Letters to the Editor

From the week of September 4, 2003

The library, like the rest of the city, is experiencing a severe budget crunch. The library administration, headed by City Librarian Rick Ashton, has taken measures to cope with the deficit. Staff jobs have been cut, vacated staff positions have not been filled, and library hours have been cut back. In addition to these measures, Mr. Ashton has taken charge of most library fundraising and proposes the formation of a special tax district to bankroll this popular institution, thus freeing the library from accountability to the Denver city government.

As a retired staff member of the Denver Public Library, I am very much opposed to the formation of such a tax district.

At a recent meeting with the Library Commission, some library volunteers expressed concern over the way new and used materials are being handled at the Central Library and its branches. Branches have disposed of as much as 25 percent of the print collections in order to create space for thousands of new videos, CDs and DVDs. The disposal of print materials has been done almost at random and without concern for the needs of library patrons. The Cherry Creek branch, for instance, has no Encyclopedia Britannica because it "wasn't being used enough." At the Ford-Warren branch, a non-Spanish-speaking staff member was told to "weed" the Spanish-language collection even after informing regular staff members that she had no idea what she would be throwing away. The waste is astonishing.

In his August 7 "Checked Out," Steers pointed out another important library problem: Morale among library staff and volunteers is very low. As one longtime staff member put it, "We used to have low morale. Now we have no morale at all." The library has less staff to do more work, and volunteers are discouraged from doing most of the wide range of jobs for which they were trained. Members of the library staff are often overworked and worn out. The pleasure that so many of us found in our work has nearly evaporated. Very little, if anything, is being done to make staff members and volunteers feel appreciated and feel that their hard work is valued by Ashton, his fellow administrators and some branch supervisors.

Many staff and volunteers have "voted with their feet" and moved on to other library districts or to early retirement. I retired in March 2003 after 22 years of service.

To give the Denver Public Library the liberty to continue these kinds of waste and mismanagement of material and human resources without supervision would be unfortunate at best.

Carolyn Haenselman

Man overboard: My thanks to Stuart Steers for spotting the iceberg that threatens the titanic Denver Public Library. City Librarian Rick Ashton is "captaining" the DPL in such a puerile and egomaniacal manner that he appears to be adjusting the course in order to hit that ominous iceberg head on.

While Ashton shouts "We're the number one library in the country!" (read "I'm the King of the World!"), there are many people below decks who are uncertain of their future. I know this because I am shoveling coal in the engine room.

With many unwarranted changes, staff reassignments (some of which smack of punishment for speaking up), promotions seemingly predicated on the candidates' ability to see nothing, say nothing and do nothing, job descriptions for newly created positions written so that staff can predict exactly who is being called to service because only one person fits the qualifications -- we are a staff demoralized.

Stuart Steers reported that an internal memo prepared by the financial office said the now mostly defunct Friends Foundation had an overhead cost of .78/1.00 earned. With the Friends out of the picture, who is doing all the work for fundraising at the library? Could it be library employees, diverted from other assignments, some of them earning in excess of $80,000 a year? Someone grab a calculator.

Regarding the proposed library district: Mr. Ashton, you might want to get your staff on board before you set sail. And to Mayor Hickenlooper: S.O.S! Remember, when you spot an iceberg, only 10 percent shows on the surface.

Keep ringing that warning bell, Mr. Steers.

Name withheld on request

Mind Over Mutter

Heavy-mental music: I was extremely disappointed by Jason Heller's "Man Posse," in the August 14 issue. To call a style of music "electro-booty bass retard" is demeaning to people with mental retardation and perpetuates a hateful stereotype of a population that I consider a silent minority. To equate exploring "retarded ways to make music" with "making farting sounds into my Casio...and screaming, 'Party! Party'..." shows a level of insensitivity that's mind-boggling.

Mental retardation and related developmental disabilities affect about 1 percent of the population. In Colorado alone, with a population close to 4 million, these disabilities impact an estimated 40,000 individuals. Day-to-day living can be a challenge for an individual with mental retardation, and would certainly not be considered a party by anyone. The term "retarded" is no longer used to describe a person with developmental disabilities and is considered derogatory by people with developmental disabilities, their families and people who work with them (such as myself ).

I consider Westword an intelligent and viable alternative to the daily newspapers, and being a musician I have always appreciated your commitment to the music scene in Colorado. I do not think that it is necessary to demean a vulnerable population to promote a certain style of music. I question the intelligence behind Diggie Diamond and the International Male and wonder why, if they are truly talented, they find it necessary to pick on people with disabilities to get their point across. I am equally disappointed with Westword for helping them to promote their agenda by giving them press they don't deserve.

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