Library Meeting Room Guidelines Mtg 1 Summary

Steve Foskett has an article about yesterday’s Materials Subcommittee meeting in the T&G today.

I know that some folks find the liveblog format to be difficult to follow, and there were a lot of distractions from the task at hand.

Unfortunately, the meeting wasn’t always on track — there were times when folks on both sides moved away from the task at hand (that is, should we change the meeting room guidelines) and instead focused on deposition-like descriptions of events that occurred a couple of months ago.

Here’s what I think the next meeting (which should be sometime in early September) should focus on:

What (if any) are the problems with the existing guidelines?  I don’t have a problem with the guidelines as they stand.  I think adopting something similar Wakefield’s guidelines are an acceptable compromise if the alternative is no public forum at all (though — as I’ll note later — I’d like to see a legal opinion on whether this, too, would pose an unfair burden on someone’s first amendment rights).  I’d obviously prefer a public forum.

I would welcome a more philosophical discussion on whether the WPL considers meetings rooms to be part of its mission, because I think that would help guide the discussion.

How much should public input weigh in on meeting room guidelines or decisions?  I don’t mean this in a glib way.  Many libraries provide access to materials that some (or many) members of the public might find offensive.  Members of the public don’t weigh in on materials management decisions.

Ron Madnick brought up a concern about labeling a group as disruptive (or potentially disruptive).   This could provide a pre-emptive heckler’s veto; if you’re interested in reading more about the legal issues surrounding heckler’s veto and especially issues with charging speakers the cost of police protection that might result from their presence, read this.   (It seems to call into question whether we could even request that a group meet after library hours.)

I won’t pretend to have all the answers about this, but I think it is worth thinking about the tension between the library being a publicly-funded and supported institution that also sometimes (because of its mission) provides a venue (through materials or meetings) for unpopular ideas.

Does the rule prohibiting booking recurring meetings need clarification?  There was a question at the meeting about whether organizational meetings could be held at the library, and the answer is in the affirmative as long as they’re open to the public.  But I think there should be a note — whether on the application or in the guidelines — that library-sponsored (or Friends-sponsored, or Literacy Volunteers) events can be set up on a recurring basis, but that all other groups can only book one meeting at a time.

Can government do a better job of informing residents about the topics to be discussed in a meeting?  This is, perhaps, a question for both the library board and city government as a whole.

If you click on an item in the city government calendar, there’s no easy link to the agenda for that meeting.  I’ve been told that it’s not possible to put links into that format, though one wonders if one could at least paste a non-linked URL into the “More Information” column.

I think there would be ways to link to an agenda URL in the library’s own calendar system, so I’ll suggest that at the next library board meeting.

In the meantime, library board (and committee) meeting agendas are posted in the Boards and Commission section of the Agendas & Minutes page on the city website.  You can also find some agendas & minutes for a lot of groups that don’t fit into an easy mold under the Committees and Groups section.