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Taking note . . .

Observations about public affairs in the nation's capital

by the editor of The Common Denominator

LIBRARY DIRECTOR LEAVING? Molly Raphael may have some explaining to do to her bosses on the D.C. Public Library's board of trustees if she decides to remain in her job as the library's director. A June 14 story in the Portland Oregonian newspaper reports that Raphael is the lone finalist to become director of the Portland area's public library system, following a June 7 public forum at which Raphael told Portland residents that she sees the position as a "good opportunity." A decision about whether to offer Raphael the job is expected after Raphael's planned return visit to Portland in July.

D.C. library trustee Alexander M. Padro, noting that Raphael recently told the board "she was committed to the District's library system and was not entertaining other job offers," expressed consternation upon discovering that Raphael has been actively pursuing the Oregon job. "Why were we the last to know?" Padro asked The Common Denominator.

Indeed. The Portland newspaper reports that Raphael delivered a lecture at the Library of Congress in April, during which she called the D.C. library's funding "woefully inadequate" and said she and others believe "the public library in the nation's capital must become one of the premiere libraries in the country, and we are determined to take this library system to new heights."

Raphael's job performance in the District appears to be drawing criticism from some observers of the search for a Multnomah County Library director in Oregon. A June 9 commentary in the Portland newspaper described Raphael as "ready to bail for greener pastures" just six months into an 18-month fund-raising campaign that consumer advocate Ralph Nader has launched to help raise much-needed money for long-neglected repairs and literacy programs at the D.C. library. The commentary also said Nader "stepped in to do something Raphael hasn't."

At the June 7 public forum in Portland, the newspaper reports, Raphael said: "I wasn't job searching, but Multnomah County is quite a special system." Raphael has directed the D.C. library system since 1998 and has been employed in the system since 1970. Raphael could not be reached for comment at press time.

SURLY SERVICE: Residents who need to ensure their outgoing mail gets postmarked on its posted date would be well-advised to avoid standing in the long lines for window service at the Brookland post office. "Drop 'em in the box. We don't do that," snapped a veteran postal clerk on June 14 when yours truly requested a postmark on two pieces of outgoing mail. When the refusal to provide such routine service held up under protest, yours truly went elsewhere - and found the window clerks at the National Capital post office on Capitol Hill perfectly willing to provide the requested postmarks. When told of the earlier refusal, the postal clerk on the Hill deemed the Brookland experience "crazy" and handed yours truly a complaint form.

Copyright 2003, The Common Denominator