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These days, I'm the director of the American Library Association' s Office for Intellectual Freedom. I'm also executive director and secretary of the Freedom to Read Foundation. See "About Me" for contact information.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Two library stories

I'm in Elko, Nevada, for a gathering of Nevada Library Association folks. Tomorrow, I'm speaking on library advocacy. It happens that I got two emails today, one about a library in Illinois (where I come from), and one about the library I now direct in Douglas County, Colorado. The timing couldn't be better.

Here's the first article, with a snippet from the beginning, then the link:
Telling her mother that she wanted to come to the aid of a library under attack, 11-year-old Sydney Sabbagha stood at the podium before the Oak Brook village board.

"I used to go to the library knowing there were people there to help me find a book. Now there is no one to help me," Sydney said solemnly. "It will never be the same without the people you fired."

Sydney nestled back into her seat, but that didn't stop 69-year-old criminal attorney Constantine "Connie" Xinos from boldly putting her in her place.

"Those who come up here with tears in their eyes talking about the library, put your money where your mouth is," Xinos shot back. He told Sydney and others who spoke against the layoffs of the three full-time staffers (including the head librarian and children's librarian) and two part-timers to stop "whining" and raise the money themselves.

"I don't care that you guys miss the librarian, and she was nice, and she helped you find books," Xinos told them.

"Don't cry crocodile tears about people who are making $100,000 a year wiping tables and putting the books back on the shelves," Xinos smirked, apparently referencing the fired head librarian, who has advanced degrees and made $98,676 a year. He said Oak Brook had to "stop indulging people in their hobbies" and "their little, personal, private wants."

You can find the rest of this appalling tale here. (And thank you, B. Strand, for sending it to me.)

The second story starts like this:
More and more patrons are walking through the doors at libraries throughout Douglas County, but it’s not because of a sudden rise in avid readers.

Job hunters are coming in droves to utilize free resources offered by Douglas County Libraries — including employment databases, helpful workshops and Internet-ready computers.

Dozens of out-of-work residents have found employment by fine-tuning their resumes, browsing through the Douglas County Employment iGuide and drafting attention-grabbing cover letters.

Many of those who utilize library job-searching services do not have to go it alone. A team of reference librarians, along with a few volunteers, walk laid-off workers through a process that many have not experienced in several years.

And the rest of that, more uplifting tale, can be found here.

First story: libraries don't matter. Our perfect villain.

Second story: libraries matter a lot. With lots of heroes.

The second one, of course, would be advocacy. (And thank you, Chris Michlewicz, for writing it!)

4 comments:

Jo said...

Thank you for posting, especially about the Oak Brook Library. I am a librarian in Illinois in a suburb near Oak Brook, and am appalled at what's happening there (and so are my friends who live in Oak Brook).

FemGeek said...

It's people like the first person who are hurting this society. I want to be a librarian, it is the entire reason I went to college. So I could help people find the information they want. I can see our culture crumbling under our feet because people like him taking away the archives that keep said culture.

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little said...

I went to the Oak Bridge story and read some of the comments... I was surprised to see that everyone referred to Xinos as a "conservative" or a "right winger"; he sounded like a Libertarian to me--much like that "ammouth" person who blathered on in your wonderful "Uncle Bobby's wedding" post that Neil Gaiman linked recently.

I don't understand people who argue that the Internet has made libraries obsolete. Don't they know that for many people, the public library is the only Internet access they have? I'm used to the ignorance that assumes that everyone can afford books, but who are these supremely unaware naifs who think that everyone can afford their own wi-fi enabled laptop of their own?

Our libraries are the safeguard of our liberty, because they are the safeguard of our literacy. I try to restrain myself from labeling people "evil," but it's pretty hard for me when they are actively trying to shut down libraries. And when they're Constantine Xinos, proudly bragging about making an 11-year-old cry and "lose sleep", my incentive to continue giving the benefit of the doubt just goes away.

Thank you for your blog and your good work, Jamie. I'm just up the road from you in Boulder, and it would be a pleasure to deliver my thanks in person one of these days. Reading your aforementioned "Uncle Bobby's Wedding" post, I could only mentally respond, "I want to be him when I grow up." Cheers.

Ms. Yingling said...

Thankfully, our school levy just passed. Librarians would have been some of the first people cut if it hadn't. I think I work really hard, but there are always people out there who don't. How sad that those are the ones society remembers and talks about. Thanks for the work you do in educating the public.