Supposedly, libraries are all about intellectual freedom. I hear the ALA even has a whole office dedicated to it. Apparently some librarians don’t like it, at least as it applies to their employees.
A Kind Reader sent in this story about a library in Minnesota. The headline says it all, or at least most of it: “Investigation fails to find who sent flier criticizing Great River Regional Library.”
Come to think of it, the headline really doesn’t say it all, so let’s spell it out. Someone distributed fliers in the St. Cloud Public Library. “The flier from “Suzy Citizen” criticized management decisions and encouraged library patrons to contact the board of trustees about restructuring within the organization. It was also emailed to board members.”
So it wasn’t a flier criticizing the library at all, but the library managers. What can we tell about the management situation just by this flier?
First, someone, probably an employee, is unhappy with the management decisions. Possibly several someones if someone has gone to this much trouble.
That’s not a big deal. Lots of librarians are unhappy. However, this person so distrusted the library management that he or she did the whole thing secretly.
The first thing the management did was acknowledge the need for dialogue and attempt to build consensus about possible changes.
No, I’m kidding of course. The first thing the management did was hire a lawyer for $140/hour to interview employees and have a forensics review on 15 library computers to try to figure out who did it. That’s one way to alienate the librarians.
Alas, to no avail. The conclusion is that we just can’t know the real identity of Suzy Citizen, and the “culprit” guilty of distributing fliers (gasp!) is still at large.
Suzy Citizen is “probably” an employee, but we can’t be sure.
The lawyer also says that “Distributing the flier violates several Great River policies,” but the story doesn’t say what those policies might be.
Does the library system have a rule against anyone distributing fliers? If so, is that a common rule? I’m not a distributing fliers kind of person, so I wouldn’t know. But I’m pretty sure a public library is public space, and people can distribute fliers in public spaces.
Or is it that there’s a policy against employees distributing fliers, and if the person was an employee…no, that doesn’t make any more sense.
Maybe there’s a policy against librarians speaking in public about the library. That wouldn’t surprise me at all, since I know there are such policies out there.
However, the fact that such policies exist in libraries doesn’t make them any less anti-library.
The union rep seems to be the only one who believes in intellectual freedom in this situation. She says “has said there is no conclusive proof that a Great River employee wrote or distributed the flier,” and “also maintains that the information in it was not confidential and whomever the author is, he or she has a First Amendment right to publish it.”
You’d expect language like that to come from the librarians, but as with so many leaking scandals like this, instead of addressing the issues in the leaks, the first priority is to find and presumably punish the leaker.
It works for the government, so why not the library?