Park Ridge Library Takes Another Step Toward Full Transparency And Accountability


Our 4th president, James Madison, wrote:

A popular Government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or perhaps both.  Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.

A similar note was sounded by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis in his 1932 article “What Publicity Can Do”: “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.” 

So it’s time that “light” – along with “camera” and “action” – is finally coming to the Park Ridge Library Board, starting tomorrow (Sept. 15) night at 7:00 p.m. when it holds its first-ever meeting in the City Council chambers at 505 Butler Place. 

One reason for moving the Library Board meetings to the Council chambers is that a television-quality camera and sound system already is in place. So not only can those Board meetings be videotaped and archived on the Library’s web page, but they also can be broadcast live on the Wide Open West cable network. 

Nobody’s expecting a 30 share and a 20 Nielsen rating for these meeting videos. But some people – reportedly including former 2nd Ward ald. Rich DiPietro, until he moved to a WOW-less part of town – do watch the live WOW feeds of City Council meetings, so they might occasionally watch a Library Board meeting. And the ability to view an archived video to see and hear exactly who said what about a particular issue should also be a valuable asset for anybody who shares the wisdom of Monroe and Brandeis.

That televising and videotaping meetings is finally coming to the Library Board also speaks volumes about the current Library Board members’ commitment to transparency and accountability.

Although the Library Board is late to the video party, expect it to act more like the City Council – which didn’t start videotaping meetings until the late Mayor Dave Schmidt bought a camera with part of his first-year’s (2009’s) mayoral stipend and had friends run that camera and upload the videos to a YouTube site – than like the School Boards of Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 and the Maine Township H.S. District 207, whose not-ready-for-prime-time-players look for every possible excuse to run and hide in secretive closed sessions whenever anything even remotely controversial is on the agenda.

Like giving their superintendents contract extensions and spending ever-greater sums of tax dollars on teacher and administrator salaries while academic performance and rankings remain stagnant or even decline.

But broadcasting and videotaping meetings is not the only thing that distinguishes the current Library Board from its predecessors.

The current Library Board majority, under the leadership of president Joe Egan, conducted a first-ever legitimate review of the Library’s director which actually took into consideration such objectively measurable performance factors as circulation (which last year dropped to its lowest level since FY2009), patron visits (which dropped to their lowest levels in at least a decade) and program attendance (ditto).

And those patron visits declined even with the Library giving at least 20 (and likely more) for-profit tutors thousands of hours of free “office space” that generate thousands of additional patron visits by students and their parents who might not otherwise use the Library.

No wonder the director and Staff are so indulgent with such tutors and their customers.

Under previous boards – who treated regular deficit spending almost as an art form – that kind of performance consistently drew “excellent” or “outstanding” ratings that were used to justify raises not only for the director but for staff members. And such deficit spending, the raises it funded, and the declining performance metrics easily flew under the radar of a disinterested local press which rarely even bothered to show up at Library Board meetings.

These days reporters from both the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate and the Park Ridge Journal are regulars at Library Board meetings. And they’ve also started taking in the occasional Committee Of the Whole meeting.

What a difference a couple of years and a competent, diligent Board make.

A majority of the current Board also proved to be the only adults in the room when they promptly reversed the previous board majority’s irresponsible decision – recommended by the director and tacitly endorsed by Staff despite their incessant faux-altruism, naturally – to close the Library on Sundays during Summer 2014 rather than defer $20,000 of raises to about 40 Staff members.

That’s right, folks: when the choice came down to the personal economic interests of the Library’s director and Staff versus keeping the doors open for the Library’s patrons on what often was the Library’s single busiest day of the week (based on visits-per-hour), the director and Staff gave those patrons the Rahm Emanuel finger.

And while the 2013 board majority members consistently deficit spent to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars and then attempted to badmouth the City Council – whom they derisively referred to as “the guys across the street” who didn’t use and didn’t care about the Library – into making up the difference out of the City’s already-tight budget, the current Board majority enthusiastically endorsed the Council’s decision to let the taxpayers vote on a referendum to raise their taxes for the Library.

Finally, this Library Board understands that our taxpayers have given the Library a 4-year and approximately $4 million window to get the Library’s finances in order and start turning a complacent institution into one ready, willing and able to successfully face the financial realities and operational challenges of becoming a self-sustainable, 21st Century library.

Which is no mean feat when you’re adjacent to a borderline-bankrupt city in a borderline-bankrupt county in a borderline-bankrupt state.

Robert J. Trizna

Editor and publisher

Member, Park Ridge Library Board

16 comments so far

I don’t know exactly what to think about all of this except that I agree that closing the library should not be an option. Thanks to the new board for reopening it when they did.

I think somebody (you?) once said that a building filled with books but without a staff is still a library, but staff without a building filled with books is just a bunch of loiterers.

I go to our library once or twice a month, and occasionally go to the Des Plaines and Niles libraries just out of curiosity. I never use the services of a librarian or staff member. So although I am glad we have staff, i do not believe they are as indispensible as they would like us to believe.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We don’t recall if we said it, but we believe it.

Does the library receives rental fees for yoga classes that place on their front lawn?

EDITOR’S NOTE: What “yoga classes”?

I believe the yoga classes that the poster referred to are part of a one-time library program.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Soon to be followed with one-time Tai Chi, kick-boxing, krav maga, transcendental meditation and Tony Robbins programs. And maybe a tractor pull.

Yoga on the lawn!!!!! GET OFF THAT LAWN. Lol.
Maybe those pesky tutors are moon lighting as yoga instructors. Go get them Dog they are getting an economic advantage over the land based yoga places in town! What next ?elderly caretakers using public facilities to give their paying customers a change of view from the senior living facilities in town?

EDITOR’S NOTE: How do you know that one of those “land based yoga places” didn’t pay the Library for the use of the Library lawn; or provide the program as part of a private-public partnership with the Library?

My bet is that in four years the library will be the same and you library board members will be asking us taxpayers for another four mill. Nothing changes without pain and the library leadership wants to stay pain free.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We don’t disagree with your “pain” point. But give this new Library Board a chance to prove it’s different from the potted plant, give-the-director-whatever-she-wants boards of the past couple of decades.

In light of the recent PARCC scores around the state, it’s obvious to anyone with a brain that common core is failing, miserably, and students need all the help they can get. At this point, given the urgency of the situation, the library staff, and the board, should be welcoming tutors with open arms, and maybe they should be tutoring the students themselves on the three RRR’s (which has worked wonderfully for hundreds of years) rather than “number bonds” and whatever other liberal social justice issue du jour is on the agenda for the day.

I’m serious about this issue, why make it harder for kids to learn, they need all the help they can get with this common core nonsense. And given the miserable, awful failure evidenced by terrible test scores (and now we have an entire generation of students at least one year behind, thank you very much Common Core educators), you should be welcoming tutors with open arms.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Serf, you never cease to amaze us with your silliness – or is it really stupidity magnified by ignorance? But just to be fair, we want to make sure we understand your point.

Are you saying that because D-64 (for example), with its 7 schools and its $70 million-plus budget that is spent primarily on well-paid teachers and administrators (a/k/a the “education PROFESSIONALS”) is dropping the ball in educating its 4,000-plus students, the Library – with its one building and $5 million budget – should turn into one big tutoring center to bail out D-64’s continuing underachievement?

Or are you just a D-64 apologist (or teacher) looking to off-load any accountability for D-64’s increasing underachievement on the hated Common Core?

Either way, that’s a big fail, Serf, because D-64 (and, to a lesser degree, D-207) was underachieving LONG before Common Core was introduced. Heck, you might even want to entertain the possibility that Common Core is simply giving an even more accurate picture of just how underachieving D-64 has been while bragging to D-64 parents and taxpayers about what a great job it has been doing.

I get the sense you don’t like me commenting on your blog, hence the juvenile name calling every time I make a comment; and even when we agree, you still call me a fool.

It used to be that only newspapers editors bought ink by the barrel, and every one else was limited to their soapbox in Hyde Park. These days, with technology, every tom, dick or harry with an internet connection buys not ink, but electrons by the hundreds of trillions, and insult and troll to their hearts content.

So, to that end, I intend to stop commenting here; as my father once told me, never argue with a goofball because all a bystander sees is two goofballs arguing! Have a nice day!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Actually, Serf, we LOVE your comments because they tend to be so silly, ignorant or baseless that they never fail to provide teachable moments. So you will be missed.

But we must take issue with your charge that we resort to “juvenile name calling every time [you] make a comment” because even a cursory search revealed that we rarely call you names – eve though we do refer to the things you write as “silly,” “stupid,” “ignorant,” etc.

In the interest of full disclosure, however, must admit that in response to your 08.25.15 @ 8:28 pm comment we called you “one terminally clueless smurf”; a “freeloader” in response to your 07.30.15 @ 9:27 am and 1:13 pm comments; a “class warrior” in response to your 06.18.15 @ 1:09 pm comment; and asked if you were “an illegitimate offspring of Mike Madigan” in response to your 09.23.14 comment. But we actually defended you when another commentator called you a “creep” in his/her comment of 05.21.15 @ 12:38 pm. So we won’t whine about your “goofball” name-calling.

But before departing, don’t forget to make good on your “I’ll donate to the [holiday] light fund” in your 07.31.15 @ 1:45 pm comment!

“But before departing, don’t forget to make good on your “I’ll donate to the [holiday] light fund” in your 07.31.15 @ 1:45 pm comment!”

I fully intend to honor my commitment to that.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Then you better make it under the “Park Ridge Serf” name, otherwise you’ll be as full of beans on that as you are on your opinions.

Park Ridge Serf, since PW won’t say it, I will. You are an idiot for saying that the library should do the job the schools aren’t doing. But I agree with PW that publishing stupid things like that does remind us that we have idiots in this community, and too often those idiots either run things or support the people who run things. Which is why they aren’t getting good results.

“Does the library receives rental fees for yoga classes that place on their front lawn?

EDITOR’S NOTE: What “yoga classes”?”

Shouldn’t a board member of the library be somewhat familiar with programs that happened during the library’s Lunch on the Lawn program? I know, you’ve been busy going after those “shameless” tutors.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We don’t know what “yoga classes” means in your feed-at-the-public-trough world, Ms. Enright, but a one-time yoga exhibition as part of a “Lunch on the Lawn” programs does not constitute “yoga classes” in either our public or private sector vernacular.

“EDITOR’S NOTE: We don’t disagree with your “pain” point. But give this new Library Board a chance to prove it’s different from the potted plant, give-the-director-whatever-she-wants boards of the past couple of decades.”

Yeah, the library should be a national disgrace in no time. The board has been working hard at making that come to pass.

EDITOR’S NOTE: And yet you keep your snout buried in that soon-to-become-“a national disgrace” public trough!

If “disgraces” really concerned you, you wouldn’t have been a silent MIA while your favorite executive director and previous boards were deficit spending the Library down to the point where they closed the Library’s doors on Sundays last summer rather than not give employees raises.

A popular Government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.

The best argument yet for not screwing with the Library or the public’s access to it — yes, even those members of the public who don’t immediately and personally pay taxes for this particular one.
And for all those who are tired of hostility masked as eloquence, schlep on over to Facebook and sign up for Park Ridge Concerned Homeowners or Park Ridge Citizens Online. Both have violently different views from one comment to another, but since the objective is to share info and brainstorm together as community members, the self-monitoring of nasty personal attacks is pretty good.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Yes, let’s not have any “screwing with the Library” while its circulation, program attendance and visits continue to decline.

And by all means, head over to those Facebook pages if you have the nerve to identify yourself while you swap potato salad recipes and laundry tips.

I’m sorry; did I say hostility masked as eloquence? I meant malevolence masked as eloquence.
Also love your gender-based disparagement of the other blogs. The guys on there are a bit more confident than you, it seems. You could probably use a few recipes to sweeten your bitter tongue and a few laundry tips to clean up your act. You have raised some important questions and provided some solid research over the years, but the haters are losing traction. Every W’Dog has its day. Can’t you feel it? Pax vobiscum.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Oh, wait, it’s you, Class Warrior. Somehow we overlooked the socialism in your previous comment.

And great to see you’ve temporarily replaced your customary economic-based socialism with a little of the gender-based version. No need to stay in a socialist rut.

Now if only you had the nerve to identify yourself here the way you do on those Facebook pages so that you would own the uber-silly socialist comments you spew here in the same way you own your Hints from Heloise “potato salad” comments on those Facebook pages; e.g., “invest in those motion-sensor outdoor lights” to scare away both skunks and burglars.

Sad, sad fella. Byeeeee.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Opinions vary.

You’ll be back…because you can’t get away with your anonymous whacko socialism on those Facebook pages, but you can’t help yourself from spewing it.

Transparency Bob ?
Come on at $ 60 K salary plus to read to the kids ?

What happened top your once again tax ( let’s bleed the impacted families even more….?

Sorry to say but as I entered 505 the other day from across the park area….there was a dog lifting his leg on our x-mayor’s tree ( sorry that I don;t have my ticket book anymore ) ……funny how politics as entered into the lions den over and over again. Maybe we can take a page from the former Mayor Donald E. Stephens’ book who did take a mud puddle and tuned it into a working community. Yep….he’s getting a statue over there Bob….while our x mayor got a tree for peeing on…….Where’s danger Dan now with his under the radar checks for the Park Ridge fluff fund now…But then blasting the community folk is just another hobby with a goal of getting back the 55th state house district seat…right ? It could happen…..

EDITOR’S NOTE: Gene, we’ve warned you more than once about self-medicating, although you seem to be channeling James Joyce in his “Finnegan’s Wake” period.

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