Library Meeting Room Guidelines Hearing Liveblog

6:03 pm – Bill, Jyoti, Donna, Kevin, Dante here from the board.  (First three on the materials committee)

small-ish turnout (Steve Foskett, Kevin Ksen, Ron Madnick, and a couple others)

Right now Donna is reading from the library’s meeting room guidelines.

Bill – “application process is simple”

Dee — sometimes she gets applications online, sometimes by phone.  “If the room is available and there’s not a library program, they can have it.  … library programs do take precedence.”  She always checks to see if there’s a commercial purpose.  Then she takes their name, their org’s name, phone number, email, what room they want, if they want a certain setup, screen needs, etc.

6:07 – Bill — how busy is the request?

Just from June last year – July this year – nearly 900 bookings.

Jyoti confirms that they do not need to be Worcester residents.  People from all over MA and sometimes out of state book rooms.

(another attendee has entered the room)

Bill — are we assigned a dept within the Police to deal with?

Dee — would have to talk to Mark about that.

Bill — we’ll either change policy, tweak policy, or make no change.

Joel says 1500-2000 people a day come in the library.

(another 2 attendees — John Trobaugh one of them — have entered the room)

6:11 — Bill asks when Joel gets involved.

Joel says the traffic is always busy.  No matter what’s going on in the meeting rooms, they enforce library rules.  Doesn’t matter about the content of the meeting.

(There seems to be a small altercation/confrontation going on outside the room.  Now they’re in.  It’s the Davises.  They are bringing signs in after being told not to.  Joel is calling the police.)

Kevin wants clarity.  Will there be a series of meetings?

Bill says if we can get everything done here, that’s great.

“Is there anything really wrong” with the existing policy — is what we’re trying to get at.

He wants folks to now address the committee with questions.

(Ah, two of the attendees are NEWPers.)

Gordon Davis wants to talk about why the Nazis shouldn’t come.

Ron Madnick is talking about the library meeting room guidelines and says that they conform to the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights.

“I can never recall an incident that was out of control” except for the incident in question.

However, since the meeting is open to everyone, it’s open to library personnel.  He suggests that folks call 911 if there is an incident.

He quote further from the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights.  He thinks the policy has worked wonderfully.

Gordon Davis — could the policy prohibit a group because of violence, fear of violence, or pending legal action?

Bill discusses the Youtube video and how “it brought a lot of conversation from city authorities” — “there was the potential for some violence to happen.”

I discussed a bit of the Wakefield library situation.

Continuing discussion from Kevin and Ron.  You can guess their comments.

Ron’s understanding of the heckler’s veto — people have a right to speak.  If a group comes in — by their action they are stopping the group who has a right to speak from their rights.

Any damage to the room is the responsibility of the group reserving the room — “You already have that protection there.”

Bill — the last time a group’s privileges were suspended…wants Kevin to outline the comment.

Committee on Administration acting on authority given them from the whole board.   Felt that Youtube video was inciting violence.

Russell James disputes Kevin’s claim that they had not secured their room booking.

Kevin feels that meeting room policy is for all groups, should be based on the whole thing, not just one incident.

Gordon Davis — May 21st incident — before this incident, the manager at the city (?) said this group was dangerous.  He says that Russell threw a chair at him and that there’s a criminal investigation against him.  Russell is being a touch interruptive.

He says they should not be allowed because they are violent criminals, he thinks all the nazis are like that.  He (James) is a “clear and present danger” — “Racial genocide cannot be spoken, … yet we allow it even though we know it’s a danger.”

“When you’re in a concentration camp or a death camp, there is no freedom of speech.”

Kevin — let’s keep it at the level of principles and not direct this at people in the room.  “We’re not a courtroom here.” 

Russell James — apparently someone believes that meeting in a room is criminal activity.  “We never touched them, they screamed and hit us.”   “It’s this group that Gordon belongs to that caused violence.”

OK…let’s not let this degenerate, folks.

6:37 – lots more folks entering.  Not NEWPers.

Jo Hart is here too.

She will speak next.

Multiple video being taken.

Bill C. – “We’re looking at the public safety of this community.”

Jo Hart — Upset about a lot of things, especially the way the paper handled it.  She had a meeting here once, wanted to have it on a regular basis, and it was not allowed.  But the book group has their meetings arranged a year — and it’s library sponsored, so it’s excluded from the “not on a regular basis” rule.

Russell — any group can come and define another group as a problem.  “We’re not nazis — we’re a white rights group. … He and his group don’t like that, call us nazis and shut us down.”  He would recommend that we continue the current policy.

Jo agrees with that.  Thinks the media incited what happened and didn’t make it clear who was holding the weapon.

Kevin – NEWP did not have a meeting here, and they didn’t proceed because of the threats of violence in the video.  They put up another, second video threatening violence.  Need to aggregate information from outside and see the pattern and the structure to catch that.

6:45 — John Trobaugh — reason he’s here is that the policy of allowing freedom of speech is a good one, however what is your policy of tracking groups and tracking problems?

Bill — no current tracking of groups

Kevin — meeting room privileges were suspended for one particular day, no evidence group is violent beyond that particular day.   No ongoing claim against any particular group.  In this meeting, big-picture view of policy.  We’re not going to write a policy based on one group or one day.

Bill reads again from the mission statement of the WPL.

“We want to protect the public interest while protecting…this gem.”

Aretha — multi-generational uses this library.  If they have a concern about a group that is violent, “nobody should be preaching violence to anyone.”

Tracy, Aretha’s sister — she facilitates a program for teens here.  Anyone is allowed to come in, brings people in and celebrates a specific culture.  Now she’s saying pedophiles are going to meet at the library.

John Provost — appreciates the board’s openness for having this hearing, and appreciates the library’s and ALA’s openness in free interchange of ideas.  He “abhors censorship of any kind.”  There’s also (in addition to the heckler’s veto) books in the library that might be offensive.  Every copy of Mein Kampf is repeatedly purchased and “lost”/”missing”.  That’s a form of book veto power.  Systematic self-appointed censors, and Christian groups do it as well.

He is denied the opportunity to look at these firsthand sources because of these censors.

He’s viewed this groups videos and the July 16th promo was antagonistic, agrees with the board’s decision on that specific meeting.

Ron — knows board will not consider this.  Tracking is impossible and unreasonable.  Where would they draw the line — and if you draw the line in the wrong place, you could get sued.  Somewhat concerned about the word “incite” and about all these police cruisers.

“I refuse to live in a world of fear. … got to be careful with the rhetoric.”

SING IT RON!

6:57 – Bill says we’ll end at 7pm, will hold another hearing.

Gordon – inconsistency in board policy.  Were told that they could not have organizational meetings at the library.  Now he understands that a group from Manchester wants to have organizational meetings.  Suggests that the rooms should be reserved by those who live or work in Worcester.  The people of Worcester paid for this building.  [Um, not really.]

Jo – in favor of inclusion and not exclusion.

Gwen — opposed to any group that pushes racism.  [I’m opposed to any group that pushes censorship, so call us even.]  Wants to put it on record that we stand for multi-racial unity.

Russell — if you try to say that some group is saying something, groups don’t speak, individuals do.  He believes this library gets federal funding, then you can’t restrict to Worcester residents.

Kevin likes no fees, open meetings, etc.  He’s heard the word “censorship” — he supports Russell using this room as an individual, not his group.  The board has seen fliers that threaten violence, these are things that the group does.  He supports access to individuals and not to groups that threaten violence.

Unnamed lady says you should have to be a resident to be able to sponsor an event.

Ron hates to disagree with his friend Gordon.  You’re part of the regional library system.  Not all the books are from Worcester.  Should not be limited to residents of Worcester.  NAACP had an organizational meeting, he’s seen nothing wrong with that, as long as they’re open to anyone who wishes to attend.

I think we’re wrapping this up [for today].

Kevin would like something before full board before September meeting.  Subcommittee meeting early in September so that it can be brought to the board, discussed, and sent to city solicitor.  It will be in early September — announced later.

Battery’s running low.  Will update as needed later.

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2 thoughts on “Library Meeting Room Guidelines Hearing Liveblog

  1. Tracy Novick says:

    Thanks for going and for the liveblog. Wish I could be there (and I can’t make the next one either).

  2. PRobertson says:

    Great rundown of the meeting Nicole, the only question I would have is where you state the board has “seen” fliers we’ve producted encouraging any violence. We haven’t produced any such leaflets and any such leaflets were not discussed as having been seen by the board itself nor were they shown. The Davis’ friend in the blue shirt is the one who claimed that our leaflets are ‘violent’, incorrectly of course.

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