At first, it was almost amusing, a quirky oddity _ an elected Gail Borden Public Library trustee banned from the library by the very officials he was elected to oversee.
But it is no longer funny.
Randy Hopp, the trustee who cannot enter the library, has been charged with two counts of domestic battery for reportedly punching his octogenarian parents in their family home. Hopp denies this, instead laying the blame on his 80-year-old-plus parents. One can decide which is more disturbing: that he really did this or that he may sincerely believe the neurotic distortion that he is the victim of tyranny by enfeebled 80-year-olds.
Nonetheless, restoring Hopp’s library privileges is a cause célèbre for a slate of candidates running to unseat incumbents in next month’s library board election. And, unless Elginites turn out in larger numbers than they have in the past for library board elections, they could get elected. And then, it really wouldn’t be funny at all.
Hopp’s erratic behavior has not been witnessed by 99 percent of the people who will vote in the April election, including, apparently, the slate of Victor LaPorte, Richard Wallett and Penny Wegman who have made the restoration of Hopp’s library privileges a focus of their campaign.
When voters decide what kind of library they want for their community, it is important to trace what has occurred there over the past few years. The Gail Borden Public Library has become the community gathering place, a center for more than just books and periodicals. The library is a center for informative programs, music, guidance on applying for a job in today’s market, financial planning, travel programs, after school activities for children, movies for adults, family events and countless other activities which provide a sense of community to a city that needs to retain that.
Hopp was elected in an apparent moment of apathy or inattention, despite recurring problems in his social interaction and relationship with library personnel.
The behavior, which caused Hopp to be banned from the library on multiple occasions, was not minor nor easily explained as a momentary lapse of courtesy due to accumulated stress. These were alarming episodes of erratic and abusive behavior far beyond what anyone in the service industry should have to tolerate and the banishment was appropriate.
Two issues can no longer be ignored. One, Randy Hopp must resign immediately from the board. The Gail Borden Public Library is too valuable a community asset, too visible, too much a symbol of what Elgin is trying to become to be governed by someone who cannot legally enter the library and who stands accused of beating his elderly parents. The hope that he recognizes his effectiveness is forever compromised is, however, a slim reed to which to cling. But the case for his immediate resignation is overwhelming.
Secondly, voters must carefully consider whether this slate of Wegman, LaPorte and Wallett can be trusted to operate the library with the same efficiency it currently enjoys.
It is so American to champion the underdog that without exploration, one might assume Hopp was an ostracized everyman who dared to go his own way and therefore was punished by the powerful machinery of the library administration.
At least one of them _ LaPorte _ has questioned his earlier conclusion that Hopp’s library privileges should be restored. The others, to date, have remained silent and therefore one can assume they embrace Hopp as fervently as before his arrest.
But even if all three admitted they had erred, would that exculpate them? Did they not make a sudden, impulsive judgment on a gravely serious matter without first exploring the circumstances and details? Can they be counted upon to make a rational decision in the operation of the library?
To paraphrase Edmund Burke, “All that is necessary for the triumph of lunacy is that good men do nothing.”
Take an interest in the library board vote on April 5 and remember who you may run into in the library if you don’t.