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BPL fires employee who oversaw misfiled prints

The Boston Public Library in Copley Square.
The Boston Public Library in Copley Square.(Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff)

The Boston Public Library has quietly fired a longtime employee who had been placed on paid leave as authorities investigated the disappearance of two prints worth more than $600,000 which were later discovered misfiled at the Copley Square branch.

Susan Glover, who joined the library staff in 1999 and had served as keeper of special collections since 2007, was notified earlier this month that she had been discharged, according to her lawyers.

“We are very disappointed in the BPL administration and the decision,” said one of Glover’s attorneys, Mark E. Burke. “We are reviewing the matter and weighing all of her options.”

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Melina Schuler, a spokeswoman for the library, declined to comment on the reason for Glover’s dismissal, citing the privacy of personnel matters. She said Glover was paid nearly $51,000 while on administrative leave from April 20 until her employment ended Oct. 1.

The disappearance of the prints by Albrecht Durer and Rembrandt prompted a criminal investigation by the Boston police and the FBI, intense criticism by Mayor Martin J. Walsh and other critics of the library’s failure to safeguard its treasures, and led to the resignations of library president Amy Ryan and board of trustees chairman Jeffrey B. Rudman.

Ryan said members of her staff knew that Durer’s “Adam and Eve” was missing in June 2014, but didn’t tell her until April 10. She said she launched a search, believing it may have been misfiled, then notified police on April 15 when it was discovered that Rembrandt’s “Self-Portrait With Plumed Cap and Lowered Sabre” was also missing. After a seven-week search of the sprawling print stacks by library staffers, the prints were discovered June 4 on a shelf just 80 feet from where they should have been filed, according to authorities.

Glover, who was the only employee placed on paid leave during the investigation, had always maintained that the prints were misfiled and felt vindicated when they were recovered inside the library, according to Burke.

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“Historically, items would go missing, and she indicated as much from the beginning, that the items were misplaced,” Burke said. “It is her position that this was common and that the BPL administration was aware of it.”

Glover’s departure was first reported in The Boston Courant, but the revelation that she was discharged was a new development on Friday.

A city-commissioned audit that was launched before the prints went missing was released in May. It found that the library inadequately protects its special collections from theft, haphazardly stores some of its most valuable items, and does not keep a complete inventory of its prized objects.

In June, a consultant hired by the library to assess its world-class art collection found that the 320,000 prints and drawings have been neglected for years and are in dire need of space, a massive reorganization, and a complete inventory. “Benign neglect is no longer acceptable,” wrote Simmons College professor Martha Mahard, who spent a year assessing the library before issuing her report. “Active engagement, informed leadership, and increased resources are called for.”

Last month, a mold outbreak forced the library to close its rare books department after staff found fuzzy white spores on a medieval manuscript and other historical items in its collection of 500,000 rare books and 1 million manuscripts. “The temperature and humidity levels have been normalized,” Schuler said Friday, estimating that the rare books room will remain closed for another six weeks while books are cleaned. She said it was unclear whether any of the collection has suffered permanent damage.

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As for the print collection, Schuler said that Mahard and a group of interns are doing an item-by-item inventory that should be completed by March. The library has also appointed Beth Prindle, who managed the library’s exhibitions and programs, to serve as acting keeper of special collections until a permanent replacement is found for Glover, according to Schuler.


Shelley Murphy can be reached at shmurphy@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shelleymurph.