C A S E - S T U D Y - # 17

Building community, as long as the price is right?

The community room was papered with colored maps of the tri-county library district. Thirty-three blue pins showed the positions of existing libraries; six more glowed green, indicating where new branches were to be built. Four red pins labeled buildings scheduled for closure in the old city's core.

The board asked for input and called a public meeting, but contracts were already signed. Most participants were salaried managers and professionals. Community activists wearing museum-quality jewelry discussed investments with society mavens. If you closed your eyes and listened, the conversations could have been broadcast from a corporate boardroom.

And, there stood John and Mary. Not young, not old, not well-educated, well-dressed or well-spoken. They knew nothing about economic development; both worked two jobs. They lived in a quiet blue-collar neighborhood and visited its library every week. They came to speak for their neighbors.

"We live in a small apartment with no room for books. We don't own a computer. We bus to the doctor and the grocery store. We like the little brick corner library; it serves us well. We read, listen to music, pick up e-mail from the school. It took us 90 minutes by bus to come to this meeting. It will take us two hours to get to the nearest new library on Sundays. You have big houses, nice cars, fast computers. Can you build smaller new libraries and share with us what you have?"

"Old libraries are not sustainable."
"Suburbs are growing."
"Change is inevitable."

The board used big words to explain the decisions.
The colored pins were a done deal.

"And we are too late?"
"You decided months ago?"
"We are invisible."
No one noticed when they left.
Reality Check:

Have you witnessed this or similar situations at your library?
Yes No

Were you involved in making a decision or taking an action about vendor selection?
Yes No

Would you do anything differently today?
Yes No

Which ethical principles were addressed?

Privacy Yes No
Fairness Yes No
Access Yes No
Transparency Yes No

Which First Amendment issues are involved?

Freedom of religion Yes No
Freedom of speech Yes No
Freedom of the press Yes No
Freedom of assembly Yes No
Redress of grievances Yes No

University of North Texas - Lifelong Education @ Desktop (c) 2008