A while back, one of my students retired from her job in the government sector. At the retirement party, signs appeared around the room quoting one of her mantras, “Hire no jerks.” She learned that from me in class at DePaul University. She told me that principle had guided her over the years; she taught it to those who worked for her. They all lived by it.

About a week ago, a group of unmasked people invaded the Public Library of St. Charles, a Chicago suburb, to protest the library board’s mandatory mask policy—based on the statewide mask mandate. Hundreds of communications and social media commentaries threatening physical retaliation against the library followed. The library closed because of the threat to health and safety of the librarians. Irrespective of one’s position on wearing masks during the pandemic, threatening librarians is just plain jerk behavior as one Chicago Tribune reporter pointed out.

Librarians? Really? How did we get here? Threatening the safety of librarians and children is evil. Hatred is evil. Do not hire them. Do not tolerate them. Shame them.

  • Librarians are teachers, too. Teaching and learning need to be safe for all of us, especially for those who work for the public good. Protect us from the jerks.
  • Never underestimate the power of a teacher; sometimes, their students continue teaching their lessons to the next generation. Hire no jerks.
  • Make jerks unacceptable. Cut them out of your life if you have to. Being a jerk can become contagious.
  • Occasionally, offer people some cookies and milk. They warm the heart and let our people know we appreciate them for not being jerks.

J. Patrick Murphy, C.M., Ph.D., is Emeritus Professor of Public Service at DePaul University and Values Director for Depaul International, an organization that serves homeless people in seven countries.