The Big Weed is up for discussion at next Monday's City Council meeting (July 8, 6 pm). Unfortunately, this agenda item isn't about a garden horror or a massive marijuana plant.
It concerns the needless removal of books from the Salem Public Library.
Jim Scheppke, who spent 20 years as the State Librarian for Oregon before he retired, is aghast at how Salem's library has been allowed to deteriorate.
He's amassed a lot of convincing arguments, backed up by solid data, in hopes that even though the library's ill-considered book removal policy is shown as only an information item for the City Council, councilors will act to stop the Big Weed.
Scheppke's report, "Why the Big Weed must end," has been submitted as advance testimony for the City Council meeting. As a lover of books, I found a chart in the report to be deeply disturbing. Here's a screenshot that includes commentary by Scheppke.
Wow. A quarter of the book collection has been lost in the past six years, with every year showing a decline.
Hopefully this long-term decimation of the Salem Public Library's book collection will get more attention from city councilors than a flawed one-month analysis of book removals and additions for May 2019 that's part of a staff report for the upcoming meeting.
This analysis was performed by library staff after it was requested by the City Council in April of this year. So to my mind it's meaningless. Scheppke and other critics of the Big Weed have been hammering library administrators for discarding books without good reason.
So rather than ask library staff to defend prior discarding of books, the City Council gave them advance notice that the next month's book removal effort would be scrutinized. Not surprisingly, for the month of May things looked more or less OK. Here's how Scheppke described this in an email to supporters of ending the Big Weed.
The so-called “tracking study” done in May is being used to try to show that the Council has nothing to worry about if they give the green light. Of course the whole thing was rigged to put the situation in the best light.
I'm bothered not only by this current example of City of Salem staff doing the lipstick on a pig thing, but how this has been a frequent way of operating by city officials during the tenure of City Manager Steve Powers. Meaning, citizen concerns often are not directly addressed. Instead, bureaucratic double-talk is used to defend otherwise indefensible city policies.
In this case, Scheppke and others have systematically documented how the Salem Public Library has failed to follow generally accepted guidelines for discarding books. Yet neither the City Librarian, Sarah Strahl, nor her acquiescent Library Advisory Board have presented cogent arguments against Scheppke, et.al.
Instead, they just say they should be allowed to keep on with their Big Weed, facts be damned. Which isn't how any government official should behave, especially a librarian who supposedly is dedicated to facts, reason, and open discussion.
There's still time to submit testimony to the City Council urging that the Salem Public Library stop discarding books for no good reason. Email your thoughts to [email protected] and reference Agenda Item 6.b
Here's another excerpt from Scheppke's tell-all report: