When I wrote the 04.04.14 post, I expected a hue and cry from the apologists for the Park Ridge Public Library’s business-as-usual deficit spending and its reluctance to generate revenue or ask the taxpayers directly for more money (through a referendum) when, instead, it can just blame the City Council for not giving it more tax dollars.
And I wasn’t disappointed.
Ninety-five comments shattered the existing record for any one post. And even if nineteen of those came from Library employee Laura L. Enright, both in her own name and by her initials (“LLE”), the remaining 76 comments alone show what a hot-button issue the Library can be – especially when its executive Staff and the Library Board’s majority (Margaret Harrison, John Benka, Audra Ebling, Dorothy Hynous, John Schmidt and Jerry White) wants to play politics rather than manage responsibly.
Not surprisingly, most critics of the post chose to ignore the economic issues raised in it. Economics involves too many objective, measurable facts and basic mathematics. Instead, the critics chose to advance subjective emotional appeals, while also rejecting any ulterior motives of the Library’s senior Staff and the Board majority.
The closing of the Library for 14 summer Sundays, recommended by the executive Staff and approved by the Board majority, stands as the single most egregious display of mismanagement and political gamesmanship perpetrated against anybody who uses the Library on summer Sundays, as well as against those Staff members who might end up losing more pay from closed Sundays than they will gain from the raises those closings arguably will be financing. But the apologists for Library standard operating procedures and the political gamesmanship being used to preserve those SOPs can’t seem to fathom the facts about what’s going on.
So today’s post will recite actual statements about the summer Sunday closing as presented in their most tangible official form: the Library Board meeting minutes, which are intended to capture the substance of everything that is said during meetings, although not with verbatim accuracy.
Board member Charlene Foss-Eggemann objected to summer Sunday closings, noting “that Sundays, even in the summer, are important to people, some of whom may work six days a week and Sundays may be the only day they can get to the Library.” (Minutes, Page 3)
Board member Joseph Egan “believes the Library should charge a nominal fee to come up with $20,000 to keep the Library open on Sundays in the summer.” (Minutes, Page 4)
Board member Robert Trizna “agrees with Mrs. Foss-Eggemann…[because] Sunday had the highest average visits per hour.” (Minutes, Page 3)
Board member John Schmidt “noted that his impression was that one of the reasons for closing on Sundays in the summer was to make a visible impact with the public; whereas the other cuts being made are not as visible to the public.” (Minutes, Page 3)
Director Janet Van De Carr “noted that to Mr. Schmidt’s point, if the Board feels it is important for the community to be aware that the Library is definitely being negatively impacted by the decisions made by the City Council then having a visible reduction is one way of proceeding.” (Minutes, Page 3)
Board member Dorothy Hynous “stated that the most significant impact is to close on Sundays…[because] it is the thing Library-goers will notice.” (Minutes, Page 6)
Board member John Benka (in response to Board president Margaret Harrison’s suggestion that summer Sunday closing be re-visited) stated “it’s already done – it was decided at the Committee meeting…[and he] is not in favor of opening it up to another vote.” (Minutes, Page 6)
Ms. Hynous “agrees with Mr. Benka; that it was voted on in Committee. (Minutes, Page 6)
Board member Jerry White “stated that [summer Sunday closing] was already passed in Committee and [he] doesn’t understand why it is being discussed at length tonight.” (Minutes, Page 6)
Board member Audra Ebling “stated that the Committee already discussed all of these matters and did all the work at the Committee meetings.” (Minutes, Page 5)
Mr. Trizna stated “[h]e believes the revenue from charging for computers will pay the $20,000 to keep the Library open on Sundays in the summer.” (Minutes, Page 8)
Ms. Hynous “asked then why not just charge $1.00 per book [use]?” (Minutes, Page 8)
Mr. Trizna “brought up the matter of closing on Sundays during the summer…thus depriving the people of service on a Sunday while a third of those [summer closed Sundays] could be opened if the Library was not forfeiting money” through the Food For Fines program. (Minutes, Page 4)
Mr. Schmidt “stated that the Library is ‘depriving’ people of service on Sundays because the City Council, which is voted in by the public, has reduced the amount of money the Library has to work with….” (Minutes, Page 4)
Mr. Trizna stated that “he doesn’t see the logic in closing on [summer] Sundays, on what appears to be the busiest day of the week.” (Minutes, Page 2)
“Mr. Egan asked Mr. Trizna if his is suggesting the Board bring the matter [of summer Sunday closings] back to a vote, to which Mr. Trizna said, ‘no, I can count heads’.” (Minutes, Page 2)
* * *
If you read through those Minutes you will find the foregoing excerpts highlighted in yellow. One thing you will not find, however, is any Library Staff member or any member of the Board majority expressing his/her interest in discussing how to keep the Library open any of those 14 summer Sundays. You also won’t find any of them proposing ways to raise revenues – or further cutting expenses – sufficient to keep the Library open those summer Sundays. In fact, you’ll find that none of them voiced any real concern about the effect of those closings on the Sunday users or Sunday Staff.
And don’t expect to find any encouraging words about a referendum from that crowd. Mr. Schmidt comes closest, on Page 6 of the March meeting Minutes, with a non-committal “at least now the discussion of the matter is on the record in the minutes” – such as it was. But Mr. Benka deserves special mention for his conclusion (at Page 5 of the December 2013 Minutes), drawn from the results of the recent Community Health Survey, that voters might not vote to give the Library extra money via a referendum because “they are used to quality service for nothing.”
Can you say “freeloaders,” John?
What these meeting minutes demonstrate, in these public officials’ ”own” words, is what we wrote in our previous post: managing the Library effectively has taken a back seat to the executive Staff’s and Board majority’s attempt to wage political war on City Hall for more money. To that Staff and Board majority, Sunday Library users are mere pawns and acceptable collateral damage in that war
And you can now add the Library’s Sunday staff members to the “pawn” column, too, even if they don’t realize it.
Robert J. Trizna
Editor and publisher
Member, Park Ridge Library Board
To read or post comments, click on title.