Waukegan librarians shock crowd with harassment claims
A standing-room-only crowd listened in stunned silence recently as two women described the sexual harassment they face regularly at work, according to a report published on Illinois Leaks, the website of the Edgar County Watchdogs (ECW).
Perhaps the most-surprising thing about the revelation was where the women work: a public library in Waukegan.
Amanda Civitello and Katie McLain of Waukegan Public Library spoke to a gathering at the American Library Association (ALA) conference in Chicago about how staff can take a stand to address sexual harassment. They shared their experience with a supportive administration and talked about what has worked for them to help other libraries where staff want to make changes.
Following the presentation, ECW writer Kevin DuJan wrote that although the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) does not permit abuse on the job, library employees seem to be expected to put up with harassment from patrons or risk losing their jobs.
McLain and Civitello researched the topic and said they found few articles that specifically addressed issues of sexual harassment in libraries.
DuJan analyzed responses to a survey of library employees conducted by McLain and Civitello, which ECW obtained through a public records request. DuJan found that library managers who were of the baby boomer generation were more likely to tell female employees to put up with the abuse or lose their jobs. Younger library managers were found to be more likely to take action to stop the harassment.
McLain and Civitello's presentation received an overwhelmingly positive response.
The ECW pointed out that the public can help librarians by attending local library board meetings and demanding a safe workplace for employees. Any library management who tolerates inappropriate behaviors by the public puts the library at risk for EEOC lawsuits, the group said.
Editor's note: The original version of this article incorrectly attributed analysis by Kevin DuJan to Waukegan Public Library staff. This has been corrected.
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