Library woes bode ill for the future

Library woes bode ill for the future

I've followed the recent controversy surrounding the Urbana Free Library (UFL) with interest. I'm an Urbana resident, and also an author; two of my books are on the nonfiction shelves, directly in the path of Debra Lissak's high-speed weeding onslaught.

My books are probably safe (for the time being) now that the process has been halted and Lissak forced to carry it out with something at least approximating professionalism; but it's clear that Lissak has an agenda for the UFL that's at odds with what many Urbana residents expect.

Putting aside the colossal blunder of indiscriminately weeding thousands of books based solely on their publication date; putting aside Lissak's refusal to take responsibility, instead shifting the blame to subordinates; putting aside her refusal to personally address the hundreds of concerned taxpayers (who paid for those books, and pay her salary) — putting all that aside, we're still left with one basic problem: the UFL's new "strategic plan," which prioritizes "physical 'people' space" above everything else, including the collection.

This plan appears to be based on some consultant's report, a consultant who evidently looked at the UFL and failed to recognize it for what it is: a library. Not a coffee shop, civic center, or day care; it's a library, and a good one, a rare thing these days.

Unfortunately, Lissak seems determined to carry out the new "strategic plan" and turn the UFL into a library-lite, like the Champaign library, a facility with the charm of a municipal building and the ambiance of a bus station. The UFL is one of the last of a dying breed; Lissak should be removed before she destroys it.

CHRISTOPHER P. DEVITO

Urbana