while he was  director of libraries at Colby.

The authors said they expected CSUF to be receptive to having conversations about the library’s future. “Instead, what apparently has happened is an ill-considered decision to eliminate one important voice in the ongoing campus conversation at Cal State Fullerton.”

The librarians’ letter also condemned the nature of Guthro’s firing.

“Leaving the personal and professional impact aside, this looks like a very problematic way to create consensus around the kind of change that most campuses face these days,” the librarians’ letter said. “On its face, there looks to be a severe lack of due process and a lack of respect for diverse opinions.”

The final concerns expressed in the Toys’ letter implored the university’s sympathy for Guthro’s family.

“It may take a while for Clem to find a new job and we are all concerned about lack of health coverage and income depletion during this next difficult phase of Clem’s career,” the librarians’ letter said. “In the long run, we hope that the powers that be at Cal State Fullerton also give some thought to their personnel protocols and practices with a view toward instituting a more rational and humane process.”

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