From a colleague:
When good librarians and bad policies collide…
By Cleaner Newer
Given the nature of my employment, I have on occasion had the opportunity to address questions concerning library policy. Recently, I was contacted by one of my colleagues from a public library who had a concern about a situation that had occurred at one of her branch libraries.
Apparently, a branch library that is part of a system from which she is affiliated refused to let a certain group of people use their community room based on the branch library’s community room policy. The group that sought to use the room supported a controversial position on a rather tumultuous topic. It is also noteworthy that the group possessed 501(c)(3) status under the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.
In all fairness, I think that it is vital to mention that the policy upon which the controversy is based was adopted by a municipality and not by a library. As a matter of fact, my colleague who is very sharp indeed, recognized that the policy was problematic and contacted me.
As a result of the communication that I had with my astute colleague, I was able to obtain a copy of the policy in question. I was almost speechless after reviewing the policy. I believe it is the most constitutionally problematic room policy that I have ever seen. It is so troublesome that I felt it would be a great example of what not to do.
The restrictions are content based, the language is vague and ambiguous and lends itself to discriminatory application, and there is an utter lack of any sort of appeals process, so it fails to support aggrieved parties’ constitutional rights to due process. In short, it is an utter disaster.
I strongly urged my colleague to seek assistance from her library’s legal counsel, and to encourage the municipality to amend the branch library’s room policy immediately.
Anyway, such a rare treasure should be shared with all. I have included a word for word copy of it below, however I have intentionally omitted names.
Any thoughts about this gem? [CLICK BELOW FOR POLICY]
REGULATIONS GOVERNING THE PUBLIC USE OF THE _________________ LIBRARY COMMUNITY ROOM
The community room is available free for public gatherings of a civic or educational character. The room is not available for meetings for social, political, partisan, or religious purposes; for benefit of private individuals or commercial concerns; of the presentation of one side only of controversial matters; or when in the judgment of the Librarian any disorder may be likely to occur.
Established non-partisan organizations which do not endorse individual candidates or parties may be allowed, with the approval of the Librarian, to conduct meetings in the community room at which current election issues will be discussed by the candidates for public office, provided that all candidates for the same office shall have been invited and a majority of such candidates are to appear on the program. Any program wherein non-candidates discuss current issues to be voted upon shall include reasonable and thoughtful presentations of differing views.
It is understood that the public will be welcome at all meetings.
THE FOLLOWING REGULATIONS MUST BE OBSERVED IN USING THE _____________ LIBRARY COMMUNITY ROOM:
A. Upon adequate notice and for adequate reasons, the library reserves the right to revoke permission to use the community room.
B. It is understood that inquiries concerning the meeting in question may be referred to the person requesting the reservation.
C. It is also understood that neither the name, address nor the telephone number of the ______________ Library; _________________________ Library Commission; or ____________________________ Library Commission may be used as the official address or Headquarters of an organization.
1. Requests for reservations for use of the community room are to be submitted to the Librarian.
2. The room is assigned in order of date of request. All requests for regular use must be approved by the Library Commission.
3. No reservation will be accepted for Holidays, Friday or Saturday evenings.
4. Reservations may be made for four-month intervals: January through April; May through August; September through December. Reservation will be accepted up to a month in advance for each trimester.
E. Community room capacity is limited to 75 people.
No admission fee may be charged, nor may a collection be taken up. The only exceptions are in the case of paid registration necessary to cover expenses for the institutes held in cooperation with the library, or payment of fees for educational courses regularly conducted by established institutions. In either case, special permission must be obtained from the Librarian. Even in such cases, anyone must be admitted free of charge if he so demands.
1. No additional furniture or equipment other than that furnished by the library is to be used without library approval, excluding projectors, screens, or television equipment.
2. The room must be cleared of above mentioned furniture and equipment at the end of the meeting.
3. Organizations may provide and operate their own projectors or television equipment.
Literature may be distributed at a meeting providing it is approved by the Librarian prior to distribution.
I. Smoking is prohibited within the confines of the building.
J. Coffee and doughnuts or other light refreshments may be served with the understanding that adequate clean up is provided. No alcoholic beverages are permitted.
1. The organization using the room is responsible for cleaning up and for replacement of lost or damaged equipment.
2. The room shall be left in the manner in which it is found. There will be a minimum charge of $25.00 if the library is required to clean the room.
3. All refuse must be removed.
L. The thermostat is set to consider comfort and energy conservation. It cannot be altered.
I have read, understand, and will comply with the above regulations.
Name of Group