Downers Grove library board member dismissed


Gayu Menon and Isabelle LaBianco

On Sept. 5 Downers Grove library board member Arthur Jaros was dismissed from the board for his comments about diversity inclusion for hiring employees at the Downers Grove Public Library. In response to his removal, Jaros took action to sue the Village Council on procedures that Jaros had his First Amendment rights violated.

When Jaros was appointed to the board on Aug. 18, 2015, community members came forward to share their opinions. According to a Chicago Tribune article from 2015, Jaros took action against the D99’s 1999 reading list. One of the suggested novels on the South’s summer reading list was James Bennett’s “Blue Star Rapture.” The novel includes teen pregnancy, suicide, and explicit language. Some community members worried whether or not his past actions would reflect on the present.

According to the League of Women Voter’s minutes, found on their website, at a library board meeting on Aug. 23, a member of the League of Women Voters noted that Arthur Jaros made a comment about how the library should “protect children from exposure of homosexuality” and by doing so, only hire “white straight people.”

On Aug. 29 Jaros stated the notes taken by The League of Women Voters are an incorrect representation of his statement. After Jaros was dismissed on Sept. 5, he then pursued a lawsuit against Downer Grove Mayor Martin Tully, Village Council Member Greg Hosé, and The League of Women Voters.

“The notes accurately reflect the statements that were racially discriminatory. He claims that those words were never said,” Tully said in an Omega phone interview.

In the board meeting that took place on Sept. 27, Jaros publicly spoke to the board and community members about his dismissal and his rights.

In an attempt to set up an interview with Arthur Jaros and The Omega, a date could not be fixed for the interview that worked for both parties.Four-year village council member, Greg Hosé, was one of the initial officers approving Jaros’ position on the library board.

“I had voted against him in 2015. I was not happy with what he had done back in [1999] and I was concerned that it would be a marker of where we were going to end up, or at least, where we could end up. And sadly, here we are,” Hosé said in an Omega phone interview.

Community members came forward at the Sept. 27 library meeting to speak on inclusion at the library. Downers Grove resident, Leslie Sadowski-Fugitt, shared her belief on the importance of diversity inclusion. Sadowski-Fugitt works for the Lincoln Park Zoo as Manager of Student and Teacher Programs and her views do not reflect the ones of the non-profit.

“It is crucial to experience diversity and inclusion training because you may think you know everything you need to know to do your job, but every person you interact with will give you a new experience,” Sadowski-Fugitt said at the September board meeting.

Special Services teacher Kim Jaros is a relative of Jaros and works at DGN. Kim Jaros has included a statement regarding her uncle’s case.

“I am Art’s niece and I do not know all of the details regarding his case. Therefore, I am not the best person to provide any additional information,” Kim Jaros said in an email interview with the Omega.

The DGN library and Downers Grove Public Library work together, partnering together for special events. DGN librarian Stephanie Beck and DG Library’s Teen Services Coordinator, Lynette Pitrak, both work to find books relating to diversity for each of their libraries.

“We need to expand our collection of books written by authors who are traditionally underrepresented. I want them to be written by authors that are underrepresented. Even if it’s not, it features characters or is about interactions about people who are underrepresented in our literature,” Beck said in an Omega interview.

When Pitrak looks for books to fill the topic of diversity, she looks at sources, such as “We Need Diverse Books” blog and editorials that focus on reviewing books that contain diverse themes.

“I am looking for books that have different racial or ethnic points of views, but are actually written in different countries because the storytelling in different countries is so much different than we are used to telling in the United States,” Pitrak said in an Omega interview.

Beck hopes that the DGN library’s selection embodies the student community and the characteristics that each student contributes.

“I feel as if our collection should be like a mirror for our students. We have all kinds of students,” Beck said.

With the library as a focal point in his community, Mayor Tully believes that the influence that the library holds is significant to the town.

“The library should affect the community’s will and desire with respect to these issues. I understand that there are strong feelings about what should be available and who should make that choice, whether it’s parents, librarians, or someone else. To me, that is an issue that residents and patrons of the library should make their voices heard to their library board of trustees,” Tully said.