The poster boy on a mailer sent out last week by group supporting the referendum for a new library in Brookfield actually opposes the referendum. The Vote Yes mailer, sent by the political action committee Residents Championing Our New Library, featured freelance videographer Bryce Conlan working on his laptop computer while sitting on boxes in a hallway by the bathrooms near the stairway in current library.
The photo is meant to show how cramped the current library is and how difficult it is to find quiet space to work. The photo of Conlan was taken on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015 by Brookfield Public Library Director Kimberly Coughran.
At that time, Conlan gave Coughran verbal permission to use the photo in public information sessions. Conlan, who this past summer created a website opposing the referendum for a new library, said that he was surprised to see the photo of him featured on a Vote Yes mailer, even though a smaller version of the same photo had been used, along with other photos, in a previous Vote Yes mailer.
“The truth is I wasn’t upset about it one way or another,” Conlan said. “I’m not mad about it. I don’t have a strong feeling. They took the photo, they used the photo. It doesn’t really bother me, but I was certainly surprised to see that it was being featured and sent to everybody in Brookfield.”
Conlan said that while he did give Coughran permission to use the photo of him, he thought the photo would be used for internal purposes.
“I certainly wasn’t expected to be featured in that way,” Conlan said. “I was very much led to believe that it was going to be used for internal, you know, documenting purposes, not that it was going to be outside or in the community.”
But Coughran said she told Conlan the photo could be used in public information efforts.
The day the mailer hit mailboxes, including his, Conlan, who has lived in Brookfield for three years, took to the Brookfield Connections Facebook page with a self-produced video expressing his surprise that his photo was used and stating that he opposed the referendum.
He explained that while he doesn’t think the current library is perfect he doesn’t believe a new library is needed.
In his video, Conlan said the library was not crowded when he moved to the hallway and sat on the boxes. He said he moved out of the normal seating areas because he needed to make some phone calls and didn’t want to disturb other patrons.
He stated that the library was not crowded and that it was late in the morning. However, Coughran produced a thumbprint showing that the photo was taken at 2:50 p.m., the busiest time of the day at the library, according to Coughran.
In a telephone interview with the Landmark, Conlan conceded that he may have been mistaken about the time that the photo was taken.
“It’s entirely possible that it was taken a few hours later,” Conlan said.
Conlan still maintained that the library was not busy when he moved out into the hallway.
“To my best recollection the library was not busy that day,” Conlan said.
“Despite his current effort, Mr. Conlan demonstrated for all of Brookfield the lengths that people will go in order go find quiet in the library,” Coughran wrote in an email to the Landmark.
Conlan says that he doesn’t believe the supporters of the referendum have made the case that the proposed library is needed and worth the money it will cost to build.
“I’m not opposed to a new library, I’m just opposed to the new library that is on the table right now,” Conlan. “I’m having a very hard time understanding how a building that was built in  is already antiquated.”
The co-chairs of the Vote Yes campaign said they didn’t know that Conlan opposed the referendum and had created a website opposing the referendum when they decided to use the photo of him in their mailer.
“We did not know that he had the website and all of that,” said Jeanne McTeague, co-chair of Residents Championing Our New Library. “If I had known that he had a website and was advocating no I would not have poked the nest. I’m sorry he was offended by its use.”
But McTeague says the photo illustrates why a new library building is needed.
“It wasn’t about Bryce,” McTeague said. “It sort of epitomized a space problem because there aren’t any quiet reading rooms or study rooms in the library, so he’s not the only person that has gone into that hallway. He was the one that cozied up a little bit more than most, to have a moment for some quiet space.”
The referendum on the Nov. 8 ballot asks voters to approve issuing $10.3 million in bonds to build a new, larger library across Lincoln Avenue from the current building. The new library is expected to cost about $14.5 million, but the library has saved about $4 million and would put it toward the new library if the referendum is approved.
If the referendum is approved, the owner of a home worth $200,000 would pay approximately $137 in additional property taxes while the owner of home worth $300,000 would play approximately $200 in additional taxes.
Conlan created a Vote No website in early summer and offered to sell Vote No yard signs, but after a friend told him it could look as if he could be profiting from the sale of signs, he made no effort to promote his website. No Vote No signs were sold, Conlan said.
“I believe that I just shared it with a handful of people in the community that I know and that are also opposed to the library and never shared it after that so yes it’s up, it’s out there, but didn’t promote it never actively sought to get people through to it,” Conlan said. “It was pointed out to me by a close friend that it looked a lot of profiteering and that’s just not my M.O., so I never did anything with the web site. I didn’t want it to be misconstrued.”
The Vote Yes campaign had distributed about 225 yard signs as of last week and has sent out three mailers with one more to come this week. McTeague said that the Vote Yes campaign would spend about $12,000 on the campaign. All the contributions to the Vote Yes campaign have come from the Friends of the Brookfield Library according to the latest state records.
The campaign paid $750 to Motion Source Productions, a LaGrange-based video production company owned in part by Brookfield resident John Scaletta, for a video that it is distributing on social media and its website.
Scaletta supports the referendum even though it will cost him a substantial amount of money, because he owns five properties in Brookfield.
“I think this is something we can do in Brookfield that can serve every single age group in the community,” Scaletta said. “We want to move Brookfield forward.”
Conlan’s Facebook video generated more than 50 responses including some harsh comments from opponents of the referendum directed toward supporters of the referendum.
Conlan said that he was disappointed in the tone of the discussion.
“I’m actually a little bit distressed by it,” Conlan said. “I’m a big fan of public discourse. I believe that’s how things get done, by sharing opinions and listening to people with an open mind who oppose your positions.
“I was up late last night sending messages to a lot of the people who were being harassed, for lack of a better word, just apologizing. This was not my intent; this was not what I was hoping would happen. I’m a little upset at how it went.”