Spotlight on Meeting Room Policies 

While all public library policies have legal implications, policies related to the use of library meeting rooms have been most likely to face a legal challenge in the past 15 years. In Meeting Rooms: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights, the American Library Association states facilities should be made available to the public served by the given library “on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.” However, many library meeting room policies in New York include restrictions on the types of groups who can use the meeting room. This topic has four sections that have been designed to help you and your fellow trustees to develop a legal and effective meeting room policy. 

There are four sections in this topic. You can scroll down to see each section or you can click on the links below to go directly to a specific section. Understand the Challenges: Meeting Room Policy Issues to Consider
Use the Template: Review and Revise Your Meeting Room Policy
Get a Second Opinion: Ask a System Consultant to Review Your Draft

Section 1

Understand the Challenges: Meeting Room Policy Issues to Consider
Several organizations have been systematically challenging library meeting room policies that restrict the access of their members. The Alliance Defense Fund has been one of the most active of these groups.

“The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a Christian legal organization, has initiated a letter-writing campaign to libraries and schools around the country. The campaign targets libraries meeting room policies that restrict the use of the library’s meeting rooms for religious services. In its letter, ADF advises libraries receiving the letter that it believes the library’s meeting room policy is unconstitutional and that ADF will initiate legal action if the library does not change its policy.” — ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom, 2010

ADF Challenges Relating to Religious Use of Library Meeting Rooms  Lawsuit Challenges Library Meeting Room Policy: New Smyrna Beach, FL 
Suit Challenges Meeting Room Rules: Putnam County, TN
Ore. Public Library Sued for Denying Meeting Room to Faith-Based Group: Public Library of Seaside, OR

Other Meeting Room Challenges

Meeting of White Supremacists in York, Pa. Leads to Violent Clashes: “White supremacists and anti-racism activists clashed this past weekend in York, Pennsylvania as Matt Hale, leader of the virulently anti-Semitic and racist World Church of the Creator, held a recruitment drive in a meeting room at the local public library.” — Anti-Defamation League

Hays Public Library Refuses to Allow Veteran to Teach Constitution Using “Making of America” Textbook: “The Hays Public Library in Hays, Kansas is refusing to allow Roger Ewing of Big First Tea Party, (a member of Tea Party Patriots),  the use of taxpayer-funded facilities at the Hays Public Library to  teach the Constitution, and is yet another example of the ongoing  “intolerable acts” our nation is suffering at the hands of bureaucrats.” — The Patriot Coalition

Section 2

Use the Template: Review and Revise Your Meeting Room Policy

The centerpiece of each of the NYLTO policy topics is a Policy Development Template. These templates have been developed by June Garcia, a nationally recognized authority on public library policies and co-author of Creating for Policies for Results: From Chaos to Clarity, (American Library Association, 2003).
For more information on using the templates, go to Structure Your Discussions: Policy Development Templates section in the Library Policy ABCs: Everything You Need to Know about Developing Library Policies topic.

Meeting Room Template:  This template lists the questions relating to the library’s meeting room policy statement and the meeting room regulations that need to be addressed. This is a brief sampling of the 25 questions you and your fellow board members will consider:

  1. How does the provision of a meeting room or meeting rooms and their usage support the library’s goals and objectives?
  2. What activities may occur in the meeting room?
  3. What events or programs, if any, are prohibited in the meeting room?
  4. Is there a fee for the use of the meeting room(s)? If more than one room is available, does the fee vary based on the room which is reserved?
  5. Who may reserve the meeting room? Adults only? Young adults? Children?

To Generate Ideas: LTA’s New York State Policy Database: Meeting Rooms, Exhibits and Display Space

Database policies are to provide information and to spark ideas, but should be used in conjunction with the templates.

Section 3

Get a Second Opinion: Ask a System Consultant to Review Your Draft When you have finished your draft policy statement and regulations, you may send it to your system representative for review and feedback, if you wish.

Brooklyn Public Library TBD 718-230-2199 Buffalo & Erie County Public Library Mary Jean Jakubowski 716-858-7180 Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Library System Valle Blair 716-484-7135 x230 Clinton-Essex-Franklin Library System Julie Wever Ewa Jankowska 518-563-5190 x 18 518-563-5190 x 11 Finger Lakes Library System Amanda Schiavulli 607-273-4074 Four County Library System Sherry Gorman 607-723-8236 x332 Mid-Hudson Library System Rebekkah Smith Aldrich 845-471-6060 Mid-York Library System Wanda Bruchis 315-735-8328 x 233 Mohawk Valley Library System Eric Trahan 518-355-2010 Monroe Library System Sally Snow 585-428-8051 Nassau Library System Elizabeth Olesh 516-292-8920 x237 New York Public Library Kevin Winkler 212-930-0720 Nioga Library System Lisa Erickson 716-434-6167 x33 North Country Library System Paulette Roes 315-782-5540 Onondaga County Public Library System Amanda Travis 315-435-1825 Pioneer Library System Lauren Moore 585-394-8260 Queens Borough Public Library Cecilia Nocella 718-990-0796 Ramapo Catskill Library System Robert Hubsher Grace Riario 845-243-3747 x 242 845-243-3747 x 233 Southern Adirondack Library System Sara Dallas Jennifer Ferriss 518-584-7300 518-584-7300 Southern Tier Library System Brian M. Hildreth Al Oliveras 607-962-3141 x 207 607-962-3141 x 212 Suffolk Cooperative Library System Samantha Jane Alberts 631-286-1600 x1352 Upper Hudson Library System Tim Burke 518-437-9880 Westchester Library System Terry Kirchner 914-231-3223