R. Reese Fuller

Irvin Mayfield shakes up New Orleans' libraries

by R. Reese Fuller

Irvin Mayfield Jr. is best known as the New Orleans trumpeter who also leads the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, but he's in the spotlight now for his role as the board chairman for the New Orleans Public Library. In an extensive look at the 30-year-old's rise to the position and the subsequent waves he's made, The Times-Picayune reports:
Often outside the public eye, Mayfield and other board members have cleaned house aggressively -- overly so, in the eyes of critics. The four top-ranking librarians and the director of a library support foundation all left as Mayfield, a Grammy nominee whose main gig is directing the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, conducted a major realignment that made a former mayoral aide who isn't a professional librarian the system's top administrator. For now, the support foundation is being directed on an interim basis by a volunteer, Ronald Markham, who is also the chief executive of Mayfield's orchestra and a childhood buddy.

Some departed librarians, as well as close observers of the board's affairs, see the shakeup as a power play by a musician-cum-political figure who wants to micromanage a sprawling library operation from a board seat. ...

But Mayfield and Rica Trigs, 36, a former aide to Mayor Marc Morial now serving as the library's chief administrator, make no apologies for shaking up the institution. Both contend the system was plagued by underperformers. They said there was a need to break from traditional civil service methods, promoting lower-level employees over their bosses.

"Whenever someone in city government has the audacity to be great, people say, 'What's wrong with these guys?' " Mayfield said.

Mayfield and Trigs openly disdain the city's civil service system as too limiting, with Mayfield acknowledging that if he had his way, the entire library leadership would consist of unclassified, at-will employees.