Monday, April 30, 2007

Emmett Till

Every once in a while you read a book that is so well written, so powerful, and so thought provoking that it stays with you long after you have read the last page. The Death of Innocence: The Story of the Hate Crime That Changed America by Mamie Till-Mobley and Christopher Benson is such a book. It is Emmett Till's story told by his mother, about his life, his tragic death, and his immeasurable legacy.

I can't stop thinking about it, processing it and marveling in one thought about how far civil rights and our nation have come since 1955, to being disheartened by my next thought that racism still exists in 2007. From feeling fortunate that I live in a diverse community, to worrying if people in my community feel threatened by me because of the color of my skin. I contemplate if our nation will ever be able to truly heal such deep wounds. Does time heal all wounds, or is there something we can do?

I had the opportunity to hear Christopher Benson speak at a Diversity Forum hosted by the Lincoln Trail Library System. He said his goal was to go to bed exhausted, to do all that he could do every single day. He was inspirational. It is imperative that libraries do all they can do to respect and celebrate the diversity in the communities they serve.

Cindy Fuerst
Library Director

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


It's funny how we attach the emotions of our pasts to physical objects and places. As most of you probably know, we moved out of a 105 year old building into our new space about four years ago, a move that was decades overdue. Since then, the city of Kankakee has been gathering the money required to rehab the old library into a public facility that will house the Mayor's office, aldermanic offices and other municipal governmental agencies. Saturday, the architect working on our former home gave some of us an opportunity to see what has been accomplished so far. What we saw was...well...shocking. The old Library has been gutted down to its exterior walls in most places. Walls, ceilings, even floors are gone. Photos I was stunned at how a place I'd spent every work day of seven years could be rendered nearly unrecognizable to me. For months after we moved, I made pilgrimages to the old vacated Library to get this or that item we'd left behind. Since the space still looked exactly as it did when we left, I could still hear the ghostly voices of those long gone librarians and patrons who had occupied that space for more than a century. Indiana Ave. Tour It was satisfying to have all the comfort and excitement of our new building, but to know that the old one was still there, like a mausoleum interring my past. Now, those ghosts have been completely and thoroughly chased out. And I know this is a good thing. The old building will have a new and vital purpose in our city, and the spirit of our Library has taken its last step into its current beautiful location. Library Tour But, I can't help feeling just a little sad.

Steve Bertrand
Assistant Director

Monday, April 02, 2007

The High Cost of Filters

We have been discussing Illinois HB 1727 A LOT around here lately. This is yet another unfunded mandate requiring all public and school libraries to install filters on their public computers. Of course it requires that the filters to be turned off at the drop of a hat by a library employee who is over 21 who then needs to monitor the unfiltered session. Libraries and librarians who do not comply face fines of up to $100 per day, and possibly imprisonment. I think orange jumpsuits are a fashion faux pas for women over a certain age. I really don’t want to wear one.

The dark side of the Internet has been widely hyped in the media. Even I am amazed at some of the explicit sites that can be accessed for free on the net. Most reasonable people, including our legislators, want to protect our kids and think filters are a good thing. It is hard to argue against them; but the Illinois Library Association has a list of excellent talking points on why they oppose HB 1727.

If HB 1727 passes and becomes law, our Library’s cost for providing free public computer access will more than quadruple. The staffing alone will cost more than $60,000 a year. I’m basing this on minimum wage ($8.25 an hour in Illinois), having two people here all the hours we are open (69 each week), for 52 weeks a year. I have yet to factor in the actual cost of the software, and as I mentioned before, this is an unfunded mandate. If this passes, the liability and the costs will just be too high for some libraries; they may be forced to discontinue providing public internet access. Now that would really be a crime.

Cindy Fuerst
Library Director