Jo Ann Pinder was hired by the Gwinnett library system to bring it into the 21st century. She has done so. Not only that, she has explicitly followed the wishes of the community and her predecessors by following the 1987 mission statement laid out before she was hired in 1991. Much of the arguments surrounding this controversy are based on the fact that she liquidated the genealogy reference department. What does this mean? It means that books were removed from noncirculating reference and were separated into three categories: damaged/discard, general collection, books to be sold. A cursory glance through the World Catalog (OCLC) shows that one reason the titles were let go was because there were many area libraries that held duplicate titles. Take for example the reference item A list of genealogical materials in the Cobb County Public Library System
one of the beloved books the GCPLwatch group wants reinstated. This book is a reference guide to the Cobb County Public Library System, not Gwinnett, and was a redundancy. In WorldCat it is listed as being held by 14 libraries across 3 states.
The Gwinnett Library system decided before Pinder was hired not to support genealogical research and the 1987 mission statement clearly marked logical reasons for this, "An extensive genealogy collection is costly in terms of space, staffing and capital expenses. In a service area populated mainly by residents originally from other regions and states, establishing and maintaining such a collection seems an inappropriate use of tax revenue." Even with all of those reasons weighing into the dissolution of the genealogy reference section of the Gwinnett County Public Library the GCPLWatch has placed the blame for this "travesty" solely on the shoulders of the current director.
What has this woman done
for GCPL that is so terrible?
Well, in 1999 the library system was named a finalist for the Library of the Year award and went on to receive that award in 2000. She has brought prestige and honor to the GCPL by serving as a Councilor-at-Large for the American Library Association. The library grew large enough to stand alone as a county library system apart from Forsyth County and is one of the best funded libraries in the state of Georgia. Those funds have been used to update the technology in the library, develop a virtual presence, and maintain one of the best collections in the state. She's developed a close partnership with the Gwinnett University Center Library which has expanded research assets and access to databases for all Gwinnett County residents.
Why the witch hunt?
One of the GCPL boards members wrote an editorial expressing his concerns over the impending firing:
Jo Ann Pinder has done an excellent job running the library for the last 15 years. Our library is one of the best in the nation, and I'm certain no one can argue otherwise. It is world class in large part because of the leadership and passion of Joanne Pinder and the excellent staff she has assembled. The people of Gwinnett LOVE their library and they will be extremely upset to learn that it's going to be dismantled and taken backward 15 years, and they will be even more upset to learn the silly reasons why.
Let me tell you why. Phyllis Oxendine has a personal vendetta against Ms. Pinder. She has taken every opportunity possible to bring the smallest issues to the board meetings and press trying to embarrass Ms. Pinder. She has tried gaining support of other board members by telling them that Ms. Pinder and her staff don't respect the other board members. In some cases telling them the staff have been rolling eyes behind the backs of members at board meetings even though Mrs. Oxendine could not have seen this any more than the rest of us as we were all facing the same direction. Phyllis Oxendine used to work for the library and I can only imagine that her hostilities originate from her former employment there. Mrs. Oxendine was appointed by Commissioner Charles Bannister when he took office in Jan. 2005.
Additionally Mrs. Oxendine plans dismantle the library executive staff, first by firing several people, eliminating positions, and then by attrition (of course the best will go first). Some have seen this coming for a while now and are already making plans to take other jobs or retire.
Beyond personal vendetta, Gwinnett County also has a long history of book contentions. Just last month, the Gwinnett Board of Education was deciding on the perennial issue of banning Harry Potter. Interestingly, the issues surrounding Jo Ann Pinder's being fired are the same on both sides. Both argue this is for free speech, the first amendment. Here's the thing though, I don't mind if people want to burn books just like I don't mind if people want to burn flags; both are political statements and protected under the first amendment. I do mind if people decide to go one step further and insist on unconstitutional attempts to filter and ban books out of public access and by extension discourse.
"While on the subject of burning books, I would like to congratulate librarians, not famous for their physical strength, their powerful political connections or great wealth, who, all over this country, have staunchly resisted anti-democratic bullies who have tried to remove certain books from their shelves, and destroyed records rather than have to reveal to the thought police the names of persons who have checked out those titles.
So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House, the Supreme Court, the Senate, the House of Representatives, or the media. The America I loved still exists at the front desks of public libraries."
- Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without A Country
The ALA Code of Ethics
I. We provide the highest level of service to all library users through appropriate and usefully organized resources; equitable service policies; equitable access; and accurate, unbiased, and courteous responses to all requests.
II. We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources.
III. We protect each library user's right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted.
IV. We recognize and respect intellectual property rights.
V. We treat co-workers and other colleagues with respect, fairness and good faith, and advocate conditions of employment that safeguard the rights and welfare of all employees of our institutions.
VI. We do not advance private interests at the expense of library users, colleagues, or our employing institutions.
VII. We distinguish between our personal convictions and professional duties and do not allow our personal beliefs to interfere with fair representation of the aims of our institutions or the provision of access to their information resources.
VIII. We strive for excellence in the profession by maintaining and enhancing our own knowledge and skills, by encouraging the professional development of co-workers, and by fostering the aspirations of potential members of the profession.
Contact Info for the Gwinnett Library Board as published in the AJC
You can contact the library board by e-mailing to email@example.com.
You can phone and e-mail Gwinnett County commissioners as follows:
Charles Bannister - 770-822-7010 e-mail: Charles.Bannister@gwinnettcounty.com
Lorraine Green - 770-822-7001 e-mail: lorraine.Green@gwinnettcounty.com
Bert Nasuti - 770-822-7002 e-mail: Bert.Nasuti@gwinnettcounty.com
Mike Beaudreau - 770-822-7003 e-mail: Mike.Beaudreau@gwinnettcounty.com
Kevin Kenerly - 770-822-7004 e-mail: Kevin.Kenerly@gwinnettcounty.com
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