We had a comment to the last “A Library Attempt” entry that I would like to highlight, since it is so typical of the misconceptions that we barefooters have to address. In that entry, Matthew NcNatt of Ottawa, IL, is the subject of a story about his attempts to have the Ottawa library remove its shoe rule.
In the comments, Patrick Hanna says:
The main reason for the ban on going barefoot in public places is for safety purposes. In Abe Lincoln’s day, a child who cut his foot in the library on something another person left lying around would have just wrapped the cut and went on about his or her day. If that were to happen today, the library would be slapped with a $5000 civil suit and that would be the end of the library.
This is so wrong in so many ways. I will grant that there is a common perception about safety and suing, but it is based on myths and ungrounded fears. But that is wrong.
Regular readers of this blog are well-aware that the dangers of bare feet are highly exaggerated. The shod are somehow convinced that there are hazards everywhere, yet somehow I and plenty of other barefooters go about their lives without ever encountering a problem. And then there is the question of libraries. If anything, a library is probably the safest place possible for walking in bare feet. It probably has even fewer hazards than the typical home. So why ban bare feet there? What we do know is that many shoes are much more dangerous than bare feet. We’ve discussed before how running shoes do bad things to knees. We’ve discussed before how high heels do really, really bad things to knees, and to feet in general. Yet, we never see places banning running shoes or high heels “for safety purposes.”
And then there is the fear of lawsuits. Totally unjustified.
First, one must realize that one can file a lawsuit for any reason, so there is nothing a library can do, banning anything, that would really reduce their chance of being sued. But when the suit is unjustified, it can usually be dismissed pretty quickly. The reason that the silly lawsuits that make people afraid hit the news is because they are news. They are rare; they are silly. That is prime material for making the news.
But in real life, it is not bare feet but high heels (or even other shoes) that generate a lot of lawsuits. There is a list here. Would Patrick also advocate that a library should ban high heels because it would be hit with a $5000 lawsuit that would be the end of the library? Of course, libraries do no such thing. In fact, libraries have insurance (and here in Ohio they have something called limited sovereign immunity that means they cannot be sued for even high-heel injuries unless their conduct was “willful and wanton”. It’s all a big smokescreen.
In fact, most libraries even have a children’s story hour, in which they allow children to sit with bare arms and legs on the floors that so many people are sure are too unsafe for bare feet. Here’s an article from the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette showing exactly that:
There really is no good reason for a library to ban bare feet. It’s all a bunch of entrenched misconceptions about safety, lawsuits, and often “decorum”.