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UPDATE: Parents Are Upset About a New Athens Library Storyteller

Parents are “livid” that a popular storyteller at the Athens-Clarke County Library apparently is being replaced.

Rebecca Ballard reads to children ages 2–5 at 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. each Tuesday. Parent Amanda Cook says that Ballard is being replaced by her boss, Jonathan Dolce, who could not be reached for comment this afternoon. 

Tomorrow morning will be Ballard’s last story time, according to Cook. She said parents will be showing at the library at story times to show their support for Ballard.

Parents are circulating an online petition as well as a letter to library Executive Director Kathryn Ames (who retired in September, I believe, but is still listed as director on the library website) asking for Ballard to be reinstated. The text of the letter is below.

I have recently been informed that Ms. Rebecca Ballard, of the Children’s Department at the Athens-Clarke County Library, has been asked to step down from leading storytime at the library, and is to be replaced by her superior, Mr. Jonathan Dolce. I was shocked and appalled to hear this, as I have never heard a single negative comment about Ms. Rebecca or her storytime curriculum. To the contrary, Ms. Rebecca seems to be a minor celebrity here in Athens, famed for the excellent program she puts on for our city’s little ones.

Ms. Rebecca does an impeccable job leading this program. Her enthusiasm for children’s learning is apparent in everything she does, and she is skilled at engaging the children in a way that I have never seen from anyone else. It is clear that she has a deeply seated love for reading, and genuinely strives to pass this along to the children who attend. I know she makes all the children feel like they are special to her (and I genuinely believe that they are). It is evident that working with children and sharing her love of learning and reading is Ms. Rebecca’s passion.

I have been so impressed with all of the children’s programming at our library. We love attending all of the events, and feel so welcomed by the staff that we have met. The news of this change makes me worry that the department is changing direction, which would really be a shame. Part of the Athens-Clarke County Library mission statement is to “foster enjoyment and a love of reading,” which is precisely what Ms. Rebecca does—I can’t think of a better way to describe her. It would be a crime to remove her from the storytime program at the library. Her excellence has been the reason for our attendance, and we will not attend while this injustice stands. Please allow Ms. Rebecca to keep leading storytime at the library—I can assure you that your other patrons would appreciate it as well.

Ames (who is retiring Dec. 31) responded Tuesday morning:

This is a personnel matter that I refuse to comment on beyond saying that this is much ado about Rebecca being reassigned for 2 storytimes a month out of the many things she does. Our goal is to free her up to do some other outreach activities that we feel are as important to our library’s Strategic Plan.

The fire department has asked us to partner with them to provide fire station stories; and we want to expand our day care center programming.

There is absolutely no truth to the rumor that she is being terminated. 

Jonathan, as head of the department and having 12 years of storytelling experience of his own, should be able to make reassignments of his staff.

I’m very glad there is interest in our program,  but unfortunately some of these rumors are just not true.