Library Meeting Room Guidelines Meeting 2 Liveblog

Board members present: Jyoti, Kevin Dowd, Bill Coleman, Donna McGrath

Denise McGinley from the library

6:08 – They will take public testimony & then discuss the meeting room guidelines.

About the same crowd here as last time.

Bill: “Right now we have an open-door policy.  There’s nothing we can do to limit…philosophical thought.  … What we’re really concerned about is the public safety.”

“We are a showcase for the city, so this is a very sensitive area for how we should … grow into the future.”

6:11 – Reviewing the minutes.  Kevin Dowd is making some amendments.

Motion to accept with corrections.  Passes.

6:13 – Getting comments from committee members first.  The meeting will go to 7:10pm.

No comment from the committee members.

Bill asking for additional public input.

Gordon: “we’ve used the library for a while, before there was even a meeting room.”  we were told that there couldn’t be regular meetings, so we didn’t.  Now I understand that that may not be the case.  “I think the library should … give preference to” those who live or work in the city.  “Not to these people who are outsiders, essentially.”

Gordon, con’t: The city manager said that NEWP was a danger to the people who were showing a movie in February.  He reiterates his account of the May 21 incident.

Gordon: “Their politics are illegal everywhere in the world…that’s why they should not speak.”

6:19 – Russell James.  “This meeting is about groups in general, and isn’t about our group.  However, Gordon…is really a violent person who is with a violent group. … I can see that he’s a pathological liar.”

[Oh, don’t you wish you could be in this room right now?]

Russell: “I don’t understand why he’s allowed to … attack our group” and we get banned.

Bill “personally doesn’t like the name calling.” … we are here as an open-minded group.  “No matter what is said in here, all of us are … going to design a policy that will take us into the future,” regardless of the group.

Ron Madnick, starts to recite his address.

Bill — “Hold on, this isn’t city council.”

Ron: “I don’t think the library should change one word of the policy” because of one incident.

6:25 – Ron reiterates the possibility of a staff member monitoring a meeting and calling 911 in the case of emergencies.  He talks about how some smaller libraries might have reduced hours because of budget cuts and that restricting to residents of Worcester might negatively impact the residents of surrounding towns.

Bill asks library staff how they feel about the meeting room guidelines.

(Though now he’s going on and I’m not sure if that was just rhetorical.)

6:29 – Aretha (I can’t spell her last name) speaks.  “There is a first time for everything and hopefully it will not happen again.  If it happens repeatedly, there needs to be a policy in place…As a mom whose child comes here also, … if there’s violence being promoted by a certain group, … I think there has to be a certain responsibility for the library to look into that.”

6:32 – Bill talks about the concerns about the teens that happened a couple of years ago.

6:33 – Gwen – she thinks people should be a Worcester resident and doesn’t feel Worcester should be a place for racist ideas.  Would like to see groups that promote multi-racial unity, workers.  “We need something that will bring us all together.”

6:35 – Jo Hart thinks the meeting is discriminatory because the events calendar does not list this as a meeting about meeting room guidelines.  “Censorship and discrimination.”

6:36 – Aretha’s sister, Tracy (didn’t get the last name) – suggestion that there be a volunteer once a month that could look into the groups that are registering for the room.

6:38 – Joel – in 2003/2004, there were going to be cuts to staff.  Because of this, they were going to restrict the room to library only.  There were not ultimately cuts to staff, but the rooms being open to the public were not a given.  “The meetings are a privilege, and I think people overlook.  … If you don’t follow the library rules, we enforce them.”

6:40 – Other gentleman from facilities – “This is America.  We all live in a free speech country.  … Don’t take away their rights. … We try to keep the peace … and keep people from disturbing other people’s meetings in the best way we can. … We have to believe in their rights as an individual.  … We’re trying to make sure everyone’s safe, but we only have so many eyes.”

(This is a beautiful moment, folks.)

He relates how he helps Tracy when the teens she works with gets rowdy.  She acknowledges his help.

6:44 – Russell – “The first thing that struck me when this came up … was that this was outside the purview of a library board.”  First amendment, founding fathers, etc.

discussion of law enforcement, etc.  Conversation is degenerating again.

6:46 – John Provost – “There might be a basis for preference to residents” as with public housing.  “However, … free speech is sacred and there will be groups with whom we disagree … but know that if dialog is not allowed to be … expressed in a peaceable manner that you can end up with a dictatorship.”

6:47 – Ron Madnick – some groups cannot afford insurance (as in bonds).  Discusses the procedure/application  for meeting room reservations.  Looking into groups — what criteria for who is allowed and who is not. “Opens up a lot of problems you don’t want to get into.”

6:50 – Gordon – freedom of speech is not the issue here.  These guys are advocating nazism.  There’s also freedom of speech for those who are against the nazis.  Once again, account of May 21.  [He needs to bring this down a few notches.  I am not hard of hearing, but I might be soon if he keeps yelling.]

6:52 – question about disruptive people and whether they can be removed.

Jo Hart – rules should be posted.

6:54 – Aretha — you can’t disrupt someone else’s meeting.  We’ve been fighting against negative things since the end of slavery.  You have to put confidence in the people.

6:55 – Gary Jarvis – was at meeting on May 21.  What Gordon says is true, up to a point, but he has the lump on his head to prove that he was attacked.  It’s not right to come in and physically assault someone and then run away.  “The only one who was left was Gordon, in the hall, yelling.”  “Our meeting was productive and quiet before they came in.”

Bill: we don’t want what happened to you to happen to anyone.  “We don’t want little kids to be traumatized by violence in this library.”

Close of public comment portion of the meeting.

He asks Dee whether she gets enough information to get ahold of a group if there’s a question about them.

6:58 – Yes.

Kevin Dowd — listened carefully to those who spoke tonight & last night, ACLU, documents from other libraries and the ALA, and the city legal dept.  Mission statement says that the library serves as a gathering place.  We would be making a terrible mistake to silence or censor any group.  Not only a mistake philosophically but contrary to the first amendment.  Not much choice but to welcome diversity of opinions and people in this library.

Kevin, cont’d – We have recourse if there’s violence.  Recommends not to change the meeting room policy at all.  You can’t make a watertight policy, and that’s why there’s a board.  “I do not want to write a policy based on one group.”  “We’re not a house of books; we’re a support wall in the house of democracy.”

Donna agrees with Kevin.

Jyoti knows “that the safety of people and the physical safety of this space.”  Joel is always here when he is needed.  Safety for our patrons is paramount.  She feels quite comfortable with the policy the way it is.

Bill — begs for continued conversation in the community.  What has been said tonight — that we need to protect the freedoms in this library.  Our policies should be posted.  Rules need to be more visibly posted.

Motion to recommend that policy at this point not be changed.

And…that’s it!  Now it will go before the full board next week.

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