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Brookfield resident upset about 1920s display at library

BROOKFIELD – As the Brookfield Public Library celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, a bulletin board near the Youth Services Department will continue to display a rotating collage of images from each decade the library has been open.

In January, the board displayed images of the 1910s. In February, the board changed to display images from the history of the 1920s. And this month, the board will switch to covering images from the 1930s.

Brookfield resident Giorgio DiPaolo addressed his concern about gangster Al Capone’s inclusion on the bulletin board with the library’s Board of Trustees at their meeting Feb. 26. In a letter to the board, DiPaolo questioned the library’s decision to include Capone on their board and warned of its negative impact on the children who use the library.

“February is just about over and the damage has been done to the minds of these little, innocent children of our community and it is irreversible,” DiPaolo wrote in a letter to the board.

DiPaolo said he was concerned about the library’s decision to include a person on the bulletin board who was a “pimp and mass murderer.” DiPaolo also said he found Capone’s inclusion to be insensitive to “Italian Americans, Chicagoans and those seeking a peaceful society.”

“I love the library,” DiPaolo said. “I don’t think [Capone] needed to be included.”

Board President Jennifer Perry defended the library’s decision to include Capone on the board and said the board does not glorify Capone or make any reference to his Italian heritage.

Capone’s image is just one on the board, which also includes images of suffragettes, the Harlem Renaissance and even Leonardo DiCaprio – for his role in the 2013 film “The Great Gatsby,” which the board notes was a book written in the ’20s. Under Capone’s picture, an excert reads ”Al Capone controlled organized crime in Chicago during the 1920s."

“In my opinion, this board does not in any way glorify Capone,” Perry said. “Capone is a part of history and I don’t think you can address the 1920s without mentioning him and the impact he had on society.”

DiPaolo asked that the board issue a public apology. Perry said the board and DiPaolo will simply have to agree to disagree on the issue.

“While it is important to communicate information about historical events in an appropriate manner, it is wrong to sanitize and purge these displays of certain events because they are considered unpleasant or difficult,” Perry responded to DiPaolo in a letter on behalf of the Board.

According to Perry, the March bulletin board will feature images from the 1930s, including the depression and the dust bowl. The April display will feature references to World War II and the Holocaust.

DiPaolo said he is concerned about a number of library policies regarding children’s access to information at the Brookfield Public Library and will be bringing up those issues to the board in the months ahead.

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