Oelibrarian made a comment about the last entry, What is it about librarians? I’m going to answer it, and try to explain better, here.
First, many thanks to oelibrarian for providing further perspective.
What got me started was this comment in your original entry:
I am virtually militant about the no bare feet in the library issue and don’t hesitate to tell students they need to wear shoes while in the library.
Of all the various rules in a library, why pick this one out? Surely, if one was going to be militant about library rules, one would pick something like “no drugs or alcohol,” or “beverages must be in covered, spill-proof containers,” or “audible conversations conducted via cell phone or computer.” These are taken from the SUNY-New Paltz Code of Conduct. When I searched for libraries with their policies online, this was about all I could find. (I don’t know if oelibrarian is at New Paltz.)
Those latter rules actually serve a useful purpose, protecting the library’s assets or allowing the other library users to use the library for its intended purpose. A ban on bare feet does nothing but try to enforce one person’s sense of decorum on somebody else. We don’t see that with tattoos, green hair, nose piercings, beards, or any other choice of dress. Not only that, but walking barefoot exposes no more of the foot than other footwear like flip-flops. So, why does oelibrarian make such a big deal about bare feet? Why must this rule be militantly enforced?
In fact, why do libraries in general (and I must say I did not intend to particularly pick on oelibrarian here, but I was mainly using that entry as a jumping off point) ban bare feet? If anything, bare feet are much quieter and much less likely to bother other users. When it comes to going barefooted, it is hard to think of any environment that could possibly be safer than a library. Besides, bare feet are perfectly safe in a whole host of environments; most people’s fears about them are misplaced, and often based on their ignorance (because, not having tried it themselves, they project unwarranted fears).
I guess I used the “authoritarian” label because it seemed to me that a “militant” enforcement of a useless policy warranted it.
Regarding a fear of injury, in the comment, oelibrarian says:
Really, by mentioning the policy I am more compelled by making sure these kids don’t incur some kind of painful foot injury.
Really? Are you also concerned about any of the kids wearing high-heels? Because there are a whole host of injuries that occur when the heels get caught on stair risers or on the edges of rugs. High-heels also set their wearers up for osteoarthritis as they get older due to the upto 60% greater stress on the knees, and create bunions and hallux valgus. Also, research shows that shoes weaken the arches and help lead to fallen arches.
I’m still wondering about the supposed campus-wide policy of no bare feet in any of the buildings. How do you know this? Are their signs on all the buildings? (I’d appreciate it if you would check if you are not sure.) By the way, the student handbook for SUNY-New Paltz has no such rule in it (maybe the handbook for your campus does—maybe you could point that out for me).
In a comment by oelibrarian at the original entry, oelibrarian says
And I have already said earlier, my concern is more for happy and healthy feet, not imposing institutional policies, although one exists regarding shirts and shoes in campus buildings (except dorms of course and I’m sure some gym areas). We actually have lots of construction on campus, including on the front steps of the library and there are places where broken glass has not been cleaned up for weeks. It would make me unhappy if one of those kids had a painful foot injury walking past those areas.
You know what? Inside campus buildings is assuredly safer that outside, yet the (supposed) policy lets people walk barefoot outside and bans it inside. Does that really make any sense if safety is really the issue. Oh, and the studies show that it is the barefooted populations that have happy and healthy feet, not shod populations.
But, I do have to admit that I have a chip on my shoulder. I’ve always been a voracious reader, and to have libraries, libraries that not only should know better but actually have the proper information at hand in their collection to check these things out, be the foremost governmental bodies that ban bare feet hits me right where it hurts. And I have had librarians flat out lie.
When I tried to challenge the policy of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, their Director wrote a letter to their legal counsel, asking for
the legal reasons that CML can give for requiring its customers to dress appropriately for a public place?
After that, they suddenly started using the reason that the policy had been created, years ago, to
safeguard the health and safety of Library patrons and maintain the fiscal integrity of the Library.
Gee, you’d think that he would have thought of that when he implemented the policy, and would not have had to ask his lawyer for a good reason.
And then, when I tried to challenge the policy at the Fairfield County District Library, the Board there
upheld its current Code of Conduct based on what they Board feels is the proper decorum for our organization.
Of course, when I challenged that further, they changed their reason. It then became
for the stated reason that it is the fiscal responsibility of the Board to reduce and eliminate any risks which may potentially produce costly liability.
Of course, they felt no need to reduce any risks associated with high-heels (and ignored the fact that they have insurance for these sorts of things, and are also statutorily immune from tort liability).
As I’ve looked around trying to get library services, I’ve had 3 different libraries that did not have any footwear policy implement one shortly after they saw me in their libraries. I didn’t bother anybody; I caused no problems. They just saw me and decided that they needed to keep me out while dressed in my preferred, non-disruptive state.
Now, maybe “authoritarian” does not apply to oelibrarian. But it surely applies to these other librarians who are more interested in ignoring true health and safety issues and are more interested in imposing their own particular sense of decorum on their visitors, rather than accepting differences that have nothing to do with running a library.
And that is why I ask “What is it about librarians?”