“The Woburn Public Library is a medium-sized library serving an economically developed suburban community of approximately 39,000. The library seeks to be an integral part of the community by providing all residents with a wide variety of popular and reference materials, resources, services, and programs that extend their personal and intellectual development.” Statement on the City of Woburn’s website.
How can I help? I wondered when my niece told me that she was going to be furloughed, basically laid off, from her job as Children’s Librarian at Woburn Library in Woburn, Massachusetts. It sometimes seems so overwhelming to be pitted against a huge bureaucracy, like a government agency. I can’t help think of the grim reminder of an ancient novel by George Orwell, that when I was growing up portended a future time…1984.
My niece, Dorrie Karlin, and the other (fourteen) librarians who are facing losing their jobs, have organized, and have union help. They also have a lot of support from the citizens in the city in which they work. Woburnians have written letter, have joined protests, in great number for a city of forty thousand, joined together in outrage to request that the mayor, who has joined with the new director of the library to let go of more than half the staff, to reconsider this inappropriate furloughing.. Woburn, only a year ago opened a brand new, multi million dollar architectural tour-de-force, for which the city has been heralded, and in which the city has taken great pride. One day I was listening to a radio show on NPR and heard the library noted as one of the best libraries that The Library Land Project had visited. Excitedly I called my niece, who of course knew about the Library Land Project. Of course one of the criteria that the Library Land Project takes into account is the helpfulness of the staff. Can you imagine libraries without staff? is that what we are coming to? Is that the inevitability of the future and the resistance to that change to which we instinctively object…especially those of us who grew up in old homey libraries, with librarians as focal points for guidance and help.
I joined the facebook page the librarians created to support their cause. What else might I do? Here is my activism, a letter to CBS Sunday Morning, asking them to feature these librarians and their fight. Nothing like the spotlight to show injustice is there? I hope it helps.
For CBS Sunday Morning: ” Woburn, Massachusetts, last year opened their state of the art, exquisite 45,500 sq. ft. new library. You might remember Woburn, from a contaminated water case in the 1980s, the story of which was made into film, “A Civil Action” starring John Travolta. Mostly blue collar in those days and now in part populated by tech workers from the 128 IT belt, as the less pricey place to live than neighboring cities like Lexington and Winchester. The citizens participate and are concerned. They are raising a big flag, and calling attention to a mayor, who is in cahoots with the new library director, to fire fifteen of the librarians, pointing to the virus for the layoffs, claiming that 25 people in a building of more tan 45,000 square feet is unsafe. While many cities are adopting librarian assisted research, and curbside pickup for books, Woburn is entrenched in a no work policy, and not allowing the librarians to perform their work and then , “furloughing” them. The union and the mayor are stalemated, meeting again in the next week. The townspeople have come out in numbers to protest (well, hard to come out during Covid), but in numbers supportive of staff. Might this be a nice human interest story for CBS Sunday Morning with Jane Pauley. I have watched since Charles Kurault was hosting. My niece, Dorrie Karlin is the children’s librarian and one of the fifteen facing the ax. Your attention might help. Thank you Jill Karlin”