A voice for civility

You’ve gotta give council member Gene Pease credit for cutting through the hypocrisy at Monday’s Town Council meeting.

Town manager Roger Stancil announced his recommendation that the town stop exploring the idea of moving the library to University Mall permanently. Mall owners held firm to their $4 million sales price of the space now occupied by Dillard’s, and that would not generate enough savings over the original expansion plans to offset making enemies of the Friends of the Library.

That should have been the end of that. But several supporters of adding on to the current library, all of them retirement age or close to it, had come to the meeting to try to persuade council to quash the move to the mall. So even though they’d already “won,” supporter after supporter, pink hearts taped to their shirts, took the mike and read their speeches. During their occasional glance up from their written pages, they beamed their approval of Stancil’s recommendation.

Their words were a far cry from their rage during the public comment phase. After the last self-righteous speech had been read, Pease spoke. He called them out on their vicious criticism of the council’s decision to look at cost-effective alternatives to the original expansion plan. During the public comment phase, residents opposed to moving the library to the mall had accused council members of backroom dealings and manipulating the numbers to push through a dastardly plot.

“That’s crazy talk,” Pease said. “I take offense to that.”

Pease praised the council for considering alternatives, especially ones that had the potential to save the town significant money. He emphasized that the town, council and mall representatives had been unusually open in the progress of the discussion, perhaps to the detriment of holiday sales at Dillard’s, which had to convince shoppers that the store would still be around for post-holiday gift returns.

Then Matt Czajkowski made a plea for considering technology in the library plans, which are now 8 years old and fast becoming out of date. Czajkowski held aloft the Kindle used by his mother, who was 90 when she died last month. How people use libraries and consume reading material are changing. More than half the books purchased this past holiday season were e-books.

“The Kindle is not a fad,” he said.

A library is affordable entertainment for the elderly living on fixed incomes. They want their coffee shop and gift shop and a place to read books in a park-like setting. Maybe they feel they’ve earned it. What they haven’t earned is a pass for being mean and vindictive just because they think they’re not going to get their way. Good for Pease holding them accountable for their behavior and speaking up for civility.
– Nancy Oates

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  1. Fred Black

     /  February 17, 2011

    Nancy, it seems that you have yet to mention the plans for the new library without a reference to the coffee shop and gift shop. Not only were those two things part of what citizens said they wanted in their library, they said it in large numbers. How about mentioning some of the other features of the plan?

    For the record, I worked on this plan before leaving the board as its chair in 2001. As yes Gene is right in what he said, but don’t assume that behavior was demonstrated by everyone who didn’t like the mall idea. I made the same point in a WCHL commentary that aired Tuesday, Feb 15th.

  2. Runner

     /  February 17, 2011

    Yes, the battle of 1991 was finally decided on Monday night in Chapel Hill. The Town will be spending $16 million to increase its pool of available meeting space and expand on what I am referring to as the Eastern Branch of the Seymor Senior Center.

    As a result of this project, I hope the folks at the Library make 2 simple improvements.

    1. The Library should create a second check out line within the children’s section to speed up the entire checkout process.
    2. The reconstruction of the Library should include modifications to the crosswalks towards the parking lot. The lower crosswalk near the employee parking lot is located in a blind curve and is very dangerous. That particular crosswalk should be removed.

  3. George C

     /  February 17, 2011

    You’ll be happy to know that the Library is just about ready to bring their RFID (radio frequency identification) system online. The books have been electronically tagged (thanks to a tremendous effort by the Staff and a cadre of volunteers). When the self-checkout stations are operational a patron will be able to check a stack of books out at one time with little effort. This should speed checkout for not only the kids (who will probably adapt to this technology like fish in water) but even for us adults (except for perhaps the most technology challenged). And for those who disdain self-checkout there will still be helpful Staff persons to assist.

  4. Runner

     /  February 17, 2011


    Can you still create 2 checkout areas? In the towns that I lived in before Chapel Hill, this was the norm.

    I’m a little concerned about the “tin ear” that is coming from the Library leaders and its supporters. Change is a fast moving thing and I’m worried that the Library leadership and its small group of loud supporters are not prepared to move with the times.

    A coffee shop and gift shop may be what the vocal supporters of the Library chimed in for back in 2001, but it’s not the right plan for 2011. In my opinion, $16 million for 27,000 square feet of additional space does not seem to be a smart move without some forward thinking usage plans of the entire facility.

  5. Fred Black

     /  February 17, 2011

    Mr./Mrs./Ms. ?, AKA “Runner:” Volunteer and have your ideas heard.

  6. George C

     /  February 17, 2011

    The supporters of the Library that I know and work with are all committed to help it move forward with whatever technology will best serve the Library’s patrons and citizens of Chapel Hill. We have all been encouraging the Staff to move forward with the RFID program as soon as possible and are excited that this technology will soon be available. The Friends, through their membership fees and their successful book sales, contribute significant sums each year to fund programs that might not otherwise occur because of Town budgetary constraints. The Foundation has raised over $500,000 to allow the purchase of 9300 new materials (not only books but CDs and DVDs and licenses) for the Library’s collection and recently purchased three new computers (fully loaded with >60 programs on each) for the Childrens’ section of the Library. Both groups, as well as the Trustees, understand that the Library of tomorrow will not look like the Library of yesterday and we are all committed to working with the Library’s and Town’s staff to help to insure that the changes necessary to create the Library of tomorrow can be successfully implemented. The Foundation is getting ready to begin a large capital campaign based on its Ensuring Excellence campaign. This campaign’s goal is to raise enough funds to insure that our expanded Library has the number (four) of collection items (books, CDs, DVDs, electronic downloads) per capita that is the generally accepted standard. We currently have about 2/3 that standard. These supporters of the Library do not just voice their support when they want something – they do it on a regular daily basis by giving their time and energy to raise the additional funds that serve to keep our Library the #1 Library in the state for over 10 years running. And they are all committed to work even harder to insure that our expanded Library continues to earn that title.

    FYI, the book store in the expanded Library will be staffed by the Friends and will serve to continue their tradition of raising funds to support the Library’s programs. The coffee shop is something that the citizens of Chapel Hill said they wanted in their expanded Library when the discussions were taking place on what an expanded Library should include. And the proposed teen center will be a place where teenagers can get comfortable in a setting that is more attuned to their needs.

  7. Runner

     /  February 17, 2011


    My household already tried that route. My spouse joined the “Friends of the Library” and sought volunteer opportunities. After three attempts to volunteer without a response, we let our membership with the “Friends” lapse.

    In my opinion, the Library leadership is not inclusive or open to new ideas.

  8. Fred Black

     /  February 17, 2011

    Let’s not confuse the elements here. The “leadership” of the library includes the Town Manager, the Director and other employees and the Library Board of Trustees that has statutory responsibilities in the Town ordinance. There is also a Friends of the Library and the Foundation. The later two non-governmental organizations make no policy. I’m sorry your spouse had a bad experience trying to volunteer, but as usual, I’m sure there is more to the story.

    I have found the “leadership” very inclusive and open to new ideas.

  9. Runner

     /  February 17, 2011


    You’re right, I’m probably combining the Library Management with the “Friends”. I stand corrected.

    To answer your comment, there is nothing more to our experience than joining the “Friends”, filling out the various volunteer requests and not hearing back.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bitter or all too concerned. I’m just pointing out our observations. And that observation is that as a consumer of volunteering opportunities, we found the “Friends” to be insular and set in their ways.

  10. George C

     /  February 17, 2011

    You might call it hypocrisy, I call it just plain bad manners. And it seems like we’re seeing more and more of it in this Town whenever a contentious issue arises. Our politicians shouldn’t be surprised by it since politicians have had to suffer through such behavior for years. But I think our elected officials in Chapel Hill had come to expect better from its citizens because we have a fairly participatory form of government compared to many towns and cities. But this lack of civility has certainly become more of a norm here, and not just in politics. There have been a number of examples right here on this blog. And while I appreciate your reluctance to moderate and to abridge someone’s ‘freedom of speech or expression’, years ago if a child started acting uncivil the parents would smack them across the head and tell them to start behaving. Of course, nowadays that would get them hauled into court with a chance that the county or state would take over raising their child.
    I’m pretty sure we can’t legislate civility and good manners but somehow we have to get folks to understand that in a well-functioning community not everyone can get everything they want all the time. In some cases, perhaps even rarely or not ever. But those who feel disenfranchised often enough will eventually stop participating in the discussions at all and then that well-functioning community becomes a myth. I’m not sure where or when this decline in civility and good manners began nor how we might reverse it. But I’m pretty sure the problem goes well beyond a discussion of our Library.

  11. Runner

     /  February 17, 2011

    George C,

    I’m inferring from your comments on this particular thread that you are saying that I am being uncivil. Please point out any particular instance of my “crossing the line”.

  12. George C

     /  February 17, 2011

    No, rest assured that I wasn’t referring to either your comments or this particular thread. I was referring in a general way to some comments that have been posted on not only this blog but other local blogs as well.

  13. John Kramer

     /  February 17, 2011

    George C do not confuse civility with agreement. Many liberals accuse people of being uncivil simply because they do not agree with them. This sort of demonization can be seen recently with the case of those poor, downtrodden, picked upon sanitation workers when people on this site demonized the accusers. It was really pretty depressing to watch.

  14. Duncan O'Malley

     /  February 18, 2011

    It pains me to say this, but I must agree with John Kramer in this instance. Runner’s comments, above, seem to be more objective and civil than anyone else who posted. I don’t know who George C. is, but his comment about Runner’s “general way” of posting on other blogs exposes a closed-mindedness and hypocrisy that he would do well to avoid in the future if he wants readers to take him seriously.

  15. George C

     /  February 18, 2011


    If you read my reply to Runner you will see I was not referring to Runner’s comments on this thread or anywhere else for this matter. I was referring to the general uncivil tone that often pops up on ALL blogs by folks on both sides. I wasn’t singling out any person or any blog.

  16. Runner

     /  February 18, 2011

    George C,

    I felt your reply resolved the matter and I appreciate the response. As for cause for my original response to you, I think it was your request to Nancy to get more involved in moderating her website as a way to manage poor behavior made it look like you were pointing me out in a less than direct way. It goes to show that a well written sentence can still be interpreted many ways.

    I fully expect that if I say something stupid or out of line on this blog that I will be called out on it by anyone and everyone. That form of self-policing will hopefully make people choose their words carefully.

  17. Duncan O'Malley

     /  February 18, 2011

    George C.

    My apologies if I misread you, but your reply was less than clear, at least to me. As Runner said, “It goes to show that a well written sentence can still be interpreted many ways.”

  18. Fred Black

     /  February 18, 2011

    “George C” is George Cianciolo, the current president of the Chapel Hill Public Library Foundation. He followed Gene Pease as the president. George has also chaired the Town of Chapel Hill Planning Board and has many years of volunteer service to Chapel Hill in a variety of activities. Of all the people you can read on blogs, George is always as civil and thoughtful as any you will find. And he is 100% correct, the problem of civility and bad manners goes well beyond a discussion of our Library.