Celebrating in the Wundergarten: Shhh and secrets


“Shhh” in a Cullman County library was likely first heard in the home of Colonel John Cullmann, the county’s founder. The Colonel was known for having a sizeable collection of books written in his native German, and others in English, the language of his adopted country.

Shhh happens in libraries.

Shhh is the sound of the Cullman County PUBLIC Library Board repeatedly huddling in private to maneuver decisions about taxpayer-funded library management. This is not the way to gain PUBLIC support for a library or any government institution.

I feel bamboozled learning there was NO JOB SEARCH for the position of Cullman County Public Library director. I care about PUBLIC libraries, have served on an Alabama PUBLIC library board with 19 locations, and could have helped them find applicants.

Do you feel bamboozled? Even if this process were done legally, it gives the appearance of having been a rigged selection in some backroom, closed-door sessions.

“The public knows…it is idiotic to try to bamboozle them.”—Anthony Crosland

In the Colonial Cullman era of the 1870s, the setting of the folktale, “WUNDERGARTEN,” the settlers were more trusting of their local government than the public is today.

“Public trust in government is near a historic low,” according to the June 2022 data from the Pew Research Center (pewresearch.org). Researchers indicate this lack of trust is because the public feels government-supported institutions have tricked, arrogantly condescended, withheld information, hoodwinked and bamboozled them.

Bamboozle—pronounced bam-booz-ul—is a verb meaning to fool or cheat someone. In this case, Cullman County was intentionally cheated from having the possibility/likelihood of a desirable pool of qualified candidates for a new library director. We, the people, were kept in the dark like mushrooms and shoveled a bunch of Shhh.

“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken.” – Carl Sagan, American astrophysicist

Shhh, have we forgotten the dark shadows of the Watergate secrets? What did the Cullman County Library Board members know about the plan for a new director to be named without a PUBLIC search for job candidates? And when did they know this?

Shhh, why was the Cullman County PUBLIC library director opening not posted in either The Cullman Tribune or The Cullman Times? I’m active on Cullman social media and saw nothing, nada, zip, zilch about this job opening.

The Cullman County PUBLIC Library Board is supposed to serve as a communication channel to keep the county commissioners fully informed and to serve as an open and active link with the PUBLIC.

I understand from courthouse sources, the Cullman County Commission was surprised with related developments including a request from the Cullman County PUBLIC Library Board for an increase in salary for the library director position. Are our county commissioners being bamboozled as well?

CELEBRATING IN THE WUNDERGARTEN is a culinary storytelling series where we share recipes related to Cullman County happenings. Here is a recipe for a 19th century toddy known as a “Bamboozle,” that Colonel Cullmann would have enjoyed on a quiet evening, Shhh, in his home library:


(Source: nytimes.com)


  • 3 ounces sherry
  • 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 teaspoon Grand Marnier
  • 1 thin spiral of orange peel as garnish


  1. Stir all ingredients well over ice cubes in a mixing glass.
  2. Strain into a 5-ounce martini glass and garnish.

I occasionally enjoy a cocktail and will now be ordering a “Bamboozle” from Jeremy at Public House 412, Garrett at The National, Aaron at Hank’s and from the bartender at the All-Steak. We will toast to more PUBLIC awareness in Cullman County PUBLIC institutions.

Shhh, why did the Cullman County PUBLIC Library Board, who profess to care about library leadership, not ask the Cullman County PUBLIC what sort of traits they want in their next library director? When was the last time the library board openly met in Cold Springs, Fairview, Good Hope, Vinemont, West Point to ask how to improve PUBLIC library leadership? There are voters, taxpayers and library patrons in each of those communities who would like to share their opinions when someone shows they care.

DON’T SHHH US! When the Cullman County PUBLIC Library leaders come begging hat-in-hand for taxpayer and voter support, why should we value their thinking? They obviously don’t value our thinking and questioning. Shhh…

Shhh, Cullman County Clean Up Alabama champion Shirley Arnett put a BOOK CHALLENGE on the Cullman County Library Board meeting agenda. This happened in August, but the board chose to not listen to that concern, while they slipped behind closed doors for another not-for-the-general-PUBLIC, private session. (In his defense, the lawyer on the library board, Judge Rusty Turner, was not at this meeting. I do not yet know Judge Turner’s thinking on having a wide search for the library director position.)

Shhh, even after being warned about the “mom on a mission,” Shirley Arnett, I called her this week and we chatted for a good hour about Alabama PUBLIC library shenanigans. She is indeed on a very determined, personal crusade to help Governor Ivey and thousands of others across the state “Clean Up Alabama libraries. In fact, Arnett has already gotten the signatures of all the Cullman County Commissioners on a petition to support “Clean Up Alabama.”

Shirley Arnett has a good sense of humor, she’s smart, and while she is resolutely comfortable calling herself a Conservative, she is also broad thinking. I like that in a PUBLIC library crusader.

I’m neither a Conservative nor a Liberal. I want as few rules and government as possible, but I agree with the Clean Up Alabama rule to keep sexually explicit materials and profanity out of reach from underaged children in taxpayer supported, PUBLIC libraries.

Just this week, Monday, Sept. 11, I was in the Cullman County Public Library. Even after all our county commissioners had signed the “Clean Up Alabama” petition, the DVD film, “80 for Brady,” which I had checked out from the library and was surprised contained the F-WORD, was still available and within the reach of a child. I’m nobody’s prude, but as a tax-paying resident this sort of circus seems like a questionable use of library funds.

Shhh, the Cullman County PUBLIC Library is once again hammering politicians about needing a bigger building. Is the current floor plan optimally arranged–for patrons? I don’t think it is. If all the questionable materials were removed, would they still need more space? I’ve been hearing this “bigger building” mantra for years, but I’ve learned not to trust our PUBLIC library leadership. I’m yet to be convinced of the need.

Shhh, why am I whispering? Let me say this out loud, “I LIKE PEOPLE WHO QUESTION GOVERNMENT INSTITUTIONS!” Shirley Arnett seems gracious, open and honest. (Commissioner Clemons, Shirley Arnett would make a good, “NO SECRETS” member of the Cullman County PUBLIC Library Board.) When I asked Shirley about sharing a secret recipe for this article, she playfully suggested this cabbage dish which German-born, man-on-the-move Colonel Cullmann would have loved:

                                               SHIRLEY ARNETT’S “NO SECRETS” COLESLAW

“My secret sauce isn’t really a secret. When I found Marzetti’s Original Slaw Dressing, my coleslaw recipe became: Put cut cabbage in a bowl. Pour on Marzetti’s mix and—BOOM!” Honestly, expediently, openly, no trickery—DONE, STICK A FORK IN IT!

HERE’S A QUESTION for the commissioners: Why don’t we launch a statewide PUBLIC search for the Cullman County PUBLIC Library director position and publicly post the salary? There are hundreds of masters of library science degreed people in Alabama, and I believe many could be interested. I volunteer to create the “POSITION AVAILABLE” advertisement. Then, you commissioners and the Cullman County PUBLIC Library Board could interview the top 10 candidates and include the Board’s newly proposed library director in the mix. Maybe the interviews could be PUBLIC.

Commissioner Jeff Clemons, Sheriff Matt Gentry and other elected officials have done a good job in restoring PUBLIC faith in many parts of Cullman County government. But a wall of distrust remains between the leadership of the Cullman County PUBLIC Library and many of the PUBLIC. “Commissioner Clemons, TEAR DOWN THAT WALL.”

YOU’RE INVITED—Do you care about PUBLIC libraries and sexually explicit materials paid for by your tax dollars? Still persisting even after her shabby treatment in August, Shirley Arnett will bring her “Clean Up Alabama” petition and “BOOK CHALLENGES” to the next meeting of the Cullman County PUBLIC Library Board, scheduled for this coming Tuesday, Sept. 19, at 4:30 p.m. in the downtown Cullman main branch.

Shhh, let me whisper this in your ear: If you feel dismissed and dismayed by the actions of the Cullman County PUBLIC Library leadership—let your elected officials, like Commissioners Jeff Clemons, Garry Marchman, Kerry Watson, Kelly Duke and Corey Freeman, know your thinking. They all signed the “Clean Up Alabama” petition and they may feel as I and many of you do—BAMBOOZLED!


Find all columns in this series at www.cullmantribune.com/tag/celebrating-in-the-wundergarten.