For reasons which remain obscure, Gregory T. Varian, Vice President of the Board of Trustees of the New Rochelle Public Library, continues to challenge a report in the Journal News which accurately reported that the library board approved the installation of security cameras to deal with behavior and security issues at the library.
Varian submitted to the New Rochelle Review a modified version of his Letter to the Editor which was published in the Journal News In February:
An article headlined “Rowdiness forces libraries to react” recently published in another Westchester County newspaper may have been misleading to who read it. The article correctly noted that the New Rochelle Public Library has installed surveillance cameras, but wrongly assumed that this action was in response to an unsubstantiated increase in disruptive behavior. The paper cited police reports for 2009, but failed to investigate year-over-year statistics, thus providing no evidence for the basis of its story.
It is difficult to understand why Mr. Varian continues to throw himself on his sword over the issue when he is not only clearly wrong on the facts but the original article was actually complimentary towards the library board for its proactive efforts and contrasted those efforts.
His opening paragraph in the New Rochelle Review is is misleading on a number of fronts.
1. He says the headline “Rowdiness forces libraries to react” may be misleading. It is not. The article is based on complaints from employees at the Mount Vernon library about disruptive behavior by patrons, mostly students who are the library during after-school hours. The article highlights ways in which other libraries — New Rochelle and Yonkers — have taken steps to deal with similar issues and, by contrast, is critical of the Mount Vernon Public Library management.
2. He says the article makes two errors regarding the installation of surveillance cameras at the New Rochelle Public Library. It does not. He says one error is the Journal News reporting that surveillance cameras were installed in response to “disruptive behavior:
The New Rochelle Public Library installed surveillance cameras at its central branch in response to behavior and security issues.
This sentence is almost a direct quote from the minutes of the November 5, 2009 Board of Trustees Meeting:
Surveilance (sic) cameras have been installed and have already been put to use in relation to behavior or security issues.
The second error, according to Varian, is that the article states or implies that there has been increase in disruptive behavior and that the Journal News has failed to substantiate that increases with year-on-year data. It does not. The article does not state or imply that there Has been an increase in disruptive behavior. Instead, the article simply points out that the a review of police records for 2009 shows that complaints about “disruptive behavior”. This is true.
Varian is very hung up on the idea that the Journal News did not review year-on-year statistics and therefore can make no claim about increases in disruptive behavior over time. The Journal News never said there was an increase at all but had they done so they would not have been wrong because the 2009 data shows an increase over the course of 2009. That the Journal News did not look at data going back to 2007 has no bearing on their ability to make a claim about trends because the 2009 data they reviewed does show a trend.
Regardless, Talk of the Sound did obtain the data going back to 2007. The police records show a steady increase in police calls to the library for a variety of reasons including disruptive behavior. Asked about this, Varian could only say that even though there was an increase since 2007, the Journal News could not have known that because they did not look at data going back to 2007. When it was pointed out to him that the Journal News had never made such a claim, he continued to insist the Journal News story was misleading.