For decades, the Urbana Free Library has been one of the strongest assets of the City of Urbana, with extensive collections covering all areas, from science to history to poetry and fiction. Recently, under the direct instruction of the Executive Director, Debra Lissak, the collection has been gutted, with adult nonfiction books published earlier than 2003 slated for removal. This decision was the result of a strategic plan that was not adequately shared with the public. Such drastic changes to the Library deserve greater public scrutiny.
The immediate result of these actions is that the breadth of the library's collection has been greatly diminished. The longer-term problem is that public trust in the library and its administration is eroding rapidly. We need more accountability and transparency. Thus far, Lissak has responded with evasions and misdirection, blaming unknown "miscommunications" and preferring to present the result as a fait accompli. However, the citizens of Urbana deserve better. These decisions were taken without adequate oversight or approval, and represent a betrayal of the trust that the citizens of Urbana have placed in the leadership of the Library. Please join us in calling them to account.
Links are in the articles above to responses from the library and other press coverage.
An email sent out to petition signers has a few errors. Here is the current state of the weeding process:
Previously weeded books were shipped after a board meeting inquiring about the weeding, presumably with the Director's approval. It is hoped that these boxes will come back but it is not clear how many can come back. The collection is being weeded more responsibly now according to established policies and procedures. The mayor's intervention was not needed.
- President, Urbana Free Library Board of Trustees
Mary Ellen Farrell
- Vice President, Urbana Free Library Board of Trustees
I am deeply concerned about the recent hasty decision and implementation of the "weeding" of the adult collection at the Urbana Free Library. Both the strategic plan and its execution were done without sufficient deliberation and oversight. The Board and Executive Director Lissak should engage with the public on this issue. In particular, Lissak has not received feedback on these issues in a public venue. The Library is there to serve the community, not the other way around.
I urge you to hold another public meeting about this issue where Executive Director Debra Lissak should face the patrons of the library, take responsibility, and explain how the situation will be corrected. Blaming her staff for her own rushed decision is not a sign of leadership.
Anand Sarwate started this petition with a single signature, and now has 429 supporters. Start a petition today to change something you care about.