Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Does Trenton PL Suck?

Yesterday someone posted a comment on what seems to me a strange phenomenon at the Trenton (NJ) Public Library. The commenter provided a series of links to news articles and noted that the director was leaving after only 6 months on the job. This link should bring up the relevant articles. (This is the craziest library scandal I've heard about in the Garden State since the tax shenanigans in Upper Saddle River last summer. I never did follow up on that. Wonder what happened.)

According to one of the articles, "For the fifth time in six years, the Trenton Public Library System is losing its top administrator."

Fifth time in six years! What are they doing to these poor directors? I can only assume that being director of the Trenton Public Library is a library job that sucks. What other explanation can there be? That they just get tired of living in New Jersey and pack up and leave? Actually, that could be it. I've been to New Jersey. It's not a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there. (And for my readers from the Garden State: I'm just kidding! For the rest of you: no, I'm not.)

But this guy couldn't leave fast enough. See this story dated March 23rd: "A week after announcing he would leave the Trenton Public Library in late April, Director Scott Hughes abruptly stepped down from his position Friday." Hughes wasn't wasting any time, was he?

According to one of the articles, there were "rumors" he was being fired for "not following procedures." Given that the library seems to have had five directors in six years, I can't imagine what the procedures were that he allegedly wasn't following. Perhaps he didn't tender his resignation the day he started the job, and the Trenton folks got panicky that he might stay on the job longer than a year.

But according to the next story, the city council wants to interview him publicly to find out why he's leaving. So maybe he wasn't being fired. Maybe the job just sucks.

The mystery remains, at least until there's another article explaining it. Imagine these questions being read in one of those 1940s radio soap opera voices: What's going on at the Trenton Public Library? Why did Scott Hughes leave? Is being director of the Trenton Public Library a library job that sucks?

Tune in next week for the thrilling conclusion!

[Note to the person who posted the original comment--keep following this story so we can find out the thrilling conclusion.]

18 comments:

Bunny Watson said...

The annoying thing about this is that the last article is dated 4/3/07, with a note to see the Wednesday issue for more information but there's nothing else about it.

AL said...

Ha! I guess the Trenton news sucks as well.

Anonymous said...

A library system located in a poverty ridden urban center that is also capital of an entirely corrupt state government.

Sure, that can't possible suck.

"Listen here Mr. Director, you must sign this contract to pay $200,000 to a consultant who happens to be the idiot nephew of a major Democratic party contibutor. Oh, by the way, your request for $2,500 for computers and $1,000 for lightbulbs is denied."

--Taupey

Anonymous said...

I'd expect the Trenton Library system is, as the whole city government probably is, riddled with corruption. Yes, library contracts are steered to relatives etc., make work projects are invented for political patronage, kick backs are expected. It's exactly what you see on the Sopranos. Anyone who doesn't kick in would be bounced pretty quick, I'm sure. How funny this poor sod has to expain himself to the city council. The Trenton city council, my god.

I "direct" a small public library in NJ, and while I don't see much illegal going on, alot of very suspect things happen. For instance, twice a year I'm "invited" to the town democratic fund raiser, to the tune of several hundred $$$ per ticket.

Oh, and of course the staff are all in political patronage jobs. Anytime one of these welfare recipients screws up, which happens daily, and I try to do something, they, the welfare recipient, runs to what ever board member/town official installed them, and starts braying about INJUSTICE.

I've given up trying to manage anything, and spend most of my day reading blogs, articles, online books and so forth. Why don't I leave? Well, scince I more or less play ball I'm mostly left alone. I've been burned so many times I have 0 interest in the "profession" anymore--I just kind of mark time. The only actual work I do is book ordering, which can be somewhat interesting, Harry Potter notwithstanding.

I can just imagine what my personal grief must be like when blown up to the magnitude of Trenton.

miriam said...

Anonymous could be right. I was director of a medium-sized library in New Jersey. It wasn't politics that did me in, it was a Board that liked to play library. They also liked to disregard state law, hold secret meetings, and pick on the staff, who were civil servants and could not be removed. You couldn't remove them, but you could make their lives miserable, which they did.

Anonymous said...

yow! two hits on NJ public libraries right out of the box! one would hope that somebody with a more optimistic (not to be confused with naive) view would pipe up?
I drove through NJ once...

morse said...

I work at a great university library in NJ and like it. I also live in a great neighborhood in Trenton and like that as well. When you drive around the areas north of Trenton, you can see why it's called the Garden State. It's really lovely. On the other hand, the state and local goverments do seem to be a mess, and parts of Trenton have terrible gang and drug problems. Perhaps this director got fed up with the gangs and the drugs.

Anonymous said...

I drove through NJ once...

"You're from New Jersey? Which exit?"

Anonymous said...

I'm exit 14C off the Turnpike--Jersey City.

I'm also a librarian in a large public county system in central NJ. Luckily, unlike many in the state, my county system is a rather prosperous one and thus well funded. I purchase books for a number of the nonfiction areas and my budget is usually more than I can spend. My salary, compared to most librarians I know and the job ads I see, is excellent. I've only been out of school for two years and this is my first full time position so I have very little job responsibilities. Things get boring at times, but I can't really complain much as my boss is very laid back and takes a very hands-off approach. I can basically come and go as I please. Of course there are the occasional annoying patrons and incompetent co-workers, but I don't think I'll ever be able to avoid that as long as I'm in a public services position. I was also born and raised in New Jersey and have spent most of my life here. I love it and will defend it to my death. And honestly who really wants a state government that runs smoothly and is free of corruption? BORING!

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous at Exit 14C. I agree! Who wants a boring government? We have the best pols here in NJ; if you haven't been indicted you're not qualified for office.

Seriously, Trenton is like many state capitols.... one long street of government buildings (State St. of course), and one block over it's crack alley. There are some very nice sections of Trenton, too. But the sad truth is, most of the state workers commute to Trenton from elsewhere in NJ or PA, and with lunch excepted, they spend their money elsewhere too.

And the other drag about NJ is the whole home rule crapola. Every little town has its little crappy library. (don't flame... it's a generalization) There's very little regionalization, in NJ school systems, libraries, or any public services. There are some great PL's in NJ: East Brunswick, Princeton, Morris County, but those are pretty wealthy areas. Regionalized systems would bring good services to less wealthy communities, but that's practically satanism here in NJ.

Now, I'm dying to suss out where the beleaguered Mr. Hughs lands. I'm sure the poor guy tried his best...

Anonymous said...

AL, here are some more links regarding the notorious Scott Hughes and the Trenton PL:

http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=17358843&BRD=1697&PAG=461&dept_id=44551&rfi=6

http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=17348255&BRD=1697&PAG=461&dept_id=44551&rfi=6

Anonymous said...

AL, check out this link as well about Trenton PL:

http://www.trentonian.com/site/news.cfm?brd=1697&pag=628&dept_id=44551&search=1&ls=0&sortby=1&TITLE=&tp=2&FULL=%22scott+hughes%22&fp=0&AUTHOR=&ap=2&DateRange=2006&x=25&y=7

Anonymous said...

I have heard of and worked at other places in the country with a revolving door. I worked at one place in the South where they had 6 department heads in reference in 5 years. That many people in that short amount of time is definately a red flag.

Feldspar said...

I work in Trenton and in my opinion public libraries,at least in this country, tend to trivialize knowledge and learning. We also have no control over patron demand so all the money spent on "library development" is largely wasted. If you're fishing on the banks of the Delaware you have no choice over the kind of fish that swim by. Same here. We do not create demand, it comes to us: from the schools, families, neighborhoods, etc. Somebody once said a library is only as good as the people who use it - that's enough to humble anybody.
Our Director? (Hey, isn't that a march by J.P. Sousa?)All will be revealed in the fullness of time kids! There has also been a revolving door for librarians - and most of them really good, too.

Anonymous said...

Well, all you have to do is read Janet Evanovich and the Stephanie Plum series to see what kind of a place Trenton is! It must be a hopeless job in a hopeless city.

Anonymous said...

Here is an update for the Trenton Issue.

As a former employee, all I can say is that the Top=down theory Hughs has about the Trenton problems are dead on

http://www.nj.com/news/times/index.ssf?/base/news-3/1179806778266510.xml&coll=5

Anonymous said...

TPL as we call it, is a great place to work. Only a few of you hit it on the head, the Board runs the library and now we are in a mess. We as staff don't have issues with them personally, but everytime a Director comes in, they can't work with th Board of Trustees or the Board President. Go figure! Also our budget remains flat every year, but there is money for everything else except materials and more staff. What kind of town or community wouldn't want their children to read and have a decent place to hang out. Trenton complains about the gang problem, but they have done nothing to fix it. I agree that Trenton may not be this great place, but even with the corruption, there are great people and mainly the staff and patrons who try to keep the city and the library going. So to all of you who say that Trenton stinks, who cares. Remember this quote, "The first shall be last and the last shall be first."

Anonymous said...

Hello, I'm back!