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April 21, 2006

Comments

Our board would like to meet privately with a company to ask for clarification on a "Needs Assessment and Design Build Service" quote.

What are our options for having this meeting without the public there if there will be a quorum?

I have the highest respect for Lance Werner and his work with Michigan libraries. His writing is cogent and persuasive. It is not a clear statment of current Michigan law, however. It would say that it would make an excellent brief in support of the position that libraries cannot charge for internet access. I would respectfully disagree that the constitutional provision giving governing bodies the authority to adopt reasonable regulations is an absolute bar to charging for internet service and that the cited provision would not give trustees the right to impose a reasonable charge for such service. The internet, for example, did not exist at the time the constitutional provision was adopted in 1963. A cogent "original intent" argument could easily be made that the internet could not have been within the intent of the words of that constitutional provision. Given the current Michigan Supreme Court, such an argument could also prevail.

Beyond that, Mr. Werner fails to really distinguish between charges that a library can impose and those that a library can't impose. Many Michigan libraries charge for videos, CDs and DVDs. Are those charges clearly illegal, too?

Let me be clear. Lance may be correct. I am somewhat disappointed that he presents an advocacy position as settled law, though.

If a more authoritative opinion on the question is needed, one could be requested by the Library of Michigan from the Attorney General. That opinion would be largely binding on State agencies and somewhat persuasive in Michigan courts.

In the absence of something more authoritative, local libraries should rely - as the posting notes - on their own attorney.

Michael McGuire
Grand Rapids, Michigan

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