The Library Survey: A Dog Waiting For A Pony


To paraphrase Ronald Reagan: “Here they go again.”

As reported in yesterday’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate, a recent telephone survey conducted by the Public Opinion Laboratory at Northern Illinois University – one of the pollsters of choice for governmental bodies (especially public libraries) looking to construct “friendly” results – shows that “over two-thirds of respondents…expressed support for expansion of the library building at 20 S. Prospect Ave.” (“Survey says: Support is for bigger library,” July 17)

“Over two-thirds” of the 404 total respondents is approximately 270, allegedly drawn at random from a community of over 37,000 residents, including around 24,000 registered voters.  At a cost of $12,000, that’s almost $30 per response for what may not even be a “statistically significant” sampling, judging by the fact that we don’t hear anybody connected with it publicly bragging that it is.  So our initial reaction is that it wasn’t worth what we paid for it.

That seems even more true when one considers how “cooked” the results might be, judging from the slanted introductory statement read to the respondents before any questions were asked:

“The Park Ridge Library is currently at capacity. In order for the library to add new materials or services, it must eliminate other materials or services or it must expand the library facility. The Library Board of Trustees wants to learn what options residents favor or oppose regarding an expansion on existing library property to accommodate new materials and services.”

Talk about loading the question with buzzwords and phrases designed to strike fear in the hearts of the citizenry.  We’re surprised they didn’t just come right out and say: “We’re going to start firing people and throwing out your favorite materials tomorrow!”

But the real evidence of the deception at the core of this latest Library tactic is not what was said in that introductory statement but what was left out: The cost.  The Library Board and Staff, along with their accomplices at the Public Opinion Laboratory, didn’t need anything getting in the way of the “I want it” mentality they were trying to foster in the respondents,  including what may be the single most important factor affecting the spending decisions we make in real life. 

And if history is our guide, this $12,000 survey is just Step 1 in what will be at least a 3-step process to get a Library construction project going.  These “favorable” survey results can now be leveraged into the Library Board’s/Staff’s spending another $50,000 on Step 2, a “space needs” study, which in turn can give them the impetus to spend another big chunk of our taxes on architects/engineers to come up with some designs. 

Once they get to that point, don’t expect them to let the voters weigh in on whether to spend however many millions of dollars this new grand plan will cost.  They’re a lot more comfortable orchestrating a “yes” from 270 of 404 survey respondents than having to hear a “no” from 8,948 of 14,734 voters, as happened in 2002 when over 3,500 voters put the issue of a new library on the ballot through a citizens’ initiative after the Library Board/Staff and the City Council refused to do it themselves.

That’s why, despite already wasting $12,000 on a cooked survey and planning to waste another $50,000 on a “space needs” study that will recommend – “Surprise!” – a bigger library, Library Board vice-president Shlomo Crandus publicly dissembles with a proclamation that: “We don’t have expansion plans right now.”  We wonder if he said that with a wink, a nod, or with his fingers crossed behind his back.

With our country and our community reeling from skyrocketing energy prices, leaping inflation, a plummeting dollar, falling home prices and growing unemployment, spending $60,000-plus on something they claim they aren’t planning to do “right now” is as fiscally irresponsible as it is insulting to the taxpayers who are paying for it.  So we’re happy to give “credit” for this incipient fiasco where credit is due: The Library’s Executive Director, Janet Van de Carr, and the following Library Board members:

John Schmidt (President)
Shlomo Crandus (Vice President)
Margaret Harrison (Secretary)
Dorothy Hynous (Treasurer)
Eileen O’Neill-Burke
John Benka
Kathleen de Grasse
Patricia Lofthouse
Richard T. Van Metre 

And let’s not forget the man behind the curtain who appointed or re-appointed all of these Library Board members: Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark, who has voiced his support for a new or bigger Library on several occasions. 

We see your dog, Mr. Mayor, but where are you hiding your pony?

13 comments so far

Ahhh…the Park Ridge Library….I admit that over the years I have stopped going, as it is hopelessly out of date, and a temporary napping site for several homeless people. I recently visited the library in order to ensure that they posted the day and hours that Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky is there each week to meet with any resident who shows up. I looked around. No visible signs, flyers, or smoke signals to communicate this liitle known fact. I asked several staff who referred me to a manager. I asked the manager if a prominenet flyer could be posted. Request denied. Flyers would “junk up” the library. So, I asked how they currently communicate with the community. They post information on their website, as well as the City of Park Ridge’s website. Oh, and there is the library newsletter. I asked if those options really supported the community’s need to know. She thought that was all that was necessary. I pressed her again. Apparently, on the day Cong. Schakowsky is there, a sign with an arrow directs citizens to her. So, if you just happen to be in the library on a Wednesday morning, you will be properly informed and directed. Later that day, several business owners were willing to put up a flyer in their windows. I breathed a sigh of relief…finally, a viable communications tool…..simply walking around town.
The Cumberland Patriot

Yeah, there they go again. I’d be willing to bet big money that they’ve got a lot of stuff on those shelves that doesn’t get checked out or even looked at more than once or twice a year. Can somebody tell Van de Carr about collection management and off-site storage?

The librarian’s and board’s solution to every problem is “space.” Talk about a bunch of one trick ponies.

WE fought this battle 5 years ago. If staff can’t make what they’ve got work, they aren’t qualified for the positions they hold. The days of a library being a book warehouse are over. Send them the memo.

I don’t know how to feel about a larger library especially since I rarely use it. Though 1 thing that bothers me is the fact they did all this beautification on the property and now they’re still pressing on for a larger building or addition.

Another I read is out some in the survey suggested having some cafe for the users?

Would the stupid staff even honor such a request?

I would just either build a facility or add on with just the intention of focusing whatever its needs are.

Does anyone know just how many studies, opinion poles, and architectural designs the library (or the taxpayers) has paid for over the years? Add ‘em all up, throw in the cost of that new garden; maybe taxpayers have already paid for a few libraries.

But do we really need more physical space? Could the library improve access to knowledge by shifting to more electronic media, remote access databases, and other forms of media learning? The PR Public Library is not a historic archive.

I’m not suggesting that they do away with all aspects of a traditional library, just think creatively and take a multidimensional approach to the present space. Of course the children’s collection and programs should always be maintained, as should access to computer stations.

According to the Public Opinion Laboratory’s website, it did two other surveys for the Park Ridge Library: in 1995 and again in 2000 (a 500-response telephonic survey at a cost of $18,425). We suspect that, given our local governments’ propensity for consultants of all stripes, there may have been more – but we have no proof.

To anonymous on 07.18.08 2:33 pm,

“WE fought this battle 5 years ago.” Yes, but that was when you had amateurs running the spin room. Now you have the Grand Master of spin at the helm, Howard P. Frimark.

Frimark is a spin master, but the public is starting to catch on to his b.s. My neighbor was very involved in the library referendum six years ago, and I remember how they hustled to get the signatures when Mayor Wietecha and the Homeowner council majority wouldn’t put it on the ballot by resolution. And then Crampton and Trizna had to fight to keep it on when a couple of library groupies tried to knock it off.

If enough people make enough noise, even Frimark and his hand-picked library board can’t control things.

The 2002 wasn’t even the first time they asked for a new building.

10 years aerlier they wanted an addtion and was voted down.

I don’t know if this would of been possible but I wonder if from that earlier time they could of had a some fundraiser if they felt they needed a new building or addition.

Don’t know if it would of done any good but maybe it would of been worth a try.

Some time ago, the library had an architectural firm do a complete redesign; the opulent plans were on display right before a referendum. I remember seeing space for a coffee shop, grand piano – it was nuts and over-the-top.

Library Board member John Benka spoke in favor of PADS last night by citing the Library survey that he said was “statistically significant” in which nobody complained about homeless in the Library. On the other hand, it sounded like there were no questions about homeless in the Library, either. If he’s typical of the people on the Library Board, no wonder they can’t figure anything out.

Even if the survey were statistically significant, it still does not justify expansion or replacement of the current library. Library materials will always expand to fill available shelf space. So, libraries are perpetually “at capacity”. Unmet needs within the Park Ridge community MIGHT justify expansion. No such needs have been shown to exist by the survey.,pr-library2-072408-s1.article

I had to post this because it’s so entertaining.

A matjority of the respondents disagreed that the library should be the center for the arts and should be quiet and all times.

Well since where libraries not supposed to be quiet and since when are libraries supposed to have all this other crap that’s mentioned?

It seem surreal the stupid staff would ask such questions.

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