Greta Van Susteren bashed libraries on Facebook and I'm pissed about it

Greta Van Susteren bashed libraries on Facebook and I'm pissed about it

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Those are the words of Greta Van Susteren, former Fox News personality, posted to Facebook on Saturday, September 10th. Susteren, 62, recently left Fox News in a definite hurry the day that Gretchen Carlson announced that Fox was paying her a $20 million settlement for her sexual abuse case against Roger Ailes. (Read my report of this incident here.)

Susteren, who stood up for Ailes during the media backlash when the sexual assault case was announced, has recently backed off. She admitted in a recent Facebook post that "I regret that Roger Ailes was not supervised by those in a public corporation who had the duty to supervise him. This included his seniors, the CFO’s of both Fox News Channel and 21CF (and its predecessor NewsCorp), the Board of Directors and what I assume this public corporation had, outside auditors. Checks written that were suspicious should have been spotted." (Source)

Susteren has been very prolific and vocal on Facebook since her departure from Fox, interacting with both fans and foes alike, sometimes asking bewildering and extremely odd questions, and kvetching about Fox keeping the photos from her website, though they did eventually give them back. The statement at the top of this blog sums up her recent postings, but it was the following statement that caught my eye immediately: "Think about this...you know I am critical of universities spending money to build new library buildings when libraries are now on line [sic]...even on your phone. The cost then gets passed onto students as tution [sic] costs get hiked. Universities know that the Federal government will loan the money to students and buildings can often just be vanity projects, not necessities."

For those of you who don't know, I work at a library. I started in January of 2014 at the very bottom, as a shelver. The next few months I got more and more confident and loved the environment I was working in. I applied for a more elevated position and got it and I've never looked back. But, even before I started working at one, libraries have been the engine of my life.

At age ten I went to the library and, walking past the CDs one day, I happened upon a recording of Mozart's The Magic Flute. From that moment I knew my path in life and my rapturous passion for opera grew out of that moment. Since then libraries have been a cocoon to me, a place where I feel safe, surrounded by the works of the brightest minds our world has to offer.

In the time I started working at a library, I saw how important it was to a community. People used the computers to find jobs, used the books to broaden their knowledge of the world, and experience every bit of culture we have to offer. I have seen teenagers who, if it were not for the library, would be at risk and prone to join gangs. The library provides them a place to thrive and feel accepted at an age where the world seems like a daunting and chilling place.

Greta Van Susteren postulates that we don't need libraries because they can be found "on line" or "even on your phone." She criticizes spending on new buildings for libraries as "vanity projects." What she does not know, because of the fact that she has the money to buy all the necessary books and technology libraries have to offer, is how incredibly necessary libraries are in communities and universities.

Has she ever tried to do a research paper and needed a book that was $150? What she may not know is that libraries are able to borrow from other libraries to get an item you need at little to no cost. Has she ever had high-schoolers who have had to do summer reading? The average price of a paperback book for young adults is $15. For a family on a limited income, potentially $100 worth of books for the summer might be too dear for them. Libraries offer not only the books they need but librarians who will help them to understand what they're reading. Has she ever had a low enough income that her children can't afford lunch during the summer? Our library, every weekday during the summer, has a program that feeds children and young adults, up to age 18, a healthy meal and provides a social area for them to stay focused on living their lives in positive ways.

Susteren doesn't know any of this because she has no need for any of the services libraries provide. She has the money to not have to borrow books or use a public computer. She defines the stereotype of an entitled conservative who doesn't know how the real world functions.

Or, may I add, she might have a bias against books and the written word in general? Her 2003 (and only) book, My Turn at the Bully Pulpit, flopped and went down the drain faster than you could say "tax break", with one reviewer nothing that "In her book, Greta notoriously changes her position with views which mislead and insidiously attempt to guide her audience into her...world. She uses this same technique on her show with her defense attorney panel to promote her right wing agenda. The problem is the demagogic style in which she presents her ideas." The book touted an odd peremptory tirade against party politics, saying, "Greta Van Susteren speaks from the mind and the heart, not as a liberal or a conservative, but as a right-thinking, sensible citizen. 'Our country is at a critical juncture,' she writes, and 'too many of us are caught up in old definitions of left and right that no longer apply.'" It's true that Susteren is intentionally vague about her politics, but the fact that she's on Fox is a given towards harboring conservative leanings. (And, to add, she is a Scientologist, so draw your own conclusions.)

Susteren's words are harmful on so many levels and, like all thin arguments, were gestated in a pool of misinformation and cloistered partisanship. She rails against spending the money to build new buildings for libraries because it will raise tuition. The fact is that reservations to university buildings are usually subsidized by referendums in the towns they reside in. Those costs aren't tacked onto the student, they are decided by the community during election season.

Susteren, I hope, did not mean any outward malice towards the library community, but there's no other explanation that can be given for her hate speech. I would love to guide her on a tour of the library where I work and introduce her to the thousands of people whose lives we brighten every single day.

Maybe then she'll realize that dollar signs mean nothing compared to a life that has been bettered.

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    Much as I like libraries, Great van Susteren's comment regarding the obsolescence of libraries is quite correct. We still need them, but ONLY as warehouses for books that can be viewed online, for for historians or others who wish to examine original materials - a tiny fraction of the general public.

    The refusal to accept the reality, and implications of the Internet and other technological breakthroughs has caused many odd contradictions. Old time major newspaper continue to pop up subscription requests to viewers attempting to read their pages, forgetting that there is nothing special about them now, that the same information is everywhere, accessible freely and one does not have to go to a newstand to get it.

    It's not about libraries being essential to communities. That was true once. It's about INFORMATION. It's about entertainment and pleasure too. And the Libraries, their accessibility and their stock of books was all about the control of Information that once was commonplace among the world of the past. The stockbroker, politician, scientist, doctor - all had their private stores of information of which only a tiny part could be accessed in a library, often with great difficulty.

    The author of this article must come to realize that the world has changed, that Information has been liberated and that the personal computer, Internet and cell phone have become tools not only of individual empowerment and information liberation, but also tools of an information revolution in which no single institution can neither control, regulate, nor censor. Libraries still have a role, but it is a lesser one and the vast expenditure of funds for their needed infrastructure must be reconsidered. It is not 1966 anymore, it is 2016. Accept that and rethink your position.

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    Greta fan here....she walked away from her job in the midst of the most crucial news making time in American history......because she said she didnt feel at home at Fox...so frigging big deal... I and millions of Americans dont FEEL at home in our jobs and we make thousands less than she does....her timing couldnt have been worse....many like myself depended upon her to report a fair review of current times....depended.....she just walked away..... not real happy with her and frankly I am surprised by this side of her character...I thought she had more respect for her viewers....our loyality for her deserved better ....

  • I tend to agree with Greta that the need for the next Penny Pritzker and Ken Griffin library edifice is lessened by the availability of information on the Internet. I know of universities that build underground stacks, just because they need to store every edition of every print book, but you have to call down to get one. Some book publishers are relying on that, as, for instance, no practicing lawyer would use books except as a backdrop in a commercial.

    I worked for such a company, where the owner was descended from the print shop instead of editorial, as the company's literature purported. He addressed the employees around 1988: "Nobody is going to use CD ROM, it would take reams of paper to print it." Obviously, he didn't understand where the business was going, and sold out 6 months later.

  • I never watched Greta's show and I have no allegiance to her (or anything on Fox News really). Having said that, I do not think she is bashing libraries here.

    Back in June I went back to New York to attend my undergrad college reunion, among other things. It was my 20th and much has changed at my small liberal arts college. I cannot even call it a women's college anymore since it went coed about 10 years ago. But a smaller, perhaps more striking change happened at the bookstore.

    You work at a library, I worked at the bookstore. For three years I worked part-time at the bookstore which occupied the entire bottom floor of a building on campus. We sold books, art supplies, sweatshirts, food and other convenience items necessary as we were out in the middle of nowhere.

    When I went back the bookstore as I knew it was gone. It is in the same building, but upstairs, in a space a fraction of the original space. This is because the bookstore no longer sells books. There is no book inventory, it is all done online now. The "bookstore" just contained school spirit wear. That was it.

    At first it sort of hurt but I got it. The space where the bookstore used to be was converted into a pub, a space much needed in center of campus - the old one was out of the way. Not only do the students want and need a gathering place, it is a good source of ongoing revenue for a school faced with serious financial pressures. In short a pub, not a bookstore is a better use of the space.

    And that was really Greta's point. Colleges and universities are overspending on newer, bigger spaces in an effort to attract students but at the same time these buildings are contributing to the ridiculous increase in college tuition and she is questioning the need for those spaces, even libraries. This is addressed in the book "Crazy U". As a parent to two children, we are watching the tuition increases and are worried about how we will be able to pay when the time comes.

    Don't get me wrong, I love libraries. We love the library in our town and really love the children's area where they can play and read plus there are programs for people of all ages. They are important places to build literacy and would be, to use your word, pissed if it disappeared. But the town library is a different creature and serves a different purpose than the large, sprawling university library not funded by generous donors but rather my tuition dollars.

  • In reply to MBA Mom:

    MBA Mom, what you describes seems to be the landscape. One could add Borders going out of business, some Barnes and Noble buildings being sold, and public schools now insisting that all students have Chromebooks, with subsidies for the poor ones.

    The overspending also seems to be competition over residence halls. The 100 year old ones are still around, but the 50 year old ones became rubble and were recently replaced. And, instead of serving grilled hockey puck (eye of round called tenderloin), now the dining commons has to be a multi-station food court.

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