Editorial: Mind your manners at the library
Seattle Public Libraries are clarifying and beefing up rules of conduct in an attempt to make the code of conduct easier to enforce. It's all reasonable. Libraries are not private living rooms.
IF libraries were private living rooms, patrons could remove their shoes and shirts and doze off into blissful sleep. But Seattle Public Libraries are public spaces with rules that must be clear and easier to enforce.
Library officials are clarifying several rules and beefing up others in a reasonable attempt to improve the customer experience. The justifiable mission aims to make users feel safe and comfortable at the Central Library downtown and branches around the city.
Libraries should welcome all comers. But library staffers have a right and a duty to demand polite behavior. For example, you cannot take your shoes and shirt off, because that offends some users. You cannot bring in huge suitcases because they are difficult to get past in an emergency. One individual's oversized luggage could block others trying to escape the 10 floors of the library in a fire or an earthquake.
Seattle libraries are a huge success, measured in part by usage that climbed 20 percent compared with last year. But more people sharing limited space and resources means a need for clearer rules and better behavior all around.
Library computers and space are in such high demand that the library can no longer serve as a quasi hotel lobby or unpaid bed and breakfast. An existing rule prohibiting sleeping will be expanded to include "appearance of sleeping." That makes it easier for library staff to move people out who are hogging computers and tables while snoozing. There are not enough resources to accommodate nappers.
Another sensible clarification includes a prohibition against intimidating staff, volunteers or other patrons. Existing rules forbid harassment, but that can be too difficult to enforce.
Now that the board has finalized the new rules, a patron previously excluded from the library for one year for criminal behavior would see the penalty doubled if that individual re-offends during the exclusion period. The punishment could become consecutive and last two years.
Some argue libraries are picking on the homeless. Not really. Street people are welcome as long as they follow the rules.
Libraries are public spaces where rules of quiet, manners and respect for others are essential.
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
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