Cook County

Orland Park Public Library Squandered $4,350 by Erasing Video History with Bridget Bittman, Disgraced Former Spokesman

Orland Park, Illinois

Recently, keen eyes noticed a curious change on the Orland Park Public Library’s official Facebook page, which had previously hosted numerous videos dating back to 2014 that the OPPL had paid local videographer Maqbool Rashid to produce (at a cost to taxpayers of at least $4,350, according to documents obtained via FOIA request in July 2017). As of this writing, the videos in question have all disappeared from the OPPL’s social media site, with the Library refusing to explain what happened to them or why they were taken down after so much taxpayer money went to Rashid’s company, “Cover Chicago,” to film and edit them.

These expensive-to-produce video segments were commissioned by the OPPL’s disgraced former spokesman Bridget Bittman during her employment at the Library (which ended ignominiously in July 2015, shortly after a defamation lawsuit was filed against Bittman for allegedly making knowingly false statements to the news media in an effort to harm one of the OPPL’s critics). Many of the newly-disappeared videos featured Bittman mugging for the camera, interviewing OPPL patrons about their thoughts on random topics, giving ad hoc tours of the Library, and spotlighting various OPPL events that Bittman intended as some sort of marketing campaign. The videos were seemingly posted to Facebook and maintained on that social media site by Bittman, whom the OPPL identified in court documents as the sole administrator of its Facebook page until her abrupt departure.

Recently, the OPPL’s Facebook page was seemingly purged of all content commissioned or posted by Bittman, with only content remaining that was created or posted by Bittman’s successor in the role of OPPL spokesman. Such a purge of public work product is not common for Illinois public bodies, particularly when so much taxpayer money was invested in producing that work product. The videos that were removed without explanation from the OPPL’s social media site are arguably part of the OPPL’s (and by extension, the Orland Park community’s) history. There appears to be no public benefit to erasing these videos from the OPPL’s page and making them unavailable for public viewing, as Facebook has no limit to the amount of videos that can be posted (which means no argument can be made that the videos were removed as a necessity so that new ones could be uploaded; in this matter, the OPPL had more than enough room on Facebook to retain the old videos while adding as many new videos as it pleases).

According to invoices submitted by Maqbool Rashid in the form of his “Cover Chicago” videography company, some of the videos produced during Bittman’s stint as OPPL spokesman include:

  • TV recording “Mark Twain” and Library intro = $250.00
  • Holly Jolly Christmas Show = $250.00
  • Mark Dvorak concert coverage = $250.00
  • Generation to Generation concert = $250.00
  • Computer class promo + Greenhouse and backyard gardening = $250.00
  • John Flynn concert + 5 ways to save plants = $250.00
  • Bette Davis/Chicago Wolves show = $250.00
  • Summer reading with Mary Adamowski = $250.00

FOIA documents show that Bridget Bittman’s initials appear next to most of these videography expenses from early 2014 to the summer of 2015, with Library Director Mary Weimar signing-off on other commissions made while Bittman held the Public Information Coordinator position at the OPPL. The total for video production services billed to the OPPL during this time period is at least $4,350.

Residents of Orland Park are thus left to wonder why a public body would spend so much money filming and editing videos for its spokesman to post to Facebook, only to then erase those videos from social media some time after that spokesman leaves her position. Currently, the OPPL features just 22 videos on its Facebook account, all filmed while Bittman’s successor (Jacqui Boyd) has been the new Public Information Coordinator for the Library. With Maqbool Rashid’s established rate being $250.00/video, this means the OPPL has invested at least $5,500 in further video production since Bittman resigned her position.

What is the point of spending thousands of dollars on a professional videography service to capture events at the Orland Park Public Library on film and post them to social media if the public is not allowed to continue viewing these videos forever? At bare minimum, the “Bette Davis/Chicago Wolves” event is an intriguingly-titled video that no doubt many would like to see. (The possibilities for public entertainment inherent in the presumed spectacle of a former two-time Academy Award-winning actress somehow cavorting with either lupine alpha predators or athletic hockey players are infinite…and sounds like there is truly something for everyone in that one clip alone.) The concerts filmed would delight the public forever with musical clips and the gardening tips are evergreen, with no expiration date for their usefulness.

So why did the OPPL squander at least $4,350 in removing video content from its site and making those videos unavailable to the public when it has since invested at least an additional $5,500 in hiring the same videographer to create ongoing content for the OPPL’s social media account? Wouldn’t the OPPL have almost twice the amount of such content available for the public to now enjoy if it had kept Bittman’s work product available?

As usual, the OPPL Board of Trustees was offered an opportunity to explain the thinking behind removing the Bittman-era videos and arguably wasting the thousands of dollars spent on them, but they offered no reply.

4 replies »

  1. So when a city spends money putting up decorations for festivals and the like and taking them down later is that a waste of money? The videos were up for years. They got there money’s worth.

    • Your analogy is flawed. Temporary holiday decorations are different from professionally filmed and edited videos, as the temporary decorations are something adorning a building for a limited amount of time inherent to the holiday or festival. The videos were not temporary decorations placed on a building. The videos were evergreen and not tied to any temporary event. They certainly cost a lot more than strings of lights or pictures of the Easter Bunny or whatever. Those videos were ostensibly filmed and lavished with public funds to form the core of some sort of historical record the OPPL has been building of its events and programs. Why just remove the ones that were made during Bridget Bittman’s tenure but not remove other videos from 2015 that were filmed after she was replaced? In your analogy, other videos would have been removed as “temporary” as well, but that’s just not the case. Post-Bittman videos are all still there from years ago, but Bittman-era videos are all gone. So they are inconsistent with what they have removed and the removal of anything shows that the videos were not necessary or providing enough benefit to the public to warrant all the money spent on creating them in the first place.

  2. Despite her history, I thought those videos were not half bad. I see no reason to remove them. Now that I learn how much it cost to produce them — especially when library teens could have done this for free and for experience — I think it was wrong to remove them. They should be restored.

    Perhaps they are urging Bridget Bittman to launch another lawsuit, like they urged her to launch her first (including against me), and are cleaning up the record? I doubt it but you never know given her history in the library and in the courts.

    • You know that I have no trouble speaking my mind about this Library and criticizing them when I feel they deserve it…but I thought the little videos they made were charming. I have always maintained that I think it’s a colossal waste of money paying Rashid to do the videos when they supposedly have employees on staff who know how to do all this stuff. This Library is one of the libraries that claims it is a “Makerplace” or “Makerspace” or whatever, where people are supposed to be able to go to learn how to do tech stuff. If that’s true, then it’s hard for me to believe there is not someone on staff who can make videos for them FOR FREE. A really nice video camera (not a family camcorder, but a digital camera that is near-professional quality) is around $900. Why doesn’t the OPPL buy a really good camera…and that would be less than what Rashid charges to film 5 events. It’s really sad they chose to get rid of the videos that were up because some of the events they covered were really great. I especially liked the gardening tips one. They also had videos where they had a man dressed as Lincoln and another dressed as Mark Twain. It was fun to see those performers. It’s such a mystery why they chose to do this, and of course no matter how many times you ask them to explain what they did, they refuse to explain themselves.

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