Elmwood Park: A Case Study in Library De-Professionalization
March 10, 2023 7:10 PM   Subscribe

The December 2022 minutes of the Elmwood Public Library Board meeting (IL) are unlike any public library meeting minutes you’ve likely seen. Though public comment was not long, the minutes indicate extreme discontent happening within the walls of the library. And, perhaps, the library’s advertising over 1/5 of their positions as open–all of which are full-time, professional and managerial positions–also sheds light on what appears to be a Board eager to deprofessionalize the facility while implementing an anti-DEI, anti-inclusive culture in order to “align” with the needs of the community.
posted by Etrigan (22 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I am a library trustee. This is not how library trustees are supposed to work.

This is not stewardship, this is a putsch.

Utterly infuriating.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:38 PM on March 10 [11 favorites]

Being "neutral like Switzerland" is not the moral high road the board apparently thinks it is.
posted by Ickster at 8:06 PM on March 10 [10 favorites]

Oof. I'm an academic librarian in the Chicagoland area and at first I was sort of like, yeah, credentialism actually is a problem in librarianship, a lot of libraries could attract more and better candidates by loosening their strict MLIS requirem---oh fuck, oh fuck, oh no
posted by pullayup at 10:41 PM on March 10 [18 favorites]

Mod note: One comment removed; It may be a little early in the thread to veer into a discussion of Comic Sans.
posted by taz (staff) at 12:38 AM on March 11 [3 favorites]

These board idiots are upset that “too many” library items are getting checked out, making them “unavailable” for other patrons… ?!

Let me guess, they insisted on having one of those transphobic books that would be considered hate speech if we took hate speech against trans folks seriously, and then there was a campaign by community members to keep it checked out.
posted by eviemath at 4:25 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]

(As in, out of the hands of clueless parents who would use it as some sort of parenting guide and end up doing serious abuse and harm to their trans kids.)
posted by eviemath at 4:26 AM on March 11

And the neutrality bit - if one kid is bullying another kid, they want the library staff to kick both kids out. Or if one patron of any age is contravening library rules and saying racist or other bigoted things to another patron, they want to kick both patrons out. That’s a horrifyingly shitty policy.

But also, reading between the lines, I’m guessing they or one of their friends said something really terrible but in a quiet voice, and the person in the receiving end of their bigotry made a fuss, and so staff came and ascertained what had happened and kicked out the bigoted friend of the board members. But they know that they can’t quite directly say “oh, you should let us say any racist or homophobic or just snidely disrespectful or bullying thing to other patrons without consequence”, so they want to ensure that their victims also get penalized. And you just know they’ll be oh so upset if such a policy ever gets applied by kicking out some white person who got upset by being quietly and calmly told they were being a racist or homophobic bigot. (Though, a campaign to try that repeatedly and make a point of it, making the library less easy and pleasant to use for these authoritarian bigots, would be at the least amusing.)
posted by eviemath at 4:37 AM on March 11 [4 favorites]

Similar things happening in MT. In Flathead county, some right-wing trustees started pulling books and it lead to a whole chain reaction of resignations and further had decisions.

Things are even worse next door in Idaho, where an entire community college faces decertification because a similar takeover.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 5:25 AM on March 11 [7 favorites]

Oh North Idaho is a great place for libraries. Boundary County doesn't even HAVE a library anymore because of the culture wars. Death threats to the librarian and bigoted loud mouths led to the entire enterprise being shuttered.
posted by hippybear at 8:05 AM on March 11 [4 favorites]

Back in Toronto's Rob Ford era he appointed a guy to the library board who resigned in a fit of pique when it became apparent that not even Rob wanted to move forward with his proposal to close almost 40% of the branches in the system, but what's going on with public libraries in certain U.S. states is far beyond even that dude's wildest dreams.

The lamps are going out all over America, and I'm not sure we'll see them lit again in our life-times.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:35 AM on March 11 [8 favorites]

A lot of libraries are under attack. Check in with your local library.

This is an interesting piece. Like pullayup says above, some of this language is sure, ok, SOP (using demographic data, audience segmentation). But what's mixed in and between the lines is essentially board overreach and over-control and a regressive ideology at work.

The January minutes indicate that 4 staff walked out sometime between Dec & Jan meetings.

The Photo ID policy is stomach-turning. The Feb agenda also has them looking at a policy that non-residents have to present ID along with their library card.
posted by Miko at 9:48 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]

>A lot of libraries are under attack. Check in with your local library.

Here in Colorado there's this bizarre push to close libraries and library bathrooms because of meth smoke residue, which is gross to think about but poses exactly zero public health risk. I feel like there's a second insidious force that follows behind the overt fascism, which is, as the Overton Window shifts, people who view themselves as reasonable and centrist start to lose the plot too

Maybe I'm just imagining a connection here, but in all kinds of forums I see hate for the homeless and irrational authoritarianism toward drug use as part of a right wing pipeline in more liberal areas. It's the "Portland is burning" law and order narrative that Republicans tried to use to secure the midterm elections
posted by Skwirl at 11:21 AM on March 11 [8 favorites]

"This is not stewardship, this is a putsch."

Neat that we've had a word for this process for over a century already.
posted by sneebler at 1:56 PM on March 11 [6 favorites]

I dunno man - people should not be smoking meth in the library, just sayin. Of course if the library is the only public space people can be in without spending money, that’s a bit of an own goal by our local and state governments.
posted by caviar2d2 at 2:42 PM on March 11

Here in Arkansas, our state legislature is going to vote on a bill (the bill) that makes it a felony for librarians to share 'harmful' materials with minors. Here's a list of books that one local Moms for Liberty group thinks are in that category. Come for Dear Martin, stay for 'The Bluest Eyes' and Of Mice and Men.

I was in a meeting this week with some librarians in Missouri, and one of them told us about an amendment to a bill there that would stop libraries from checking out non-traditional items, limiting them only to books and a/v materials--check out those cake pans and sewing machines while you can, Missouri, because a bunch of Republicans want to take them away.
posted by box at 2:46 PM on March 11 [7 favorites]

Consiglio…may find himself the first public library director to install a photo ID policy to require patrons to show photo identification in order to access materials and services

posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 7:55 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]

People should not be smoking meth in library toilets, but the solution is putting sensitive smoke alarms + sprinkler systems into library toilets, not closing libraries.
posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries at 5:48 AM on March 12 [4 favorites]

Elmwood Park isn't a typical suburb - it still has a significant mob presence. Peter DiFronzo was a leader in the Chicago Outfit, and came up through Elmwood Park. The current Elmwood Park crew is lead by Rudy Fratto who runs video gambling contracts across the western suburbs and was involved with the casino in Rosemont.
posted by zenon at 11:03 PM on March 12 [4 favorites]

And the neutrality bit - if one kid is bullying another kid, they want the library staff to kick both kids out.

My kids' primary school took this attitude -- by pretending to be "respectful of all sides," they did nothing about the bullying they received. And it damaged them to this day.

As Martin Luther King Jr. said, neutrality favors the oppressor. This stance is pure moral cowardice and should be called out as such whenever it rears this ugly head.
posted by Gelatin at 4:49 AM on March 13 [2 favorites]

it still has a significant mob presence

Ah, I thought I recognized the cronyism.
posted by Miko at 6:59 AM on March 13

> People should not be smoking meth in library toilets, but the solution is putting sensitive smoke alarms + sprinkler systems into library toilets, not closing libraries

My local library now has portapotties (the nice kind) in the parking lot. I'm rarely in the building these days -- I check out tons from the library but it's mostly e-books -- so I don't know if the restrooms inside are closed, or what the deal is.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:53 PM on March 13

My local library is thinking about buying one of these.
posted by box at 2:15 PM on March 13

« Older Putting the old team together for one last job!   |   apparently there was some fuckin' Pink Floyd in... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments