Thursday, November 09, 2006

Public Libraries are Public Spaces

Psst.. I have a secret. If you are a frequent library user, you probably already know this secret. But apparently Chicago's CBS 2 News did not. They aired a special investigative report entitled, "Library Confidential." In a nutshell, they discovered that public libraries are indeed public places.

As public buildings and American institutions, we believe that you are innocent until proven guilty. We believe that you, as a tax payer, have a right to be in the library. We believe that your intentions are honorable until your actions indicate otherwise. We don't require you to sign-in, to go through a metal detector, or to have a back ground check before allowing you through the front doors of our buildings.

While we expect everyone to act appropriately, not everyone does. Your safety is of the foremost importance to us. We don't tolerate inappropriate behavior. Howeve, we also try to keep things in perspective. A group of teens talking loudly isn't a threat, but if the staff asks them once to settle down and the behavior continues, they will be asked to leave the Library, if they don't leave, the police are called and they risk being banned from our building for an extended period of time. I hate to tell you how many times I was kicked out of my neighborhood public library when I was a teen - I thought it was a great place to catch up with my friends. Back then it was no big deal - unless your parents found out. I guess in our post 9/11, 24-hours-a-day Cable News, Reality TV world this would now be sensationalized into a newsworthy event.

CBS 2 News knows that we like our news in glossy little snippets. Not bothering with the details and using numbers out of context made for a much more enthralling report. If anyone is interested in the truth, the vast majority of people using their public libraries do know how to act appropriately. According to the American Library Association, Americans made 1.3 billion library visits in 2004, yet less than a handful of those visits resulted in a newsworthy event. Public libraries are indeed public places and I think for the most part, they are safe places, but I guess that's not much of a story.

Cindy Fuerst
Kankakee Public Library Director


Anonymous Anonymous said...


November 11, 2006 6:35 AM  

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