I love the Rockingham Free Public Library. I have been an active user at RFPL for 53 years. I can remember the day I got my library card, back when children had to be able to sign their name to acquire one. That day was very important to me, and I know how lucky we are to have such a vibrant, beautiful, functioning library.
There have been an ongoing issues with the RFPL for many months now, starting with the renovation and more recently, with the dismissal of the RFPL director, Celine Houlné. Ms. Houlné feels she has been wrongly terminated and has been hard at work organizing community support.
I feel that there are several problems here. The issue of dismissal may be at the core, but there are also rumblings in the community about finger pointing, vendettas, personal and unprofessional behavior, meanness, and scores to settle. Certain members of the library Board of Trustees who were elected have been labeled "Gang of Four," "Ladies Who Lunch," "spiteful," and "mean-spirited."
Some of the name calling is done on social media. These people would be the first to file bullying charges if this kind of attention was directed at their children, especially on a social media forum. A little truth, some little lies ... People get the wrong idea without all the information. I asked a friend to stop with the innuendo and name calling as it was upsetting to me, knowing it was directed at another friend. Even the newspaper articles I have read seem to be making a judgment, rather than objective reporting.
I know several members of the board. I don’t know all of them. I don’t know Celine at all. What I do know is that I can’t imagine a single person on that board having a personal vendetta with the director and waging a campaign to terminate her without valid reason. The ones I do know certainly do not have any personal disputes with her.
I taught at Central Elementary School for 20 years. I am currently a home provider for a child with special needs. These are both positions where I have had to be evaluated on a yearly, or more frequent basis. I was, and am, held accountable for my actions, paperwork in a timely fashion, and honesty. I understand if Ms. Houlné is unhappy with her evaluation that she has the right to ask that certain things be made public. I don’t understand why the public can respond to her termination and demand her reinstatement.
I also do not understand how anything so unprofessional as name calling and discussing trustee evaluations with staff has come to be accepted as an appropriate method to dispute her evaluation. I’m not saying I know all the facts. I don’t think most of the people doing the finger pointing do. I am worried that those same people were very quick to jump on the "They are being mean to her" bandwagon. Being a nice person doesn’t predetermine that one is good at one’s job. Shouldn’t the elected trustees be allowed to do their jobs?
There are a vocal few who are harassing members of the board, plain and simple. I have had to ask friends to stop calling the members of the board names and applying insulting labels. It’s juvenile and inappropriate, and causing stress to individuals and their families.
Why has this come up for public discussion? I am frightened by the vehemence in our little community in response to something for which I don’t think many understand the finer points. I do know that after looking for some information and watching the hearing, I was very surprised to learn a great many facts I was not aware of. The information is certainly not hidden from the public, if one chooses to do a bit of research.
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has," said Margaret Mead.
Grow up and behave yourselves, folks. Research and talk about it, sure. Stop the derogatory comments and nasty names, that never helped anyone’s cause. I would certainly hope that people like myself don’t have to be afraid or intimidated when the library is once again open to go into a place that has provided us with such comfort and solace over the years.
"Thoughtful" is not the word that comes to mind when I hear the comments of this group of supposedly committed people.
Sarah Massucco is a long-time resident of Rockingham and a former kindergarten teacher at Central Elementary School. She is a 1974 graduate of Bellows Falls Union High School.