Don’t judge a book by its cover — especially in a library

When I read Mr. Roberts’ June 1 Xpress letter, “What Happened to Pack Memorial Library?” my first reaction was speechless disbelief that he would take it upon himself to label a sizable portion of Pack Library patrons “ex-cons, strung-out drug abusers, downtrodden” and “scary-looking thugs.” Ironically, downtrodden is defined by the Princeton University WordNet database as “Abused or oppressed by people in power.”

Roberts laments that he sees no children, families and businesspeople there. But children do come. When they do, I know that they come with their school classes, which is right since school has been in session all spring and the library isn’t open much after they get out. …

Let’s face facts. The majority of people Mr. Roberts would like to see using the Pack computers do so at school, home or at work. But the people who do use public computers are those expected by statistics: people at the poverty level. If they were all “strung out” as insinuated, they wouldn’t have the patience to be on computers in the first place.

I can’t speak to what happens in the parking garage that Mr. Roberts mentioned, since I’m rarely there, but when I’ve been in front of Pack during the mornings, I rarely see more than a few people hanging around, and none of them have been aggressive. I have not seen a business entrance on Haywood Street blocked by panhandlers since the library reopened. I believe the new Pack is a light-filled open space of beauty to be shared by any who come.

Mr. Roberts has attributed all kinds of negative characteristics to people he doesn’t actually know based on the stereotypical behavior of a few. Some would like to cleanse the visible signs of the poor from their “territory” without working on poverty itself, but to do so is no solution.

— Wayne Burgess


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One thought on “Don’t judge a book by its cover — especially in a library

  1. Amy Wright

    Thank you for writing this letter. I had a similar reaction, and wondered about the cause of such a great lack of empathy. I’ve been to the Pack Library on a few occasions since it reopened, (and many before) and have had nothing but good experiences. I personally know multiple people who have to use the library as their internet portal to the world – due to no computer, or just economizing and not being able to afford internet access for a while – and I believe this is a vital service. I am glad it is being met.

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