I’m aware that my struggles with the local library are not COMPLETELY relevant to the topic of this blog. However…access to books is of no small matter to any writer (or dedicated reader). And the continued challenge of expressing my ideas clearly to people who are apparently occupying an alternate reality is probably of interest to readers as well.

My email below was answered this morning by the Board of Trustees chair:

Dear Ms. Bauer–

I have been out of town since December 20 and just returned last night, so I am sorry to be so tardy in acknowledging the
expression of your concern.

I regret that you have lost your privileges at our library–our choice to limit our services was a very difficult one to make,
but we felt that in the current situation it was, unfortunately, the right one.

Furthermore, at this time our position does not embrace for fee services.

I am glad you will be able to use the services of the Richmond Public Library.

Susan Geary, Chair
Board of Trustees
Williamsburg Regional Library

At this point, I seem to have stepped sideways into a world where Newspeak has overcome the English language. (Or else into the world of the Princess Bride. “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.)

I am going to have to contemplate my methods here, since I’m obviously not exercising the correct style of rhetoric. In the meantime, here is my answer. (If it does not seem to be in English, please let me know. Perhaps my cerebral cortex has been transmogrified by aliens overnight and I’m just not aware of it.)

Ms Geary,

Were we having this conversation in person, I would assume that you could not hear me.

May I try one more time?

WHY is a fee service not under consideration?

There are only two reasonable answers to this.

1. “A fee based service is not possible because….” [followed by actual reasons, as opposed to “We decided not to consider it.”]

2. “I cannot answer this question because political pressure is forcing me to avoid the entire issue in any way that can be traced back to me.”

It seems that, for some reason, you have decided — or been forced to decide — to keep this entire decision-making process secret. You will not answer my question, and the minutes recording the meeting at which this decision was made are NOT, to my knowledge, online (as are minutes from other meetings).

Since WRL is a PUBLIC library offering a government service, this is not acceptable.

Let me quote from the Board of Trustees’ own by-laws, located online at http://www.wrl.org/info/policies/bylaws.html:

The mission of the Williamsburg Regional Library (“Library”) is as follows: Free access to information is a foundation of democracy. The Library, a basic government service, provides that access through resources and programs that educate, enrich, entertain, and inform every member of our community.

This mission statement translates into the Library taking an active role in the community’s life, and provides an opportunity to stimulate ideas, to advance knowledge, and to enhance the quality of life for every resident.

The Library encourages the free exchange of ideas among people of a free society.

I am merely asking for free access to information about this public institution and the basic governmental service it provides. I will continue to follow up on this question until I am given an actual answer.

If you feel that you do not need to give me an answer because I do not live in one of the localities directly served by the Library, I would disagree. However, I am very happy to refer the question to any one of a number of Williamsburg residents who would like the same information.

An alternative suggestion: Would it be easier if I called you and we talked on the phone about this? Should you wish to call me instead, my cell phone number is (XXX) XXX-XXXX. I am available at any time.

Thank you for your continued willingness to answer my emails,

Susan Wise Bauer

Showing 16 comments
  • Marcy Clak

    Wow, not a form letter and yet, a form letter. Somehow she has managed to say the same thing in the same polite way in the same non-committal tone without saying anything at all. Amazing! I don’t usually follow blogs, as homeschooling my own two kids and maintaining my own sanity takes up most of my time but this fight for your right to use the library you have supported for so many years has captured the interest of myself and my family. We will continue to keep an eye out for what happens and hope for the best. Don’t give up the good fight!

  • dangermom

    Keep at it!

  • Nota Supermom

    Wow, not having access to a local library is homeschool death.

    The Richmond Public Library is okay, but if you can’t get satisfaction in Williamsburg, the Henrico County libraries and the Pamunkey Ridge System might be less of a drive for you.

    Most localities have reciprocal agreements as a courtesy. I don’t understand why W-burg doesn’t.

  • Justin

    That’s quite the phone number you’ve got there.

  • Susan

    Now that you mention it, Justin…I wouldn’t try dialing it, if I were you.

  • Tanya

    I haven’t had the pleasure of using the Richmond library, but I can speak most highly about the Pamunkey Library, Aylett branch. Since Mike goes there once a week, we have used this branch many times. Let me tell you how we’ve been treated: 1) They will put our name on a waiting list for books, 2) They waive the overdue fine when it is snowing and we can’t get there and 3) the librarian will sit on the floor and look for books I might like! Just in case you wonder, the WRL would not think of doing any of this for Charles City residents even when our library cards were in force.

  • Sandy

    Does one of the local TV stations still pursue viewer-driven difficulties with area businesses and government offices? Perhaps WAVY-TV10 or whatever channel is “on your side”? Perhaps a nice airing of this problem before the TV-viewing public would stimulate a helpful response from heretofore tongue-tied office holders.

  • Melanie

    I almost – almost – feel sorry for them. I, too, am interested in hearing more about this story as it unfolds.

  • Sherrill Fink

    You are absolutely right in your response. “At this time our position does not embrace for fee services” is NO answer at all. You already knew that much! Ah, government-speak: The art of saying nothing and avoiding responsibility or explanation.

  • Christine McKinley

    My (homeschooling) family has been using WRL for almost twelve years. We live in Northumberland county (that translates as a 1 1/4 hr drive to W’sburg) and the use of WRL has been the mainstay of our schooling. With 6 1/2 yrs to go in our homeschooling venture, the rescinding of our rights to check books out is devastating and, quite frankly, infuriating. We would be more than happy to pay a yearly fee to use these services. I have made a wonderful, personal friend there in one of the librarians. My boys would rather go to the library than on most field trips ……. but more than anything, denying us our rights to use their services/resources is just plain WRONG.

  • Susan


    Stay tuned for protest details–and if possible, block out Jan. 31 on your calendar.


  • David Macaulay

    Good luck with this Susan – I did pass your comments on to our local people up there who said they have written a bit about this issue.

  • Amy T.

    This is awesome. Too bad someone at that secret board meeting didn’t stand up and say, “Wait a minute! We can’t do this! That woman Susan Wise Bauer lives outside the district. Drat!” I bet they’re saying that now. 🙂

  • Cheapirish

    Tanya – I know for a fact that you are wrong about all those things you say WRL librarians won’t do. They’ve done all those things for others and you can always add yourself to a book waiting list.

    It also seems to me that people are mistaking the clause about a library being “a basic government service.” If your local government doesn’t support library services you consider adequate then expend the energy or pay the taxes to make that happen. Don’t blame the WRL officials for trying to provide those services for their citizens.

  • Janice in NJ

    Hmmmm…. the notes you are receiving seem pretty clear to me. *giggle* They’re stalling and hoping against hope that you’ll click onto a different hulu genre and forget that you were even on this channel. (Where was I, and what was I supposed to be doing today?)

    Obviously they don’t know who they’re dealing with. People who read, instead of click-n-close, are not so easily distracted. Go, go, go!


  • Rhonda Williams

    I just wanted to say I am really enjoying reading your letters. Your sense of humor combined with your command of words just makes my day. I am thinking of using your letters as an example to show my son why the ability to write is so important!

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