Library Meeting Room Guidelines Redux

On August 24 at 6pm, the library subcommittee on materials will be discussing the meeting room guidelines.

If you attend any library subcommittee meeting in your life, I suggest you attend this one.

Why?

Three reasons.

Because one of the items up for discussion is to restrict meeting room reservations to library cardholders.

On a personal level, I am against this.  There are plenty of legitimate groups that might be looking for a new local chapter and who want to hold information sessions.  I’ve been involved with such groups, and I’ve appreciated being able to make library room reservations in other towns (and even in other states). 

The Worcester Public Library functions as more than just a library for the inhabitants of Worcester.  There are plenty of non-Worcester residents who use it because it’s close to their work, or because the hours are more convenient than their town library, or because they are blind and use the Talking Books Library. 

Some non-Worcester residents are positively contributing to our library by holding events there.  Even the Great Books Discussion Group is led by a <gasp!> non-Worcester resident.

Because we’re trying to address issues of racism and violence in an incorrect way.

What riffraff would we be keeping out of the library by restricting the room reservations?

Certainly not NEWP — they have members right here in Worcester.

And certainly not the guys who came to beat them up — they didn’t need a room reservation to do what they wanted.

If we want to talk about racism, let’s talk about racism.  If we want to talk about preventing violence in the library, I am down with that.

Neither of those things will stop because somebody’s got a library card.

This has to do with two groups, white supremacists and antifa, who make a disproportionate noise when compared to their numbers in this community and who feed off of one another to justify their own existence.

Because City Council candidate and library board member (and chair of the subcommittee) Bill Coleman said that “we have to balance First Amendment rights with concern over public safety.”

No, actually, the First Amendment is non-negotiable.  If someone wants to take away my freedom of speech or freedom of assembly with violence, that’s their problem, not mine.

Despite what Bill Coleman told the Telegram (“the group might actually be invited back”), NEWP is only on a temporary suspension because the video on Youtube was about a specific meeting. 

It’s not about whether they’ll be “invited” back. As of this point in time, as long as they’re not espousing violence, they can meet again at the library in a couple of months.

You should be very, very concerned about a library board member who speaks about the First Amendment as something that should be balanced.

The reason NEWP was not allowed to meet a few weeks ago was because their Youtube video was not considered protected speech.  I disagreed, but the lawyers said otherwise.  (Now, they’ve recently put out this video — warning, not safe or the faint of heart — that I actually think might cross the line of protection.  But that’s a separate issue.)

On the same night as the materials subcommittee meeting, Goddess Oceana will be conducting a Red Tent Temple event.

Now, that kind of event might offend some people.

Heck, it offends my religious sensibilities.

But it is really appropriate for what we’re talking about when it comes to library meeting room space.  Goddess Oceana has just as much a right to meet as the Democratic City Committee, as the Lyndon Larouche fanatics, as the bookclubbers, as the Intercambio conversation group, as the Friends. 

Because the only way to have a truly democratic society is to give all different flavors of people — even the people who make you uncomfortable, especially the people who make you uncomfortable — a forum for expressing their views.