Public Watchdog.org

Another Obscene Library Joke

02.22.08

So this librarian walks into Park Ridge City Hall and says to City Mgr. Tim Schuenke, “Have I got a project for you!  It’s a very expensive project that makes no sense at all, which is why I know you’ll love it.” 

Schuenke tugs the brim of his Milwaukee Brewers cap down over his eyes and leans back in his chair.” Tell me about it.

The librarian says, “Well, first a grandmother walks into the Park Ridge Library and demands every Perry Como CD ever made.  When she’s told we only have four in our collection, grandma loudly complains that the Des Plaines library has at least a dozen but that she shouldn’t have to drive to Des Plaines for Perry Como CDs.” 

“Then, her grandaughter’s entire play group takes over the Children’s section for a birthday party, while the kids’ mothers note how there isn’t enough room to accommodate both a game of musical chairs and the half-dozen clowns who are making life-size balloon animals for the partygoers.”

Schuenke nods.  “Sounds good so far,” he says, while scribbling “On Wisconsin!” in red crayon onto the February 29 page of his dayplanner. “Please continue.”
 
 

“Next, all of the library board members – wearing black unitards and swathed in bubble-wrap – come cartwheeling into the main library meeting room, where they proceed to vote to spend $50,000 on yet another consultant’s feasibility study, this one pre-arranged to recommend such a large addition that the current building can’t structurally support it, thereby providing an excuse to recommend Plan B: An entire new library.”

“Neatly done,” says Schuenke, smiling. 

The librarian smiles back at him. “No more shabby gimmicks like piling books on the floor to make it look like we don’t have enough shelf space.  Besides, consultant studies are far more effective in duping the taxpayers.  Fifty grand isn’t cheap, but we’re really getting a lot of bang for the taxpayers’ bucks.”
 

“How do you justify all the extra space,” Schuenke inquires? 

The librarian pulls out a handful of drawings. “We call it ‘flex-space’ and claim that it can serve whatever purposes we want it to, and can be reconfigured to meet ever-changing 21st Century needs.”  

“Good plan,” says Schuenke.  “That way, they can’t pin you down on any definite space usage.  But what about the money?” 

“We tell ‘em $12 million for the addition that can’t be built, but only $20 million for an entire new library.  And we don’t say a thing about the extra $8 million of debt service.  If anybody beefs, we break out the old reliable ‘it’s for the kids.’  Nobody’s got the stones to argue against that.”  

Schuenke leans forward in his chair. “I agree.  But the voters crushed a new $20 million library in that referendum back in ’02.  Won’t you face the same kind of resistance this time around?”   

“With Frimark as mayor and a council majority in his pocket,” snorts the librarian, defiantly, “they’ll push the deal through before anybody can even get a referendum petition filed.”  

“Ain’t that the truth,” Schuenke chuckles, squeezing his stuffed Bucky Badger doll lovingly. “The way Howard’s guys steamrolled those pesky residents on Executive Office Plaza and the Napleton deals was a thing of beauty. So what happens after that?”    

“It gets even better.  The City Council goes into a bunch of closed session meetings and agrees on sweetheart deals with some well-connected insiders for several parcels of private land, arguing that a different site for the new library will allow us to keep the old library open while the new one is being built.  And then we hand out the design and construction contracts to the usual suspects, so long as they’ve kept their campaign contributions up to date.” 

Schuenke pops a cube of genuine Wisconsin cheddar into his mouth. “And the City sells off the old library block for more condos and some token ground-level retail, right?” 

“Exactly,” replies the librarian, trying on Schuenke’s styrofoam cheesehead. 

“How does it end,” asks Schuenke, snatching the cheesehead off the librarian’s noggin? 

“The typical big finish.  The land speculators and developers make out like bandits, the City ends up buried in debt, Frimark moves to Florida, half of all Park Ridge residences regularly flood or lose electric power during the six or seven ‘100 year storms’ we seem to get each year, and the new library is converted into a factory outlet and fast-food court because the City can’t afford the escalating costs of operating it as a library.” 

Schuenke seems perplexed by those final details.  He nervously fingers a couple of Potawatomi Casino five dollar chips that he’s holding in his right hand.  “So what the hell do you call this project?”

The librarian says, with a flourish, “The Library-crats!”

Editor’s Note: Yesterday’s Herald-Advocate contains an article about how the Park Ridge Public Library Board is commissioning a $50,000 feasibility study and conducting a 400-resident survey to help it determine how much space it claims it needs, and whether the current library building can be expanded – or whether a new building may be needed. (“Study to consider library’s needs for expansion,” Feb. 21)  It should be noted that more Park Ridge voters (8,948) cast ballots against a new $20 million library in the 2002 citizen-initiated library referendum than voted for both Mayor Frimark and his opponent (8,114) in the 2005 mayoral election, or voted for the School District 64 tax increase (5,411) in the 2007 referendum. 

21 comments so far

The Park Ridge library is woefully inadequate. Shelf space is short. Space is tight. Selection is scant. It’s almost embarassing to be a resident of a proud city with such a poor public facility.

I would hope the in the six years since the referendum, people might come to realize saying ‘no’ may have been a mistake.

The overwhelming amount of referendums seem to be shot down. Now we have crumbling pools and cramped libraries and no solutions in sight.

Mr. C:

It’s interesting you conclude that the current library is so “woefully inadequate” when our library board and staff continue to crow about all the visitors they have and all the items and services they provide.

The beauty of referenda is that they provide votes you can count to actually prove how many thousands of voters support or oppose something – instead of idly speculating about a few hundred survey responses (which are often garbage in, garbage out) or what certain public officials claim they hear from a handful of their constituents. See, e.g., Ald. Don Bach, who claims 30 people from his ward (out of approx. 3,500? registered voters in that ward) supported the City Council’s recent $2.5 million giveaway to Napleton Cadillac.

Maybe the reason an “overwhelming amount of referendums [sic]” are shot down is because they are dumb ideas in the first place, they are too expensive, or the voters are just sick and tired of watching their tax bills soar to pay for unnecessary amenities while essentials get neglected.

But here’s a deal for you, Mr. C: Since the City wants $20-30 million (all in) for a new cop shop and perhaps another $20-30 million (all in) for a new library, and the Park District may still want $10 million-plus to replace those “crumbling pools” at Oakton, please tell us (and our readers) whether you want to add $50-70 million more to the cumulative debt of those two branches of local government. And assuming you do, please advise where you propose we get the money for such frills as stopping people’s basements from flooding, patching all the potholed streets and crumbling sidewalks, and getting electric power that is more dependable than in some banana republics?

Can’t wait to hear from you.

I agree with the posting completely. This is an internet age. Anyone with a high speed connection can do the vast majority of any research they need. The new library proposal is ludicrous. unfortunately, the scenario painted above will more than likely be acted out on the city hall theatre of the absurd.

I can’t speak to the police station. I’ve only visited the current one once for a carseat adjustment and I don’t know much about it.

I go to the library almost weekly with my small children. Having been at much better libraries in the area, it’s my own personal experience that leads me to conclude it’s less than ideal. I do love the staff at the library. They are great people. It’s also in the best interest of the library to tout itself positively to the public, so that’s probably why they say positive things.

The pools here aren’t so good, again in my experience with my kids, which is why our family didn’t renew it’s pool pass last year and won’t again this year. We go to grandma’s condo association for our aquatic fun now.

I wish I weren’t in over my head with two young children and a third on the way to be more involved in the solutions. I resonated with Eric Clapton’s statement last summer when he was asked why he doesn’t make much music these days. He said, “I have three daughters under the age of six. My time is not my own.” When my kids are a little older, I will be more involved.

I’m just trying to share my perspective.

Tom C

To me, this is more obscene, and less funny, than “The Aristocrats.” And I find “The Aristocrats” offensive.

I’ve sadly come to expect this kind of crap from the politicians at the federal and state levels, but there is no way we should have to tolerate that from public officials who are our friends and neighbors.

Mr. C,

By your own admissions you are not all that well informed nor involved, and you also appear to be self intersted in the short term.

All of that is fine, but if you’ll pardon me, I must tell you none of that is worth basing public policy decisions on.

Did you really not renew your family pool pass because the pools here aren’t so good? Or was it because your acquatic fun can be had for “free” at grandma’s condo?

We all have our demands and distractions – kids, sick parents, jobs, etc. If that’s your excuse for being uninformed, maybe you should keep your uninformed opinions to yourself and stop looking for handouts.

I haven’t been in the library for almost two years, and I don’t mind my taxes paying for the people who are there all the time. But I’m not willing to buy those people a big new library just because the current one is “less than ideal.” So are a lot of other things – get over it.

I voted against millions for more pools that are only good for 3 months a year. If people want to swim elsewhere, God bless.

I’m a big Clapton fan, especially since he doesn’t expect me to pay for his library and his swimming pool.

That’s my perspective and I’m sticking to it.

The fact that I had such poor experience with the Park Ridge pool system was the original prompt to consider other options. There were a few occassions where I loaded up my daughter to use the pool, got there to find out that the pool wasn’t even functional to use that day. We’d have to drive elsewhere. Once we drove to another pool that also wasn’t functional that day.

If having bad experiences with facilities isn’t a good way to initiate reviewing whether there might be a better way, what is? What should public policy be based on, if not the public’s experiences? Making a caricature of an unintelligent librarian talking to someone from Wisconsin doesn’t seem to be a helpful way to express how things should or shouldn’t be done.

A few years ago, I tried to get on a city committee when they said they were looking for applicants. After the process I was not brought on. I don’t know why. Perhaps because I’m unconnected? Perhaps something else. I wasn’t told.

If everyone here wants me to be quiet if I have a dissenting opinion from the anonymous host, that’s fine. I can quiet down. By the way, why am I the only person here who signs his name around here?

If it makes anyone feel better there are things the host has said that I’ve agreed with like about having an open government that avoids closed meetings.

Tom

“If that’s your excuse for being uninformed, maybe you should keep your uninformed opinions to yourself and stop looking for handouts.”

I didn’t know I was looking for a handout. All right, Fred. I’ll keep my opinions to myself. Sorry I shared my perspective.

Tom

Mr. C:

We at PublicWatchdog encourage your comments, just as we encourage comments that may support or oppose them.

We do take issue, however, with what appears to be your view that your own personal experiences typify the “public’s” experiences – and that such experiences should dicate public policy. Public policy should also be based on ideals, principles and traditions, not mere experiences.

FYI, the “caricature of an unintelligent librarian talking to someone from Wisconsin” is intended to be satire, but the “librarian” is a composite of various Park Ridge library board and staff members; and the “someone from Wisconsin” is a caricature of the current Park Ridge city mgr., who is scheduled to retire from city employment on 2/29 and is reportedly returning to his native Wisconsin.

For all we know, it may have been the city mgr. who contributed to the decision not to appoint you to the city committee.

We assume you sign your name because you want to, and that others choose pseudonyms or anonymity for the same reason. Because the primary function of this site is to provide information and a forum for discussion and debate, we value the ideas expressed more than the identities of those expressing them.

Mr. C,
Tom,
Bubbe,
No one on this site is telling you to shut up and keep your opinions to yourself. But you will be subject to other’s opinions, including those that are divergent from your own. You may never realize how far people on a forum such as this will defend your rights to post your opinion. Toughen up.

Sounds like the Library Board and Head Librarian are taking another run at all the things the voters overwhelmingly rejected by the three referendum issues back in 2002. And their spending our money to do it.

Wow, what bunch of self-righteous crap. You welcome other opinions by flaming dissenting opinion. No I’m not going to cut and paste quotes to prove my point. This site and my post has already wasted too much of my time. I’m glad I wasted yours too by reading this.

Or maybe there is a growning list of voters who agree with the Library Board and want a better facility.

Or there is a growing number of voters who agree with wanting an improved library and support the Library Board in trying to get the improvements funded.

Indeed we do, Lassy, as you can see by the fact that we are printing your flaming of us.

Anon:

Not even close. The voters didn’t want it in 2002, and they don’t want it now.

The Library Board and the City Council lacked the integrity and the guts to voluntarily go to referendum in 2002, which resulted in the citizen-run petition drive. And the current Library Board and City Council lack the integrity and the guts to voluntarily go to referendum now.

To those who claim the possibility of a growing number of voters who “agree with the Library Board” and support an “improved library”, I look forward to your promotion of a referendum to once again put the matter to a vote before the voters, whose growing numbers you claim exist.

I collected some signatures for the library petitions back in 2002, and before that was even started the guys who ended up heading the petition drive asked the City Council to voluntarily put the library proposal to referendum. The City Council refused, and the rest is history.

Of course another problem with them is they’re short staffed.

I used to look though old library photos which included the original libray building of Prosepect & Northwest Highway and the current library building when it opened in 1958.

Another time I went to look though them again and one of the other ladies says they’re not allowed to give them out for anyone to look at since they’re trying to get them put up on the digital past website.

Now why have the other librarians allowed me to look at these picture is beyond me and even worse the last time I’ve looked at the site most of the old photos weren’t up. The reason is because they’re short staffed but I’m mentioning this because it’s something how they’re wanting a new building but they can’t seem to work on other things such as what I’ve just mentioned.

Mr. Touhy, you should be commended for figuring out what seems to have been a mystery to the Library Board members for the past decade-plus: Brick and mortar does not a library make. Which means that they don’t understand the importance of SERVICE.

From what we have seen, the current Library management – and the current Library Board – is so inept that they are looking for a big new library, or even a significant addition, to be a “magic bullet” to save them from their own ineptitude. Not a pretty picture.



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