In 2018, the unthinkable happened. Anthony Bourdain, beloved TV host, writer, and chef was found dead in his hotel apartment in France. This was not the first well known writer to die that year and the library had a large selection of his work in books and film on hand. I was surprised the previous months at the lack of interest in writers like Harlan Ellison, Peter Mayle, Tom Wolfe, and Philip Roth to name a few, who went without a display or mention on the website. When famous people die that is when the public takes a sudden interest in them again. Bands like Nirvana sold more albums after the death of Kurt Cobain than when he was alive. The same day of Bourdain’s death I sent an email to the director of the library asking if we could do a display for him featuring his works. I was redirected to the person in charge of doing displays and told, “if we did a display for every writer who died we would always have a display up.” There was also mention that they thought about doing a display dedicated to Jim Harrison because he was from Michigan, but they felt he didn’t have enough work to justify it. His library of material filled two shelves in the fiction section.
There was only one thing to do. That night, before the end of the shift, I printed out a picture of Bourdain and collected all of his materials from the library. Episodes of No Reservation and Parts Unknown from the audio-visual section, cook books from the second-floor non-fiction, and his biographies. The material filled a cart and at the bottom of his picture I wrote in the suicide prevention hotline number. The next morning there was an uproar. All day people were talking about the display and how it wasn’t approved. Librarians were mad that materials had been moved. As the day went on patrons came in, saw the display, and checked out various movies and books from the cart. The director decided to let it stay.
A year later Toni Morrison died and to now surprise of anyone she received a display in the lobby showing her works and legacy. Can you find the difference between Toni and the rest of the writers that had died in the last year? I can.
There is a well-known and well documented policy of discrimination at the library and its not just for writers. There is a difference between patrons and patrons, staff and patrons, and staff and staff. Everyone is divided up by their differences and who they are determines policy and actions taken in every situation. The rights of a homeless, oh I’m sorry, “unhoused” person trump the rights of someone who is employed and paid the taxes that keep the library working. If one patron is white and the other black the library with side with the BIPOC person in every case. Patrons are above staff in most situations. If there is a dispute among staff members it is decided upon by race or gender. Throw in a few other things like sexuality and political beliefs and you can see how the policy works. There are rules on the books for these things but they tend to be treated more like suggestions rather than actual rules. If the library was a religion, you could compare them to the worse Christians you ever met, the pick and choose, I sometimes go to church, “the bible does say he can beat his wife” variety.
A perfect example of this policy took place during the “occupy the park” protest of 2019. The city was ahead of its time with social protest when a group of homeless, I mean, unhoused people set up tents in the park and demanded stuff. Free housing, healthcare, food, and a whole list of things that were absurd to say the least. The bathrooms of the library became the port-a-potty for the protestors and we saw an influx of loiters and theft from the library. Meanwhile the library sided with the protestors, putting together care packages for them including soap, gloves, socks, tooth brushes, etc. most of these items were later found in the bathroom trash never used. This is what happens when you take people’s tax dollars and divert them to other things besides what they were intended for. The library literally threw money away to act like social workers instead of librarians. While the tax paying public could have received more materials to use for their own use their money was handed over to ungrateful socialist who demanded something for nothing.
It was during that time that a tall black man about 6’3” wearing a red jump suit came into the library and started harassing some girls upstairs by the computers. Security asked him to leave and that was when “shit got real.” I was in the back hallway and could hear the yelling going on. There was a children’s event taking place on the third floor and while mothers were bringing their children in to the event the man was screaming at the security guard refusing to leave. “Fuck you, fucking dyke bitch. Pussy eating bitch. Suck my dick you faggot bitch!” This is a small fraction of the things he said to the security guard who is black, a woman, and lesbian. Gay bashing at the library, you would think somebody would stand up and put a stop to this. There is no way that this would be tolerated at such an upstanding place as the library. They pride themselves on standing up for minorities and especially gay people, right? The security guard was by herself when I walked out the door and watched as women shielded their kids from the man losing his shit in the lobby.
After hearing some of the things the man was saying I walked up to him, within six inches of his face and said “you need to grab your stuff and leave, right now.” I could see the gears in his head breaking as he looked at me not knowing what to do. He stepped back and was silent for a few seconds. “Did you just walk up to me like that. What the fuck. Who do you think you are?”
“You need to leave. How many times did she tell you to leave?”
“Man, fuck her. Fucking lesbian dyke bitch.”
“Leave now or go to jail.” It was the final warning I would give.
He continued his temper tantrum and I stood there making sure nothing would happen to the security guard. A few minutes later the cops arrived and the man had a warrant for a violent offense. He was arrested and hauled off to the squad car. The security guard thanked me and for the next year I was repeatedly reminded of how I was the bad guy in the situation. You read that right. I was the problem in the situation. It wasn’t the gay bashing, the threats of violence, or the fact that a man with a violent past was causing a scene in a building where kids were coming in to an event. No, that guy was fine. He was in the right. The straight white man who decided to stand next to his gay co-worker while she’s being attacked is the problem. In what world does this make sense?
A few weeks later the same man who had been arrested came back to the library and took a seat up on the second floor. Security noticed him right away and told their supervisor who told them not to do anything unless he did something. When the man was arrested the library was given a no trespassing order so that if he ever showed up again, he would be arrested immediately. This is why the police are reluctant to hand these out. The same victims that receive them don’t use them and instead are hurt later when they don’t use them thinking, “he won’t hurt me this time, he’s changed!” then they end up in the ER and the cops are baffled as to idiocy of the situation. Luckily the man got up after 15 minutes an walked out.
This was another case where I should have seen the red flag to get out and find a new job, but instead I stayed.
End of part two