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River Town Chronicles: The Geneva Public Library is acting out a farce

Don’t get me wrong. I love the Geneva Public Library. Like with a best friend, I often hang with it after school. However, when a loved one begins behaving erratically, like, say, a Justin Bieber, those closest to the poor soul need to say something.

In a farce, the audience laughs at characters blind to their own ineptitude. What follows is a Spark Notes summary of the plot played out at GPL.

The curtain opened on a library board thinking that buying a factory where contaminants were manufactured would make a good reading room. GPL contracted to buy the Cetron building, pending environmental inspection. The board withdrew its offer when the inspectors emerged glowing (just kidding).

Soon afterward, newspapers announced library Director Matt Teske would reveal GPL’s future. Excited to hear concrete plans for a refurbished or relocated library, instead I ended up watching a PowerPoint wish list, including giant picture windows, enclaves for teens and a cozy café.

Poor, poor, pitiful me. Expecting the final act, I sat through a treacly overture.

The board then granted Teske a leave of absence that started in mid-November and put Assistant Director Peggy Carlson in charge, although she reportedly did not want to be named interim director. Upon his return, Teske resigned as director at $110,000 a year, and the board immediately appointed him as (a second) assistant director at $86,000 a year.

Meanwhile, the board had hired Marilyn Boria, a temporary management consultant, at $60 a hour for 15 hours a week. When Teske resigned, the board voted her interim director. If you’re doing the math, that makes three administrators doing the job Carlson performed solo during Teske’s absence.

To paraphrase Luigi Pirandello, this absurdist drama was unfolding like “A President and Six Board Members in Search of a Direction.”

A seventh board member, Susan Shivers, exposed the emperor’s nakedness, voting against the triumvirate, declaring, “We never had or needed two assistant directors in the past.” Shivers further maintained that Teske had “ … been on the job six or seven years and either he can get it right by now or he cannot.”

Touting decorum over blunt appraisal, board member Bob Shiffler called her comment “inappropriate.” Many community members disagreed. The Kane County Chronicle Sound Off included: “I support Susan Shivers’ comments ... ,” and, “If [Teske] cannot handle the job, get someone else ... .”

In the final scene, the play’s protagonist, board President Esther Steel, delivered a stunning monologue, stating neither Carlson nor Teske wanted to act as director. The Chronicle summarized that Boria would be a part-time interim director, requiring Teske to “step up and fill the void,” Steel said. “Matt knows he’s going to [be] primary acting director even with Marilyn there ... . He will be, in a lot of ways, still the director. Marilyn is the boss when she is there.”

So … who’s in charge? Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a darn; I’ve grown weary trying to figure it out.

Maybe what this play needs is a new casting call. If not, the farce could turn tragic.

• Rick Holinger lives in the Fox Valley where he’s taught high school since 1979. His poetry, fiction, essays and book reviews have appeared in numerous literary journals. He founded and facilitates two local writers groups, and has a Ph.D. in creative writing from UIC. Contact him at

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