By Igor Studenkov | For the Bugle
The Niles Library Board of Trustees unanimously approved a series of changes to the rules governing patron conduct.
Library director Susan Lempke said that she looking to update and expand the rules without getting bogged down into too much detail. Most notably, it did away with blanket prohibition on doing business in the library, while still prohibiting patrons from selling products or services inside the building. The language regarding political campaigning was tweaked to avoid running afoul of the First Amendment, and the new rules explicitly spell out what kind of “disruptive behavior” could get patrons kicked out of the building.
As Lempke explained to the board, she originally considered the change after realizing that the rule prohibiting patrons from using the building to do business didn’t make sense in an age when anyone could bring in their laptop and work in the library.
“We realized that there are many people in the library who are in the library conducting business,” she said. “They’re sitting at their laptops, working on their business right now and technically, under the
library rules, that would not be allowed.”
And that’s not the only way the library is being used to do business.
“There are many meetings taking place in our study rooms – there’s a lot of business being conducted,” Lempke said.
Once she realized it, she wondered what other rules should be changed. Lempke asked library attorney Dennis Walsh for ideas. He wound up expanding the rules significantly – to the point where the director felt it might have gone into too much detail. She and Library Assistant Director Cyndi Rademacher went over it and revised it – and found that they were mostly on the same page.
The version of the changes they agreed on removed the prohibition against doing business in the library. Walsh added the language specifying that patrons can’t sell products or services, as well as solicit donations, on the library property. The final version kept that, but it added a line allowing library directors to make exceptions on case-by-case basis. As Lempke explained to the board, she wanted to be able to, for example, allow Girl Scouts to sell cookies.
While the previous version of the rules simply forbade “disruptive” behavior and “verbal and physical harassment” without going into further detail, the new version gave specific examples of what kind of behavior could get patrons in trouble.
“[For] people who are mentally ill, who don’t know how to behave appropriately – saying ‘you can’t create a disturbance’ isn’t good enough,” Lempke explained.
As before, the patron would get two warnings. If the behavior continues, he or she would be removed from the library grounds, and an incident report will be fined.
Policies regarding campaigning were also altered. The library already forbade displaying campaign literature for candidates, but Walsh added language banning “messages or information” about campaign events, and stating that the library couldn’t be used as “mechanism for building support for candidates for public office or other ballot measures.” The new language did carve out an exemption for non-partisan voter information literature. Finally, it added a restriction that has been standard when the library served as a polling place during election days – people could pass out campaign literature, collect petition signatures, raise funds of proselytize, but only if they stay outside the building and not try to block any of the entrances.
Lempke told the board that she asked Walsh if they could allow such activity in the building lobby when the weather was bad, but he attorney said that, from a legal perspective, it was a zero sum game – if they allow such activity the lobby, they’d have to allow it in the rest of the building.
The changes softened the rules regarding children. While the previous rule required parents or caregiver to keep an eye on children eight or under at all times, the new rule simply states that children must be surprised.
Other changes included prohibiting smoking, drugs and alcohol inside and near the building,as well prohibiting animals that aren’t service animals as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Only law enforcement officials and security guards are allowed to bring weapons into the building. Other prohibitions included using library bathrooms to bathe, shave and wash clothes, bringing “garbage [and] articles with a foul order,” and riding bicycles, roller skates and skateboards. Finally, the new rules require patrons to wear shoes and some kind of tops that “provide appropriate body coverage at all times. “
Board President Karen Dimond said she had one concern about the new rules – that letting patrons use the library to do business would hurt other patrons.
“I’m really concerned about people conducting business and reserving rooms so that our other patrons aren’t able to do whatever they [want to do],” she said. “People are making money, and a book club can’t meet because those people reserved the rooms. I have concern about that.”
Lempke responded that, while she understood the concern, something like this was already going on, and it hasn’t caused any major issues.
“One thing I can see where this can become a problem is if we start get heavily used by tutors,” she added. “And that has been a problem for some other libraries – it hasn’t been for us. And I think that, if it does become a problem, I will have to come back and talk to you.”