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Fighting Scrooge in Illinois

For all sorts of reasons, I’m glad I don’t have to live in Oak Brook, IL, especially if I were still a little girl who likes libraries. A kind reader sent this story to me. It tells the sad tale of one man’s crusade to destroy public libraries and make little girls cry, preferably at the same time. When an 11-year-old girl spoke out in a public meeting against firing the three librarians, she received a stiff rejoinder from criminal attorney Constatine Xinos which reduced her to tears:

"Those who come up here with tears in their eyes talking about the library, put your money where your mouth is…. Don’t cry crocodile tears about people who are making $100,000 a year wiping tables and putting the books back on the shelves…." He said Oak Brook had to "stop indulging people in their hobbies" and "their little, personal, private wants."

"I wanted that kid to lose sleep that night," a grinning Xinos says Wednesday, as he invites me for a nearly two-hour interview in his Mercedes-Benz in the gated Oak Brook community where he lives. "This is the real world and the lesson, you folks who brought your kids here, is if you want something, pay for it."

Having grown up one himself, he also doesn’t like poor people. "I don’t want to live next to poor people. I don’t want poor people in my town."

In general, he just seems like a classy guy. "Xinos, who says he never had children in part because he wasn’t sure he’d be able to support them, sprinkles the F-word throughout his conversations. He dismisses a recent library event involving dogs with a blunt three-word rant in which he bookends swear words around the word ‘that.’"

Apparently the ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Future haven’t visited him yet. Maybe they can’t get through the gates of his "community."

He thinks he’s conservative, but I’m not so sure. "’I understand that my philosophy is conservative,’ Xinos says, adding that government just needs to catch bad guys, put out fires, fix the streets and make sure buildings are sturdy." If he wants to consider himself "conservative," that’s fine, but I don’t see anything particularly conservative about eliminating public libraries (or schools or museums). That isn’t conservative. It’s just unenlightened self-interest. True conservatives want to cultivate the local institutions that can focus and support their communities. People who want to destroy public institutions are just radicals.

One wonders whether Xinos ever attended a public school or university. If he really grew up poor in Berwyn, I’m betting he did. If so, this makes his "conservative" "philosophy" even more difficult to take seriously. Even the rich benefit from public institutions, but the poor benefit even more from them. His inconsistent "philosophy" seems to be, "public educational institutions shouldn’t exist, now that I don’t benefit directly from the anymore."

The fired Oak Brook librarians are trying to bring in the Teamsters (whom Xinos – surprise, surprise – also doesn’t like), and, who knows, possibly the ALA will involve itself in this case. I suspect the Teamsters would be more effective than the ALA. They probably at least have some baseball bats to enforce their will.

Xinos will never be persuaded of the shortsightedness of his views, but some people could perhaps be persuaded of the value of libraries, even to a rich enclave like Oak Brook. However, the battle won’t be won with lists of "banned" books that librarians are supposedly defending, or stories about how librarians aren’t all the stereotypical shushing maids of yore, or rousing manifestos about how videogames or Twitter are going to save libraries.

Librarians have got to start emphasizing more than ever their role in educating the public rather than pushing the techno-fluff they so often do now. "Woo hoo, we’ve got videogames! Woo hoo, we write a blog!" Who cares? Everyone has videogames and blogs. Librarians can stay on the cutting edge of technology  and gaming all they like, but if they continue to do so in the ways they often do now, then there’s not much of a public argument to be made for them. Unfortunately, the librarians one hears the most from these days seem to think gaming or "social media" will save us all, but unless we come up with credible reasons why libraries support the common good, there’ll be no libraries in Twopointopia.

Reading, literacy, education. Librarians need to show that’s what they increase and that increasing them is good for communities. One good children’s librarian can do considerably more for a community than an army of library bloggers and Tweeters. The frustrated trendsetters want to turn libraries into high tech entertainment centers, but most people can get all the high tech entertainment they want at home. The people who pay taxes to support libraries are already on the better side of the digital divide. If that’s what libraries are about, then the Xinoses of the world will win.

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annoyedlibrarian@gmail.com

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Comments

  1. DLJ says:

    Maybe the ALA (or some other organization of concerned libraries) should begin to compile a library statistical abstract which would keep track of such things as, say, number of individuals who went through a literacy program, number of items circulated (by classification number) to patrons by age group, kinds of activities which the library coordinates with public school system (since public schools seem to be losing their libraries now) and attendance / use of these programs. YOu get the idea. In order to prove the public libraries’ continued usefulness we are probably going to have to keep user stats, send them to some central collecting point and have all this documented on an annual basis, so that assertions of the usefulness of a library or library system can be documented. I expect a lot of these kinds of stats are already kept; it would just be a question of doing more with them than putting them into the library’s annual report.
    Perhaps something like this is already being done (some Bowker publication?) and I have just never seen it.

  2. Wow says:

    “Don’t cry crocodile tears about people who are making $100,000 a year wiping tables and putting the books back on the shelves….”

    $100,000 a year; that must be one heck of a library. The pay scale doesn’t go that high in my area!

  3. hmm says:

    When I was looking for library job opportunities in Chicago in the 90′s I was struck by the low salaries (below $30,000 at that time). I was told that, except for administrative positions, salaries were determined by assuming that the applicants had husbands making six figures and that they would be working for “pin money”.

  4. Xinos says:

    Xinos is Greek for “sour.” Literally. Look it up.

  5. NotMariantheLibrarian says:

    Good thing Xinos didn’t reproduce. Of course, with a personality like his he might not have had the opportunity anyway.

  6. astro2.0 says:

    Reading, literacy and education have evolved beyond more than just books, and that includes social media. The underlying message of this blog posting is completely contradicts Ohio’s success in reducing budget cuts to Ohio libraries in a short amount of time. Twitter (and Facebook) did play a role in saving Ohio libraries. It was tools like Twitter and Facebook that rallied library staff and supporters in the span of a weekend to campaign to “Save Ohio Libraries.” They only had about 9 days to organize supporters, too. There were even avatars created for people’s Twitter and Facebook page that spread over that weekend. Governor Strickland’s own Facebook and Twitter accounts were crammed with messages in support of Ohio’s libraries and “their role in educating the public.”

    Social media has the potential to be a free, relevant marketing tool for libraries, but it also has to be relevant to customers’ needs and desires. Not only is marketing on social media free, but social networking media has also become an extremely valuable tool for spreading news via media outlets and the common people. Look at what happened in the elections in Iran!

    There is relevancy in social media, but there is no longer an “authoritative source.” Many people would rather read a blog, like the Annoyed Librarian’s, instead of opening up a newspaper. Are we being elitist, like Xenos, if we exclude the social networkers?

  7. Post Postmodern Librarian says:

    Social networking are great tools for social networking if they were not why would we use them? But for education and supporting the masses in the desire to improve themselves I have seriously doubts. Unless you count hooking up with someone as an improvement. In the end the battle for libraries mission boils down to are we social gathering places or are we places of education. Everyone loves to socialize so numbers will be higher, but at what cost? Its also a lot easier to build education program with socialization as a secondary mission then it is to go the other way.

  8. Dances With Books says:

    >>”Librarians have got to start emphasizing more than ever their role in educating the public rather than pushing the techno-fluff they so often do now.”

    >>Unfortunately, the librarians one hears the most from these days seem to think gaming or “social media” will save us all, but unless we come up with credible reasons why libraries support the common good, there’ll be no libraries in Twopointopia.

    Reading, literacy, education. Librarians need to show that’s what they increase and that increasing them is good for communities.”

    Great points right there. Social networking may have its uses, but it is not something to replace basics in reading, education and literacy, which right now are seriously lacking in this nation. If the libraries don’t start seriously making a case for how they contribute to the common good, an educated and informed citizenry, and do more than just be a glorified arcade (without the quarters; at least real arcades made some money), they will let the Xinos of the world win. Then again, bread and circus may be easier than actually putting some work in. And I say that as a user of various social networking tools and blogger. Those are nice. They have their uses for library marketing, so on, but they are not the cure-all.

  9. anonymous says:

    I can’t condone any of Xinos’ comments, but neither can I condone this: “The librarians, who stereotypically remain hushed for this story, obviously feel a bit threatened.”
    If we, as a profession, are going to rely on 10 year olds to speak up for us, we will absolutely get steamrolled by people who see little or no value in a public library. AL is right on – *WE* have to start making our value known.

  10. I Like Books says:

    I wonder if Xinos the Conservative realizes that a democracy needs an educated population? And I hope he doesn’t think that blogs and talk radio is sufficient! And sure, there’s newspapers, or their internet equivalents, and those are important. But for a deeper understanding you still can’t beat books. To pick one subject that’s on a lot of people’s minds, you might look for titles like

    Terror in the name of God: Why religious militants kill

    Inside Al-Qaeda: Global network of terror

    Al-Jazeera : the inside story of the Arab news channel that is challenging the West

    Why do you kill? : the untold story of the Iraqi Resistance

    There is so much more to that stuff than the simple-minded paap of talk radio or the limited coverage of the newspaper would ever have you believe. And some of it is pretty important– within those pages are obvious applications in foreign policy. And to the extent that the population pushes the political process in one direction or another, the population needs to know some of it.

    Find your own favorite subject and relevant titles. If you’re getting your information from blogs and the radio, that is insufficient! Read some books. For all the video games and stuff, THIS is one example of the library’s role in supporting our democracy. It shouldn’t be screwed around with, it’s too important.