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Stereotypically Remaining Hushed

I can’t quite tear myself away from the Oak Brook story, the one from last week where the mean old conservative guy made a 11-year-old girl cry by making fun of her because she was defending the librarians who’d just been fired. An alert reader commented on a sentence I somehow overlooked.

From the article: "The librarians, who stereotypically remain hushed for this story, obviously feel a bit threatened." This could have been half a stereotype post just in itself!

The commenter had this to say: "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."

Is this what went on at the meeting? As reported, the librarians didn’t defend themselves. Was there some defense prior to the meeting? There are various studies showing the benefit of public libraries to the sort of economic bottom of a community. Since money is the only thing some people value, that should convince them. There probably other studies talking about the impact on the community and things like that.

What was clear is that instead of the librarians making a bold stand laying out the case not only for the public libraries but the librarians themselves, a little girl stood up and tried to defend them. Instead of a rational defense of libraries and librarians, the people at the meeting got an appeal to compassion or pity or something. Pity and compassion are worthwhile moral qualities, but not the sort of sound foundation upon which to build a defense of libraries.

They remained "stereotypically hushed" for the story. Is that because they’re waiting for the Teamsters to come in and solve all the problems? Is this purely a labor issue? I admit it was fun back in the old days to watch some Teamsters bust heads and beat up scabs, but I think they’re a lot gentler these days. Are they going to be able to negotiate with people who can’t even understand the concept of a public good?

Labor negotiation is all well and good, but it has to be combined with a vigorous defense of libraries, preferably by librarians. Celebrity READ posters, library tweets, and 11-year-old girls can only get us so far.




  1. Dances With Books says:

    Well, to those people in Oak Brook, clearly appeals to reason, numbers, a good case, so on, do not matter. And now they have shown that apparently appealing to their emotions does not work either. I mean, you have to be a pretty bad stone cold hearted bastard or bitch to pick on a 11 year old kid pleading with you not to close her library.

    Maybe what case we should be making is along the lines of education and crime. If you don’t want more teens out in the streets vandalizing stuff and breaking into your home to steal your X-Box, keep the library open so they can come play with our X-Box. If you don’t want deadbeat bums roaming your neighborhood, keep the library open so they have a place to go look at porn, get some sleep, and bathe in the bathroom.

    Politically incorrect? Maybe, but I think if we put it in NIMBY terms, even the meanest scrooge will eventually come around. So what if we pretty much turn the library into an arcade and homeless shelter? The 2pointopians have been advocating for the arcade/computer entertainment center for ages. This would not really be a stretch.

  2. Perhaps the librarians were told to keep quiet by the library administration. I know that in the system I work for, all questions or issues related to funding or layoffs are automatically referred to the department that handles community relations, as a matter of policy. We are unionized, but our union has *no* authority over our personal or political activities whatsoever. However, the library does have that authority, and may exercise it when there’s some big media issue. This may be the case here.

  3. AlwaysWanted2B says:

    In some cities, city employees have to be extremely cautious about what they say in an city sponsored open public meeting dealing with budgets, etc., as a matter of law or policy. However, Library Boards, friends of the library etc can be effective vocal advocates. I always go to at least one meeting and speak.

  4. I Like Books says:

    Maybe there’s something libraries can do to market themselves. Or “educate the public”, if you prefer. The level of such activities has traditionally been zero.

    (And I don’t mean “Reading is Cool” posters on the shelf ends.)

  5. Perhaps the media reporting isn’t all what one might think it should be. For example, perhaps this was a report from Faux news.

  6. Elderly librarian says:

    I can’t get this story out of my head either, because I have dealt with the same thing when I was a public library director. I, too, have been threatened with being fired by creeps like that guy in Oak Brook. He is not particularly unusual, it seems, in Illinois or in other states as well. Regrettable, but there are many people out there who do not want to send their money to a public taxing body like the library. Is there a “better way” to “do library service” nowadays? Why doesn’t Oak Brook just contract with another suburban library and pay smaller amounts to have “token” library service? This makes me sick.

  7. Elderly Librarian says:

    This story reminds why I left the public library arena twenty years ago. I got tired of arguing with the “no tax, no spend” people. I was just worn out by it. The job of a public library director is to constantly lobby for the value of your own job. It is exhausting. But I can see that current economic conditions will not put an end to this ongoing task.

  8. If you’re interested, official video of this infamous public meeting is available online:
    Choose the 9-22 meeting; to see supervillain Xinos’ tirade, advance to the 54:50 mark.

  9. noone feeds the stereotype more than people who constantly fuss over the stereotype. just ignore it and it will go away.

  10. Ironically, the report which apparently led the village to layoff the director and other staff was from the consulting arm of Library Associates Companies (LAC), owner of the LibGig job board and sponsor of the Illinois Library Association’s 2009 Librarian of the Year Award. LAC “was hired by the [Oak Brook] Village Board to find ways to cut the library’s budget without affecting services. LAC released a report in August and mentioned the library’s director, saying Klinkow-Hartmann’s ‘demonstrated loyalty to her staff’ would be one factor that would make changes at the library difficult.” Is LAC trying to get people hired or fired? Or burning both ends of the candle?

  11. I disagree with the AL (I often do) who say that the librarians need to be the ones fighting for the budget. I think the most effective fighters for maintaining library funding are the people for whom the library IS an essential service. My library has a 10% budget cut this year, and right now, the word is that we’ll lose another 20% in the next FY. We are facing serious layoffs, reduction in service hours, and loss of services. The Town Council views us as ‘non-essential,” a “want, not a need” and therefore fair game for a cut. We can go and fight for our jobs, but we will be told we are just looking out for ourselves. I favor packing–and I mean packing–the Council chambers with people who are ready to tell the Council that the library is essential to THEM and WHY. Historically, this is the approach that has worked in our community. I do agree with Elderly Librarian that a Director’s job is demanding and thankless. I did it for 12 years, and they haven’t printed enough money to make me do it again.

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