Common vision vital to library's success
The Allen County Public Library inspired me to become a librarian. As I come to the end of my career at Cleveland Public Library, I've been following Fort Wayne's library collection-size controversy with some interest.
Different visions of the library's identity compete for dominance, and it appears Allen County's library leadership team leans toward a popular library model. This model can work brilliantly, as exemplified by Cuyahoga County Public Library under the stewardship of Sari Feldman. And, yes, weeding, even deep weeding, is part of that approach.
Remember that it's normal for libraries to lose lots of books to old age, damage, theft and even irrelevance. The true legacy parts of the collection are safe: the genealogy collection and local history items such as yearbooks or church histories are not at risk from algorithmic culling. The western canon items, whether your taste is dead white men, or the burbling mix of formerly neglected voices, is readily available and easily replaceable.
That said, library leadership is not being forthright.
They should be articulating their vision in clear terms that inspire both staff and community; they should be transparent about the amount of weeding completed at each branch, and be able to show how their weeding has affected circulation or other relevant outputs.
It is clear the staff of the library holds conflicting views of the library's purpose; that's normal, in my experience. The question is whether the leadership team, the actual workers and the community can unite around a common vision of library identity.
Bay Village, Ohio
ACPL meeting showed need for follow-up
Although I am not a member of the petition group, I am an active library patron and have been my entire life. I attended the meeting on March 27 and was disappointed at the degree of control exercised by the board and the lack of interaction with those who attended.
The actual numbers of books “weeded” can be easily ascertained; several in attendance gave simple methods by which this can be done. Of more concern to me is the misrepresentation of who is involved in these decisions. Branch librarians have little control over the number of books they are required to remove and are chastised if they do not meet quotas. Branch managers understand the unique needs of their branch patrons far better than a central office staff.
Second, the lawyer tried to demonstrate that employees, i.e. librarians, have no need to fear termination/demotion for expressing their views. A careful reading of the ethics policy shows that reassurance as false. Virtually any statement that does not enthusiastically support current policy can be interpreted as “undermining” the ACPL, the basis of disciplinary action. Any competent administrator understands how to justify such actions. Suppressing freedom of expression within a staff is the quickest way I know to destroy morale and, ultimately, the effectiveness of the program.
Finally, I am outraged by the secret development of a database recording the books I check out and my related demographic information. I do not understand how such private information would be used by a public library, and ACPL patrons but should not be subject to this invasion of privacy. The American Library Association has fought hard to protect the privacy of library patrons and has incorporated this position in its statement of ethics.
I strongly believe the trustees have an ethical and moral obligation to delve into these issues and not rely solely on presentations by the director. Patrons are intelligent and able to differentiate between reality and partial truths. Please take the time.
Linda S. Kaiser
Newspapers essential to our civic life
When I was in college, I studied journalism and had dreams of working for a newspaper until life took me down another path.
I have always appreciated newspapers, and I read each article and editorial, whether I agree or not. My mind has been expanded and educated by reading newspapers.
I recently saw a cartoon that stated “in the past 15 years, 1,400 newspapers have turned off the lights” and the cartoon poignantly said “democracy really does die in darkness.”
This is the place we are in our history. The majority of Americans seem to get their political information from social media or late-night comedians. The lack of concern and information have brought us to the chaotic government we now have.
I appreciate the wonderful job The Journal Gazette does. Newspapers like the JG not only give us world news but also current events in our local communities; both are important.
Reading newspapers teaches us how to digest information and exercise our logical and cognitive thinking skills.
News stories have exposed scandals, which is vital for societal healing and change. Newspapers can and should act as a deterrent to government abuse of power. Our government needs to be held accountable for ethics violations, and the media can and should serve this purpose.
We should all be alarmed whenever a branch of government wants to curtail or stifle the power of the press. We need to watch this very closely.
I feel we have become too complacent in our information-gathering. It is easier to listen to regurgitated 24-hour news programs and absorb their agendas rather than do our own research and think for ourselves. We are living in a world of tweets and bits of info rather than thoughtful discourse and depth, and it is leading us down a dangerous path.
I will continue to enjoy newspapers as my source of information. I appreciate the banner in my local newspaper, the Bryan Times, which is so true: “Coffee & Newspapers – one wakes you up, one opens your eyes.”
Sensitive info slows Mueller Report release
On April 7, The Journal Gazette ran two letters that made the same point: If the Muller Report exonerates the president, why not release the entire report?
The answer is simple: It would be against the law to do so. It would be against the law to release any grand jury testimony without a specific court order, and that court order has not been requested, let alone obtained. It would also be against the law to disclose any classified information that might be in the report.
On the other hand, Rep. Adam Schiff has been bragging for more than a year that he has seen “more than circumstantial evidence.” Don't you wonder why he has not made such evidence public, or at a minimum, shared it with the Mueller team?
Letters related to the May 7 primary election must be received by noon on April 29 to be considered for publication.