I like to think of myself as a pretty level-headed guy. I don’t get angry too quickly, and even when I do I try to remember to take it easy, wait a bit before taking any action, and most of all I try to remember not to say anything I might later regret.
But I’m a little miffed.
No, I’m downright angry, and while I generally write a column on Sundays, I’ve decided to pen an extra one this week to share with you the source of my anger.
I’m likewise disappointed in a supposed colleague. Someone who purports to care about community journalism, who recently wrote a little piece about how people in his community should rally around their local library and help the kids in their community.
That’s all well and good, but the guy took direct aim at Mount Airy and slammed our fair city. That’s right, he took a couple of underhanded shots at Mayberry, THE town that much of America idealizes and wants to visit, wishes their hometown was like.
I supposed, given Mount Airy’s status as North Carolina’s Favorite Main Street, the writer at the Houston Chronicle is really taking a little shot at all small towns in North Carolina.
Let me step back a bit, first, and explain what this is all about. Some of you may recall a couple of weeks ago I wrote a column about a contest being sponsored by LEGO and the Association for Library Services to Children, wherein folks can go online and vote for their favorite community library. When the contest ends on Oct. 1, whichever library has the most votes will receive $5,000 from LEGO, money to be used for the purchase of books and other materials.
At the time I wrote that, the Mount Airy Public Library was in first place. Heights Neighborhood Library in Houston, Texas, was in second and Rochester Hills Public Library, in Rochester, Mich., was in third.
Since then, the Heights library has nudged its way into first, and a Houston Chronicle writer has taken to urging folks there to vote for that library. I have no problem with that. But when he stoops to slamming Mount Airy — well, I do have a problem with that.
The writer is Martin Hajovsky, and on the Houston Chronicle’s website it states that he “has been an editor and writer at the Houston Chronicle since 1993,” which is hard to believe given the juvenile nature of his comments.
If you want to see his column, you can check it out here: http://blog.chron.com/heights/2012/08/heights-library-needs-some-votes/#comments.
If you’re reading the paper version of The Mount Airy News and you can’t get to a computer at present, let me share some of his column:
“Lego (yes, THAT Lego, the best children’s toy ever concocted by humans) and the Association for Library Services to Children, are having an online contest to give $5,000 to the library branch that secures the most votes nationwide in an online survey, and right now the Heights Branch is No. 2 on the list behind some regional library in Mount Airy, North Carolina. (Mount Airy? Pardon me, but what is this, Pandora?)
Now, I’m sure that’s a nice library over there in Mount Up-in-the-Atmosphere, and nothin’ could be finer than to be there when you’re in Carolina, but our Heights branch is easily the best neighborhood library in Houston, the Fourth (or third, depending on who you ask) Largest City in America. And if anyone is deserving of this, it’s Miss Sara and the fine folks over on Heights Boulevard. Here’s what Miss Sara had to say in her e-mail…”
The “Miss Sara” is the local librarian who presumably wrote Hajovsky asking for his help in securing votes. Personally, I’d be hiding my face in shame for having asked help from someone whose apparent default is to take glib little jabs at Mount Airy in hopes of making his own community library look better.
Now, I don’t want to be accused of overreacting, it’s not as if he accused anyone here in Mount Airy of committing crimes, or said specific bad things about us. But his whole attitude, as if we’re not worthy of consideration, that we’re some joke of a town to be made light of, and that our library couldn’t possibly be on par with the one there — I just find that galling.
Not to mention highly unprofessional.
As I write this, Houston, with a population of 2.1 million, is leading Mount Airy, population 10,388, by a count of 28,338 votes to 27,742. I don’t know, given the disparity in the populations and the close voting totals, maybe the good folks in Houston feel belittling the competition is the only chance they have.
What I do know is that at least one person purporting to be a resident of that community has already taken exception to Hajovsky’s tone. A person who called himself “Andy” left the following comment after Hajovsky’s column:
“I know you are trying to earn money for your neighborhood library by attempting to be witty and arrogant, but why would that make me want to vote for Houston? Since Houston is such a large city and Mount Airy is a small one, I am voting for the one in North Carolina. They need the money more than we do here in Houston.”
I’m not going to sit here and slam the competition — I’ll leave that tactic to Hajovsky. What I will say is this: I hope this makes you a bit angry as well, angry enough to make it a point to go to http://readbuildplay.com/ every single day and vote for Mount Airy.
Encourage your friends and neighbors and relatives to do the same. I don’t know if we can win the competition given Houston’s population advantage (although maybe Hajovsky can write a couple of more columns and turn more Houston-area residents against his library), but what we can do is show Hajovsky, Houston, LEGO, and anyone else paying attention that person-for-person, no one rallies around their community like the folks in Mount Airy.
Why are you still reading this? Go vote.
John Peters is the editor of The Mount Airy News. He can be reached at email@example.com or at 719-1931.