Tim Cromer, who served as the library's chief administrative officer, and two contractors were charged Tuesday in a 21-count indictment, The Detroit News reported. Cromer, who was fired in February, had been suspended with pay after a raid on his home in West Bloomfield and office last year.
"The employees and the public appear to be the victims of a conspiracy whose scope was larger than anyone ever speculated," said Russ Bellant, president of the library board.
Officials said money that went to line Cromer's pockets and enrich contractors could have been used to keep branches open. Cromer was among the officials involved in the decision to close two branches in 2011 to save about $1 million.
Federal investigators say Cromer, 46, who was paid $145,323 a year, received $1.4 million in kickbacks.
James Henley and Ricardo Hearn, who got contracts to supply technology to the library system, were also charged.