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Past and Current AOK Library Employees Reveal Negative Experiences with Supervisor

Originally published in print in University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s The Retriever.

Editor’s note: This article contains mentions of suicide and self harm.

In the last two months, calls for the firing of Albin O. Kuhn Library and Gallery Circulation Manager Paula Langley have widely circulated across the University of Maryland, Baltimore County campus. This movement was sparked from the suicide of Library Technician Vivien Barrett in 2016, whose death was allegedly caused by Langley’s harassment and discriminatory behavior.

Since the explosion of the topic on UMBC’s campus, both former and current employees have begun to tell their personal experiences with Langley. One former employee, Olivia Haynes, was a student worker in the Circulation department under Barrett from 2008 to 2011 before working as a full-time Holds Technician from 2017 to 2018.

“Paula’s not just transphobic. She’s also ableist, she’s ageist…I think she hits on almost every single pin of bigotry except for race and gender,” said Haynes. “I don’t know why she’s not hitting Yahtzee.”

Throughout her time as a Holds Technician under Langley, Haynes said she experienced discriminatory treatment beginning from the hiring process until her last day of work.

A petition calling for the removal of Langley from 2021 reads: “In 2017, Paula was named in an EEOC [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] suit by Olivia Haynes for discrimination in hiring when a search committee she led dismissed Olivia, an extremely-qualified candidate, at her direction, because she, Paula, expressed ‘something is wrong with her.’”

Perry Alexander, former AOK Library Evening and Weekend Shift Supervisor from 1981-2021, recalls the process of hiring Haynes.

“[Langley] didn’t want her in there because she’s ‘crazy’ and ‘talks too much,’” said Alexander.

“‘Something’s wrong with her.’ That’s what Paula said about me. ‘Something’s wrong with her,’” said Haynes. “Only once Paula was removed from the [hiring] committee was I actually able to get a job.”

Haynes often heard Langley use the term “dyslexic” in a derogatory manner.

“[Langley] loves using the word dyslexic. She really means being lazy or thinking like a stupid person,” she said.

Langley created and distributed a guide for tracer searching for library employees on Feb. 5, 2018, that read, “Be dyslexic – if the call number is PS121.C56, search PS211, PS221, etc.”

Haynes also had issues while trying to take notes in meetings with Langley.

“She said I should be able to remember everything…I had to get an ADA [accommodation] to take notes,” says Haynes.

Haynes described another time, to which she refers to as “The Bible Incident,” where Langley made her feel uncomfortable and unwelcome at the library. Haynes and other former and current AOK Library employees stated that “The Bible Incident” was when Langley, a leader within her Seventh Day Adventist Church, brought a Bible to a work meeting and led a prayer. At the time, employees were required to present a hobby or topic for about 30 minutes as part of a team-building exercise.

“[Langley] told us she will be presenting on her church, passed out [King James Version] Bibles…and said this would be like ‘Sunday school,’” read an email from Gregory Strack, Library Services Specialist, which was supplied to The Retriever by Haynes, during the period of grievance filings.

Strack’s email details how he was asked by Langley if he was “familiar with life after death” and “Christ as a redeeming savior.”

“I let [Langley] know I didn’t think that was a work question,” wrote Strack. “When asked again, I said it is my belief that what I was taught or not about faith and what I thought about those ideas was no one’s business.”

This telling of the “Bible Incident” is echoed by multiple other former AOK Library employees who were working at the time.

Even employees who never knew Barrett report having issues with Langley and wishing she did not work at the AOK Library.

“People [on Reddit] were questioning, like, are we just harassing some woman for no reason? Is there substance to this?” one current employee who wished to remain anonymous in fear of retaliation from Langley. “You don’t want to start a witch hunt if there’s no witch, you know, but there’s a witch.”

Beyond Langley’s negative interactions with other AOK Library employees, the anonymous current employee stated that Langley is equally bad in student interactions.

“It’s hard to watch the way [Langley] interacts with students…it’s very uncomfortable to watch,” the anonymous current employee said. “The library is seriously a fantastic place to work. Pretty much everyone gets along, and the sentiment is kind of like, goddamn it, if [Langley] wasn’t here, things would be perfect.”