Yes, it angers me when a librarian (even when she is a "not a librarian") is fired from her job, especially when it seems like she was doing everything right.
But as a supervisor, I also value the probationary period that allows me to terminate an employment for any reason. I've been lucky so far to hire good people, so I don't have the rules memorized, but I went through probation for my job and I've known several librarians who also survived the probationary period.
Even though I was doing good work, I was still never sure that I would be allowed to remain; that final day came with the expected relief, but up till then I knew that my job wasn't guaranteed.
It's difficult to separate these events because I believe that I should be able to terminate someone on probation without scrutiny. It can takes months to get approval to re-advertise a position, and often it's the best decision for the department to keep an average employee for as long as possible before terminating her.
But I also believe supervisors and library boards should back up their employees' decisions, as long as they conform with policy.
All I can say is, I'm glad it wasn't my phone that rang that day with Biesterfeld on the other end. Can you imagine being the supervisor (yes, we're using our imaginations here, kids), fully intent on letting Biesterfeld go, and getting that call that someone is looking at kiddie porn? You tell her, basically, to ignore it, or at least not to judge the material as illegal, but to get the guy to stop. You don't want to create an incident that's going to interfere with your ability to fire this employee.
And as long as we're using our imaginations, here are three other things you don't want to hear from anyone you're about to fire:
- I just saved a kitten from up a tree.
- I just performed the Heimlich on Barack Obama who was choking on a Starlight mint, and saved his life.
- I just destroyed the one ring to rule them all. Oh, and Gollum is dead.
You'd made your decision days ago and the only policy you care about is not using any language that would indicate praise or that you are approving her continued employment with the library. In fact, you probably have a form ready with some variation of this statement on it: "It is my recommendation that this individual's employment NOT be continued at this time."
So I sympathize with Biesterfeld because the evidence still points to her doing the right thing. But if I had that document on my desk, for terminating an average employee so I could look for someone better, I would have signed it and sent it on its way to human resources. Like I said, it's difficult to separate these issues, but I didn't get my job because I'm a nice guy. I make my decisions based on what's best for my department and the library. And sometimes those decisions suck.