Gregory Library Watch

Preserving working class Black history

Radio appearance on KPFT

On Wednesday, December 8, the founder of Gregory Library Watch appeared on Minister Robert Muhammad’s KPFT radio show Connect the Dots. Minister Muhammad is the Southwest Regional Minister of the Nation of Islam. His radio show has hosted us before and he has long supported progressive causes, especially the death penalty and the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement.

Check out the video right here:

December 10, 2010 Posted by | media | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Houston Chronicle covers (up?) our issue

On Sunday November 14, the Houston Chronicle ran a short piece about the Gregory Library. They were responding to a press conference we called on Saturday November 13, which marked the one year anniversary of the facility.

Here is the photo and the complete text of the article:

Critics accuse library of selective history

Activists say story of poor blacks excluded

By HIBA ADI
HOUSTON CHRONICLE

Nov. 13, 2010, 10:23PM

A handful of activists from Freedmen’s Town spent the first anniversary of the African American Library at the Gregory School voicing concerns about Houston’s first black history and culture library.

Timothy O’Brien, a historian with Gregory Library Watch, a group established in January to monitor the activities of the taxpayer-funded public library, said the building at 1300 Victor excludes certain historical information.

Activist Lenwood Johnson said, for example, the library won’t archive stacks of documents he has from a 15-year effort to save Allen Parkway Village housing.

Long-standing tension between community activists and elected officials is stunting the growth of the archival collection, they said.

“It’s all political,” O’Brien said. “You go in that Freedmen’s Town room and the timeline on the three walls stops at 1954.”

The building, once Fourth Ward’s Edgar Gregory School, sat vacant for almost 30 years. Transforming it into a library took years of struggle and cost more than $11 million in federal grants, as well as library and city construction funds.

“Now it’s become this archive where all the people in the neighborhood, African-Americans, are not welcomed,” O’Brien said. “They don’t want to hear the low-income black history because it indicts the African-American politicians,” he said.

At least one historical researcher applauded the library’s efforts.

“Before they were beginning to open, they were getting people to bring their history so they could exhibit it,” said Debra B. Sloan, historical researcher for R.B.H. Yates Museum.

The library does need more visitors and more collections, she added.

“There isn’t enough old history,” she said. “I have tried to get people (in the community) to talk to (the library), but they don’t want to. … Maybe it’s too painful.

“They would be willing to take anything anyone gives them. This is the best we can get right here.”

Library visitors such as Gregory School alumnus Charley Earl, 66, said documents are scanned every day.

“If you bring it, they will scan it and put it in the archives,” he said. “Maybe not on … display, but from what I gather that’s going to change. They’re going to take stuff down and put other stuff up.

“A lot of history was lost,” he said. “It’s hard to get a lot of those old documentations.”

hiba.adi@chron.com

Here’s the link where you can read all the comments:

Houston Chronicle story link.

November 21, 2010 Posted by | Press Conference | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mayor Parker responds to our letter

Here’s Mayor Parker’s email to us which we just received Monday morning;

from    COH – Mayor <mayor@cityofhouston.net>
to    Gregory Library Watch <gregorylibrarywatch@gmail.com>
date    Mon, Mar 1, 2010 at 9:18 AM
subject    RE: Community denied access to African American Library @ Gregory School

Dear Mr. O’Brien,

Thank you for your letter of February 4, 2010, concerning the African
American Library at the Gregory School.  I appreciate your desire to assist
in making the African American Library at the Gregory School the success we
all envision.

You have suggested various uses for the facility, including after school
programming and computer labs for the use of the community.  The Gregory
School is designed as a research library and not a neighborhood or community
library.  We do not have the resources to provide the type of programming
that you have suggested at this location.  However, the Library Department’s
Mobile Computer Lab has been located at the Gregory School site for two days
per week for several weeks for use by the community.  So far, it has been
lightly used.  You may wish to alert your neighbors to the availability of
this resource.  If you have ideas for publicizing the Mobile Lab, please let
us know.  We evaluate the best locations for the Mobile Computer Labs on an
ongoing basis. We would also like to point out that the Central Library
located at 500 McKinney, less than 2 miles from Gregory, provides most of
the services that you are requesting.

While we have staff members who are engaged in grant writing for the City
and cannot use your assistance in that area, we are very much interested in
any help you wish to offer toward enhancing and maximizing donations of
materials for the collection at the Gregory School.  We are anxious for the
community to embrace the research mission of the library and assist in
building the collection.  If you are interested in volunteering in our
outreach efforts to encourage community members to donate historical
documents for the Gregory School collection, we certainly welcome your
assistance.   Please go to the Library Department’s website and click on
Volunteer Opportunities, or call HPL Volunteer Services at (832) 393-1481,
so that we can get you started.

Thank you again for your interest in the Houston Public Library’s African
American Library at the Gregory School.

Sincerely,

Mayor Annise D. Parker

You can read our letter right here letter-to-mayor-2-4-10-1

March 3, 2010 Posted by | Mayor Parker | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Library administrators involved in cover up

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

February 16, 2010, Freedmen’s Town – Houston Public Library Director Dr. Rhea Lawson and Roosevelt Weeks, Deputy Director of Library Administration are involved in a cover up of an investigation by the Houston Inspector General, (a division of the Houston Police Department) for discriminatory practices at the African American Library at Gregory School (“AALG”).

In January, 2010, a patron with a doctorate in African American history attempted to access some public documents at the African American Library only to be denied by librarian Nicolas Castellanos. The documents, like all materials at public libraries, are for patron’s use. After a complaint through the library system resulted in a coverup by Deputy Director of Public Services Meller Langford, the patron filed a complaint with the Inspector General. The Inspector General revealed today that they referred their investigation to Dr. Lawson’s office over a week ago. Lawson’s office claimed today that they “never received it,” and the Inspector General’s materials “got lost in the mail.”

At no time did Lawson’s office attempt to complete the Inspector General’s investigation into the discrimination by African American Library staffers. Nor did they attempt to actually discern if they even received the complaint, instead they went right to cover up mode. Now that the adminstrative complaint procedures have been revealed as a sham, legal options are being considered.

In the meantime, the AALG continues to waste over $400,000 per year in salaries for nine staffers to sit around and read the sports pages, play on facebook and otherwise waste taxpayer dollars because the library, designed as an archive, has less than 12 linear feet of archival material and offers nothing to the surrounding low income community or any City of Houston residents. The AALG has few if any customers. The 23,000 square foot building was rehabbed at taxpayer’s expense of over 10 million dollars and now sits as an example of wasteful city government practices.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Timothy J. O’Brien, Ph.D
for Gregory Library Watch
832.771.7263

https://gregorylibrarywatch.wordpress.com/

February 16, 2010 Posted by | media, press release | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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