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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Head librarian's firing at museum protested

By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writer

Supporters of Marilyn Lum "Kanani" Reppun are asking the Hawaiian Mission Children's Society to reinstate her as the 154-year-old organization's head librarian, following her firing Dec. 14 by its board of trustees.

Reppun had been head librarian of the Hawaiian Mission Homes museum and children's library from July 1991 until March 2005, when she accepted the position of interim executive director. When the board hired David de la Torre as executive director, Reppun went back to her duties as head librarian last November.

She had spent the last seven months of her time as interim executive director researching and completing a report for 10-year re-accreditation by the American Association of Museums.

"I was completely caught off-guard," Reppun said yesterday of her dismissal. She declined further public comment.

The Association of Hawaii Archivists wrote to Robert L. Becker III, president of the society board that fired Reppun, asking that she be reinstated.

"We cannot imagine an offense so great as to warrant her dismissal, nor can we conceive of any justification for the extremely uncouth manner in which it was performed," Helen Wong Smith, president-elect of the archivists association, said in a Dec. 18 letter to Becker.

Becker sent a written response to University of Hawai'i professor of archives and library history Andrew B. Wertheimer, who has posted an online appeal for Reppun's reinstatement. Becker said:

"I appreciate your regard for Ms. Reppun's leadership within the community of librarians, archivists and historical researchers as well as her knowledge of the collection. Although the Society will not publicly discuss the reasons for terminating Ms. Reppun's employment, I assure you that it had nothing to do with her leadership in the community or her knowledge of the Mission House collection."

Becker included a memo sent to staff Dec. 14 noting that "the future of the Museum depends upon implementation of the strategic plan approved by the board this past summer" and to that end, the board wants members of the management team, including the head librarian, to be selected by the new executive director, Becker said.

Reach Rod Ohira at rohira@honoluluadvertiser.com.