Guest Column: The ghosts of library promises past

By Tim Hughes

A jovial mood prevailed at the library board’s Nov. 26 executive meeting as board members planned a library staff Christmas party.

A short while later, while passing the main library, all dark and closed up, even though it was a week night — a school night, I wondered how the board, which I’m sure consists of good, well-meaning people, could possibly sit around bantering with one another about getting up a staff Christmas party at a local restaurant when the library’s main facility, a community resource for the distribution of knowledge and information, and the advancement of education for the city’s young people and all others seeking to advance their level of learning and education, is closed. It’s simply unconscionable! At the time of the purchase, board president Paul Logli announced that the Sullivan Center “gift,” which comes with a hefty $85,000 annual operational price tag, is the way libraries around the country are going.

That may well be true, but the libraries he refers to are no doubt able to keep their doors open during normal hours of operation. Last winter, Logli made a highly-publicized announcement that his number one priority, I repeat, his number one priority, was to get the library open on Sundays, at least during the school year. That announcement apparently has been drowned out in the hammering of nails as new carpet is laid in the Sullivan Center in anticipation of the renewal of the “arts” in metro Rockford. Look. If New American Theater, which for decades was the “in” place in downtown Rockford for yuppies and arts-oriented folks and offered a broad range of quality theater, attracting professional and semi-professional performers, wasn’t able to recharge the downtown art scene, it would take a genius at mental welding to think the financially-strapped public library is going to manage that feat, and this was before downtown Rockford was seen, rightly or wrongly, as a mecca for criminals.

Some months ago, I suggested that the library board consider opening the East State library branch on Sunday and hire Rockford Mass Transit bus service to run a special express bus from a gathering point downtown for west-side students and patrons nonstop to the East State Street branch and back at the close of hours on Sunday. This would make it unnecessary to open two branches on Sunday. Call the express service “West Side Story Express” or some other catchy name. Rhiannon Stanuch, owner and operator of the delightful Bookworm Bakery Café inside the East State branch, itself a growing place of destination for tasty, homemade food lovers, says she would offer a low-cost “Sunday Special” snack plate and lunch box for adolescent patrons. The library could easily become a destination site for teens.

I was told the proposal would be considered, and that was the end of it.

Planning a staff Christmas party apparently takes precedence over getting the library open on Sundays. Frankly, I am of the opinion there is no intention whatsoever of opening the library on Sundays, even during the school year.

So imagine certain characters from one of those books the library finds so distasteful crashing that library Christmas party. Would the Ghost of Christmas Past be there to remind board president Paul Logli of what he proclaimed was his number one priority? Would the two board members who had the nerve and audacity to vote for what library surveys said was what the public wanted be shown the door as party poopers while the Ghost of Christmas “Presents” leads the remaining board members in singing “Deck the Halls with Boughs of ‘Folly’”?

Would the two children Dickens describes as Want and Ignorance due to lack of education peer through a window at the party in time to see library administrators lift glasses in a toast to having done their share in contributing to the 200,000 acts of violence research shows children have witnessed on TV and in video games by the time they’re 18 years of age? This creates new children of Want and Ignorance because the library chooses to pander in the worst way possible to their base senses with servings of sickeningly violent fighting video games instead of exposing them to the power of the printed word that ultimately gives their minds control over those base senses.

Would the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come arrive to point a bony finger at a long unemployment line filled with library employees because the “in crowd” hadn’t rushed off to the Sullivan Center to watch Poetry Slammers slam away at anything resembling coherent language?

One character certain to show up and give his famous blessing is Tiny Tim, although with Rockford Public Library in mind, the blessing he calls out would probably be, “God help us, one and all!”

Tim Hughes is a former teacher in Rockford School District 205 who coached debate and taught English at Auburn High School for 20 years. At Auburn, he coached three debate teams to first-place national championships.

From the Dec. 12-18, 2012, issue

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