A suburban Chicago newspaper, The Daily Herald, recently reported a story I found appalling. Author Tess Gerritsen mentioned it on her blog, and I’m also sharing it here, because I know a lot of you will be equally outraged. Think back to when you were 11 years old: Was there a librarian who helped you with a school research project, or who took the time to guide you to the perfect book, the one you couldn’t wait to rush home to read the minute the school bell struck three o’clock? Who among us book lovers doesn’t have those memories, right?
Here’s the story as it ran in the paper: Telling her mother that she wanted to come to the aid of a library under attack, 11-year-old Sydney Sabbagha stood at the podium before the Oak Brook village board.
“I used to go to the library knowing there were people there to help me find a book. Now there is no one to help me,” Sydney said solemnly. “It will never be the same without the people you fired.”
Sydney nestled back into her seat, but that didn’t stop 69-year-old criminal attorney Constantine “Connie” Xinos from boldly putting her in her place.
“Those who come up here with tears in their eyes talking about the library, put your money where your mouth is,” Xinos shot back. He told Sydney and others who spoke against the layoffs of the three full-time staffers (including the head librarian and children’s librarian) and two part-timers to stop “whining” and raise the money themselves.
“I don’t care that you guys miss the librarian, and she was nice, and she helped you find books,” Xinos told them.
“Don’t cry crocodile tears about people who are making $100,000 a year wiping tables and putting the books back on the shelves,” Xinos smirked, apparently referencing the fired head librarian, who has advanced degrees and made $98,676 a year. He said Oak Brook had to “stop indulging people in their hobbies” and “their little, personal, private wants.”
Wow. I’ve read the story three times and I’m still shocked. I think about that 11-year-old girl, being brave enough to speak in a public forum and fight for her beloved library, and what it must have felt like for her to encounter a man like Xinos. I have no doubt the librarians talked to Sydney afterwards and thanked her for her courage. Maybe they even gave her a book or two that helped reinforce how important it is to stand up for what’s right, to fight the bad guys and bullies. To Kill a Mockingbird might be a good one.
Come to think of it, Xinos could use a few of those books, too. I’ve got the perfect place for him to put them.