Archive for the ‘Libraries’ Category

Don’t Speak Ill of the Dead

February 25, 2011

Larry Black died this week of cancer. He was the director of the Columbus Metropolitan Library when I sued them. You can see the story about his death here in The Columbus Dispatch. He retired shortly after I lost my lawsuit.

What I find frustrating are statements like these in the article:

But it was his passion for customer service that might be his bigger legacy, say those who knew him.

“I think he always wanted people to feel welcomed,” she said. “The library was always about accessibility and how everyone should have access to it. He was known nationally for that.”

“He was one of the first library directors in the country to refer to library users as customers instead of patrons,” Losinski recalled. “It might not seem like a big thing, but it was huge in terms of developing the service philosophy of this library and the culture of commitment to customer service.”

I will not speak ill of the dead. However, I will let him speak for himself. From a letter he sent me on March 12, 2001:

You have been made aware that we require our customers to wear shoes while using the Columbus Metropolitan Library facilities. Also, you have been provided a legal opinion from the County Prosecutor’s Office stating that the Library has the legal authority to make and enforce such a rule. We hope, in the future, you will be able to conform to this requirement.

We will not respond to further correspondence on this matter.

(Emphasis added.)

It is unfortunate that he was not able to realize that allowing barefoot patrons would enhance customer service and accessibility. I hope that in retirement he was able to rise above societal expectations and get joy from doing things that other folks might consider peculiar even if all they did was merely satisfy him. For that is what life is about.

One Step Forward; One Step Back

September 27, 2010

The Austin (TX) Public Library has changed their Conduct Policy. You can read about it in the Austin Statesman, in their story entitled “Keeping library patrons safe, 1 cap removal at a time”. For “safety” (though they don’t explain just how it does increase safety), they are banning hoodies, caps, hats, and sunglasses. As the article puts it:

You heard that right. Starting next Friday, Austin’s libraries will begin enforcing a dress code that prohibits ball caps, sunglasses and hoodies. You’re asking why. It’s the same reason given for about everything else that goes down these days: keeping you safe.

Hey, I’m kept so safe these days that I’m almost afraid to leave the house.

The city’s library system has put up bumper sticker-style signs at all of its 21 branches, the history center and its Recycled Reads bookstore on Burnet Road. These signs show international “no” signs over illustrations of ball caps, sunglasses and hoodies.

The library came up with the rule so that customers can’t hide their faces, said Toni Grasso, the libraries’ administrative manager in the office of programs and partnerships.

They even have a new poster to go with it:

Do you think this might be overkill? Do they really think this will fix anything (particularly since, from the story, there isn’t much broken?). But it is just another example of library authoritarian over-reach.

So, that’s the one step back. What’s the one step forward? The new policy, in its entirety, is here. The new line in it, effective September 3, says:

Appropriate clothing is required – Wearing apparel that obscures or conceals the face, including but not limited to hoodies, caps, hats, sunglasses.

The old policy had a line that said:

Not Wearing Shirts, Pants or Shoes

Notice anything? That line is gone. I guess bare feet are now OK. I do wonder if they won’t try to still exclude bare feet as not “Appropriate Clothing.” Anybody in Austin was to test it?


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