Thursday, June 25, 2009

Don't go away mad

Libraries deliver equal opportunity in education through books, e-resources, instruction, classes and events. We respect the freedom of all students of all ages to experience all points of view, igniting the power of knowledge.

-Valerie Gross, Howard County Library Executive Director and CEO

That is the quote which appears on a Choose Civility poster for the “Respect Others’ Opinions” (.pdf) civility mandate. Although I am not a fan of publicly funded libraries, I embrace anyone who expresses a willingness to accept the opinions of others.

Unfortunately, some people who are in the employ of the Howard County Public Library don’t see things in the same way in which Valerie Gross claims to see things. Someone (I don’t know and don’t care who) is more than willing to suppress any opinions which are critical of the Howard County Public Library.

It all started on the Open Source blog which is hosted by the HCPL. The blogger made this statement (not sure how long this link will work, but the cache page is here):

These efforts are all focused on helping Howard County Library offer educational experiences, to all people, without charge. These educational experiences are designed to enhance the quality of life of those who attend and participate - ideally every resident of Howard County !

Since I know that there is no such thing as a free lunch, I simply pointed out that libraries are not free simply because they don’t charge a fee. Libraries are costing us plenty. The money being spent on new library construction and operations over the next 5 years would replace Mount Hebron High School one and half times (not that I think that would be a good alternative use). So libraries aren’t free, they are very expensive. I subscribed to the comments RSS and forgot about it.

Over the course of a couple of months, someone new would add something critical of my initial comment, and I of course would respond since I like to debate these issues. The comment thread grew to 7 comments, 4 of which were mine. I guess my most recent comment sent someone at the library over the edge (perhaps the blogger or an administrator) because the entire blog post was deleted. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but the comment was civil and I summed up by stating that the library system is a complete waste. So much for embracing the opinions of others!


Anonymous said...

That is the problem with 'choose civility'. It's interpreted to mean that opposition to position is unacceptable, most particularly, no opposition to the opinion of the individual in power is acceptable.

Power includes a range of leaders from dictatorships to library tzars. But also, one or two blog hosts as well. It's ugly regardless of the tiny regime affected.