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Epping children's librarian fired for 'chronic issue with attendance'

By Jason Schreiber
Union Leader Correspondent

August 06. 2013 9:41PM

EPPING — Former Epping children's librarian Tracie Wilkins says she was fired from the job she loved because she missed too many days of work while battling seasonal depression and anxiety.

"I've called in more often than they would like," said Wilkins, who held the part-time position at the Harvey-Mitchell Memorial Library for 10 years and admitted that she has a "chronic issue with attendance."

Despite the missed work, Wilkins, who is known as "Miss Tracie" to Epping kids, has developed a large fan base over the years and many of her supporters want her back on the job.

Former library trustee Heather Clark asked selectmen at a meeting Tuesday night to take a vote of no confidence in the town's board of library trustees. She argued that trustees didn't follow state law when they voted to fire Wilkins last month.

Trustees haven't given a reason for the firing, saying it's a personnel matter.

Selectmen refused to get involved in the trustees' vote, saying they have no authority over that board's decisions.

"We as a board of selectmen don't know the reason behind what happened, nor should we because they are library trustees that run the library," said Selectman Tom Gauthier, board chairman.

In an interview earlier Tuesday, Wilkins said she was terminated from the job because of her absences. She said she suffers from seasonal depression and anxiety.

The 48-year-old Wilkins wasn't sure exactly how many days she missed, but said it was less than a dozen in the last seven months.

The dismissal prompted dozens of parents, children and other community members to hold a rally outside the library last month demanding that trustees bring her back. They weren't fazed by the absences and said she's loved by many in the community and has always gone above and beyond while serving in the part-time position, which has no benefits.

An online petition seeking to have her reinstated has also collected 250 signatures.

Wilkins said she's been overwhelmed by the support she's received since the firing.

"I'm very appreciative of the support they have shown. I'm hoping the trustees will reconsider because I do love that job," said Wilkins, who is seeking a public hearing on her dismissal. Michael Vose, library trustee chairman, said his board planned to hold a nonpublic session Tuesday night, but he declined to say what the board planned to discuss.

Despite losing her job, Wilkins spent Tuesday dressed up in period clothing from the Civil War era while volunteering her time for a living history event as part of a summer reading program she began before the firing.

With two tents and other equipment set up next to the parking lot behind the library, Wilkins and her son, Tyler, 15 — both members of the 28th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry reenactment group — talked about the Civil War to kids in programs offered by the library and the town's recreation department.

Wilkins decided to move ahead with the event even after her firing.

If she is hired back, Wilkins said she hopes the trustees will be understanding of her situation and have a better system in place for substitutes to fill in when she's not there.

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