ORLAND PARK, IL. (ECWd) –
The Orland Park History Museum, which opened this past April in the former red-brick Village Hall building in Orland Park, has accepted into its archive collection a book that was banned by the Orland Park Public Library (OPPL), despite book-banning being against the Library’s stated intellectual freedom policies (and the OPPL bragging that it is the 2014 winner of the “Robert B. Downs Award for Intellectual Freedom” from the University of Illinois Champagne-Urbana).
The book in question is SHUT UP!: The Bizarre War that One Public Library Waged Against the First Amendment by investigative reporters Megan Fox and Kevin DuJan; SHUT UP! meticulously documents their investigation into years’ of wrongdoing and law-breaking at the OPPL, including library staff looking the other way and deliberately not calling the police when an Orland Park resident admitted that he was viewing child pornography on the OPPL’s computers in a public building full of children. Fox & DuJan used FOIA requests to uncover the Library’s own internal documents that proved not only did OPPL staffers regularly decide not to alert authorities when sex crimes occurred in the Library, but that in at least one case the OPPL board of trustees took themselves out for a $500 steak dinner to apparently celebrate getting away with no one at the time finding out about the child pornography being accessed at the Orland Park Public Library.
SHUT UP! also documents every abuse of power aimed at Fox & DuJan by Orland Park officials from Police Chief Timothy J. McCarthy to Village Manager Paul Grimes and Library Director Mary Weimar, Trustee Diane Jennings, and others who appear to have sought to silence and frighten away these reporters so that the truth about what had been going on for years in that library would never be known. As reported on this site, Fox & DuJan prevailed in several lawsuits against both the OPPL and the Village of Orland Park, winning over $67,000 in settlements for violations of their rights under the Freedom of Information Act and Open Meetings Act. Fox & DuJan also prevailed in a SLAPP (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation) lawsuit filed against them by former OPPL spokesman Bridget Bittman. SHUT UP! is one of the only books available that not only documents a SLAPP from beginning to end but also provides instructions for members of the public wishing to use FOIA requests to investigate spending irregularities and other problems at a public body, or how to assert rights of Free Speech to petition public bodies for change and redress of grievances under the Open Meetings Act.
Since SHUT UP! is one of the few books ever written about Orland Park, it has clear local interest to the people of Orland Park outside the valuable information it provides about political activism and defense against a meritless SLAPP lawsuit. The book is favorably reviewed on Amazon.com, WorldCat, and GoodReads, where reviewers note that Fox & DuJan managed to convey a lot of detailed information about public participation in government with humorous anecdotes about the bizarre cast of characters they encountered in the staff and trustees of the OPPL and the public officials such as Chief McCarthy who form the villains of SHUT UP!.
Letters to the editor in The Orland Park Prairie printed in August 2016 from OPPL cardholders who requested that the Library carry SHUT UP! (but the OPPL refused to add the book to its shelves) document viewpoint discrimination and book-banning, since the OPPL adamantly refused to even accept donated copies of the book. Even the American Library Association, whose Office for Intellectual Freedom was eviscerated by Fox & DuJan in their opus, is listed in WorldCat as having a copy of SHUT UP! in the ALA’s own library in downtown Chicago. There appears to be no credible or substantive reason why the OPPL does not accept a copy of this book into its collection when it meets every single listed requirement for acquisition by the OPPL, other than that staff and trustees of the Orland Park Public Library just do not want the public reading about the terrible things that Fox & DuJan uncovered, discovered, and documented about what is arguably the worst-run public library in Illinois.
When OPPL staff members blatantly refuse to carry a book that has been requested by cardholders even when offers have been made to donate the book to the library at no cost — and the staffers appear to be engaging in viewpoint discrimination, where they personally do not want people in the community reading a book in which they appear as characters and their own actions are documented unfavorably — then this is clearly book-banning. And it is ironic as well as hypocritical, because every year at the end of September the American Library Association hosts an event called “Banned Books Week,” where the ALA claims that a parent not wanting sexually explicit material like Playboy to be given to a child is “book-banning.” If that’s the case, then we wonder what the ALA calls it when the staff and trustees of a public body such as the Orland Park Public Library willfully and deliberately ban a book like SHUT UP! from its shelves because they do not want people to read an investigators’ account of the bad things that happened in that particular library in recent years.
When government employees purposely choose to keep something from the public, despite the public making written requests for that book to be carried in their local public library, that is censorship. The fact that the OPPL has been offered the book for free removes any excuse that the OPPL cannot afford to buy the book. No purchase by them is necessary. They have requests for the book from cardholders. The book is about the village and has great local interest. Refusing to put this book on the shelf because staffers don’t like it or don’t like the authors is book-banning censorship, plain and simple.
While the OPPL itself has engaged in despicable book-banning here that flagrantly slaps the face of intellectual freedom, it is heartening that there are still sane people in Orland Park who recognize the importance of SHUT UP! as a first-hand, primary source account of well-documented controversies and events in the village. Whether you are a fan of Fox & DuJan or not — and while we can appreciate that it might make the OPPL staff and trustees uncomfortable to have a book critical of them present in their library, as some have noted — banning one book sets a course on a slippery slope where OPPL staff then decide what book to ban next, because one staffer or another doesn’t agree with the content of the book or doesn’t like its authors. The Orland Park History Museum is including SHUT UP! in its archives so that scholars and researchers who are unable to obtain the book at the OPPL can have access to this primary source when learning about Orland Park’s recent history. And let’s all remember who the OPPL belongs to: it is not the possession of the staffers or trustees. That library belongs to the taxpaying public and if the public wants the freedom to read a book that is critical of the Library, then it is a violation of intellectual freedom for the Library to ban that book.
If public employees and officials in Orland Park don’t want to be embarrassed by an accounting of their own bad behavior, the solution is to not ban books that are written about them. Going forward, they should think twice about engaging in conduct and behavior that encourages critical books to be written about them. If Chief McCarthy and the other Village officials and the staff and trustees in that Library did not carry on the way that they did for over two years trying to silence and censor their critics, then Fox & DuJan would have had nothing to write about…instead of being able to publish a 666-page riveting account that is highly unflattering to the powers that be which run Orland Park.
People who cannot afford to purchase their own copy of SHUT UP! (which, due to its length and scope, is expensive) now have the opportunity to read the book at the Orland Park History Museum for free. It was a travesty that prior to the History Museum adding this primary source account to its archives that the public was able to access it in downtown Chicago, the state capital in Springfield, and the American Library Association’s offices (among other far-flung places that carry this book)…but not in Orland Park itself, the village that the book is actually about.
The Orland Park History Museum is open on Thursdays from 9am-1pm; Saturdays from 9am-1pm; and is open the second Sunday of every month from 12pm-3pm. It is located at Old Village Hall at 14415 Beacon Avenue in Orland Park.
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