Library Director Has Used Racial Slurs Before, Staff Says

Library Director Maggie Gough is currently under investigation for alleged racially-charged language incident in December

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The Manhasset Public Library Director Maggie Gough is currently under investigation by the library’s board of trustees after an incident on Dec. 14 during a violin recital and dress rehearsal in the community room of the library. The incident came to light after an online petition was started by a group of parents that had children involved in the recital that accuses Gough of using racially-charged language. The petition has 811 signatures at the time of publication.

Manhasset Public Library Director Maggie Gough (Photo source: Facebook)

Multiple unnamed staff members of the Manhasset Public Library have also told the Manhasset Press that Gough has a history of using racial slurs in staff meetings and the use of the word “n*gger” on one occasion during a staff meeting several years ago. The staff members chose not to use their names in fear of retribution by Gough.

“She used it jokingly, but she was talking about some chocolates that used to be around and she said that they were called n*gger babies,” a staff member said. “She kept laughing about this and she used it several times. It was just so shocking to me that a supervisor would say that, even jokingly, in a meeting with staff.”

The current investigation is being conducted by the library’s board of trustees’ attorney Peter Fishbein and not an external entity. Fishbein is also the attorney that negotiates the collective bargaining agreement with the staff’s union on behalf of the board. Staff members are expected to be interviewed during the investigation, but several staff members say that they are “fearful” and “scared” of retribution by Gough if they were to tell the truth to investigators.

Fishbein could not be reached for comment.

“We at the library are committed to serving the community in an inclusive way, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, religion or socio-economic status,” President of the Manhasset Public Library Board of Directors Chuck Jettmar said. “There is an investigation underway, which was launched immediately after the incident was brought to the board’s attention, regarding the Dec. 14 incident and we hope to share those findings, when they soon become available. If any library employees have issues with their jobs or managers, we encourage them to follow the proper procedures. If an employee has an issue, there are a number of avenues, including an internal complaint procedure and assistance by their union, that they could turn to for any assistance in bringing a complaint.”

The Manhasset Public Library

A spokesperson for the board of trustees said that Maggie Gough was not available for comment.

“If you say something, the odds are that [Gough] won’t be forced into resigning, and then she would be here and coming down on those that would be telling the truth,” a staff member said.

“If [Gough] keeps her job then it could be quite miserable,” said another staff member. “Especially if any of the board shared with her who shared what and at least one of the board members is pretty friendly with her, possibly two, but one is definitely very friendly with her. I would not trust her to keep it confidential.”

Multiple staff members described a culture with “a lack of communication” from leadership. Gough has a CCTV monitor in her office that is connected to all the video cameras in the library and also has access to the feed from her phone and computer at home. She has told staff that she is obsessed with looking at the video feed. One staff member states that Gough never comes out of her office, but describes her as a “control freak.”

“She has made comments about what is going on that makes it pretty clear that she is looking at the camera because there is no other way she would know,” said a staff member.

One of the teachers that was present at the Dec. 14 incident, Roslyn Huang, was interviewed by the board’s attorney as part of the investigation on Friday, Jan. 3. Huang, a professional violinist and private instructor on the north shore, has had the Long Island Senior and Junior Camerata recital in the community room of the Manhasset Public Library for the last 10 years. Huang’s mother owns the Pearl East Restaurant in Manhasset and caters the event that is held every December and January.

Long Island Camerata performs their recital in the community room of the Manhasset Public Library. (Photo courtesy of Roslyn Huang)

According to Huang, Gough came down to the community room on two occasions.

“An elderly woman came in accompanied by some of the staff members of the custodial staff and she started gesturing angrily,” Huang said about the first time Gough came down, she also did not know who Gough was at the time. “It was distracting enough that the kids actually stopped playing.”

While Gough did eventually leave, Huang says Gough came down a second time. This time Gough was approached by David Gale, one of the co-teachers, so that the kids would not be distracted. Eventually, Huang also went to speak with Gough.

“After the senior camerata was done tuning and they were about to play their first piece, I heard a loud conversation,” Huang said. “I went outside and I introduced myself to her. Her reaction was that we broke the rules of the contract.”

Pearl East catered fruit, mini pastries, dim sum and sushi for the event, and Huang states that this is why Gough got angry, because it was not finger food.

“In our culture, it’s considered finger food,” Huang said.

In a statement released by Gough on the library’s website she stated, “Over a year ago, after having to replace the community room carpet, where exercise and meditation programs encourage children and adults to sit, lie and move on the floor, the MPL Board of Trustees voted to amend the policy to allow only ‘light refreshments’ (which we informally describe as finger foods such as cookies or crudité) and to require an advance deposit against damage for all groups serving liquids and/or food in the community room.”

In the contract that was signed by Huang’s mother with the library it states that “a small kitchen is available to prepare light refreshments,” but says nothing about finger food. The contract also states that a $250 deposit must be submitted to the library if there is any food other than cookies served. This deposit was made by Huang and she received her deposit back.

In the petition at www.change.org/p/manhasset-taxpayers-eradicate-racism-from-the-manhasset-public-library that was created by one of the parents of the kids in the Long Island Camerata, Sanjay Kantu, states that Gough came into the room and used “highly inflammatory and racist comments.” The petition quotes Gough as saying “are you sure they are all from Manhasset? They are all foreigners,” and said she “has to protect the community from your disgusting mess” while referring to the Chinese food catered.

“She has been harassing me for two to three years now,” Huang said, who had no part in setting up the petition. “The only thing that she said that was demeaning was that ‘on Monday morning, yoga people have to come into the library and put their mats on your rice.’”

In her statement Gough says, “On Saturday afternoon, Dec. 14, I responded to an urgent request to come to the lower lobby during a scheduled music recital rehearsal. Prior to that request, I had not spoken with anyone associated with the recital or anyone making arrangements for the recital to use library space. Earlier that afternoon, I had spoken briefly with MPL staff regarding their specific activities and responsibilities. I still do not know what triggered the request, which became heated as soon as I introduced myself, with Ms. Huang and her male associate (who wouldn’t stop to give his name) shouting accusations at me in an unhinged manner for most of 10 minutes. Different versions of the exchange have appeared in the media and online. Horrendous, deeply hurtful and completely unfounded charges have been leveled against me.”

Huang says that Gough also came down last year in June during a recital and told Huang that she would not be getting her $250 deposit back after water was spilled on the carpet.

“I just want to be treated fairly,” Huang said. “Her restrictions on my organization are discriminatory for whatever reason.”

“[Gough] has been upset with this group for a while,” said a staff member. “She has made comments about the food, saying it was messy and smelly.”

In a joint statement, Supervisor Judi Bosworth and Councilmember Veronica Lurvey stated, “In North Hempstead we do not condone hate, racism or intolerance of any sort. It is important that we always remember the power of education and collaboration, which has the incredible potential of spreading understanding and fostering an increased sense of acceptance amongst the residents of North Hempstead and beyond.”

5 COMMENTS

  1. How did someone like Maggie Gough work as the director of Manhasset Public Library for over 8 years with her offensive behavior? There is clear resentment from the staff and the patrons alike. It’s intolerable that our library tax money is paying the salary of such a narrow-minded individual! If indeed she is found guilty as charged, she should be terminated ASAP. I have never voted for the Manhasset Public Library’s budget & elections before (incorrectly thinking that it was always in good hands), but from now on, I will and also keep an eye on those people who are responsible for maintaining our library as a pleasant place for people to work and to visit.

  2. Seven years ago, I was asked to leave the board of the Friends Of The Manhasset Library because I complained about her homophobia. My fellow board members agreed she was homophobic but said that my role was to support the library, not to fight homophobia. The library board, at that time, defended Ms. Gough. They agreed to allow an openly gay author come in and read from his book, In A Queer Voice. But they also agreed to add important LGBTQ books to their shelves, which I do not believe they ever did.

  3. There should be zero tolerance for this type of behavior. Shame on her and what appears to be an equally racist Library Board, Charles Jettmar, Gloria Su, Judith Esterquest, William Hannon, and Donald O’Brien. These people are supposed to represent our community, not their own interests.

    Leaders of our public schools and libraries, which are safe spaces for our children, should be people of high moral character and integrity which given Director Gough’s record of repeated racist and homophobic comments is not.

    The Board runs an investigation with their own attorney and not an outside independent body. It is like a fox guarding the chicken coop! You can guess how this investigation is going to turn out. They spend our tax dollars on lawyers to defend her and a public relations firm to do damage control.

    It seems she has only one interest and it is not our community but keeping her job for which she is grossly overpaid with our money. In the Library Board’s world it seems everybody including parents, students, and library staff are all liars, but Director Gough. She must be terminated from her position by the Board so that the library can be an inclusive place for all again.

  4. These 2 ladies totally deserve each other. Maggie Gough sounds like a psychotic racist nut and Roslyn Huang is another psycho money-hungry disloyal freak who has hired an attorney to squeeze out a few bucks from the library that has been kind enough to host her stupid concerts for the last 20 years. I’ve known Roslyn Huang for long time and she was always very sneaky, underhanded, and conniving while playing the innocent good girl act. She’s full of it. Maggie Gough is a lunatic, but Roslyn Huang is no angel either – she’s just as crazy as Maggie. So grab the popcorn and enjoy this freak show. They should both be banned from the library. Maggie should lose her job and Roslyn should be banned from performing at the library ever again. Roslyn should go get a job at her mother’s restaurant if the violin playing isn’t paying her bills, as lawsuits are detrimental and unproductive to taxpayers.

  5. Being there that Saturday, I was appalled by the library director’s behavior. My children have been students of Roslyns for many years and I have been going to the recitals at the Library for as many years as they have been students. The recitals have always been a cultured event and never out of control. As far as someone calling the concerts stupid, Loree you remind me of Maggie. Children learning to play violin these days to me are more than special and recitals like this support their efforts in sticking with the music. The music is acoustic, non-amplified so volume is not an issue. Also, the food is an added bonus and I have never seen the library left in bad condition. If the director had issues with Roslyn, there could’ve been a different approach in handling the situation and it should have never escalated to a screaming match in front of parents and students. As far as Roslyn, conniving? Money hungry? Unfortunately, in today’s society it is almost automatic to lawyer yourself up in every situation. I don’t believe she is money hungry, for what reason? I have never seen a conniving bone in her body and sneaky? It is plain and simple, Roslyn is teaching children to play violin, if you don’t like the way she teaches your child, you move onto another violin teacher.

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