Spotlight on Meeting Room Policies

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
Protests prompted by hate group’s visit turned violent on York streets:

This article was originally published on January 14, 2002. 

“Anti-hate groups showed up to counter racists meeting at Martin Memorial Library.” – York Daily Record

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, see the Development Questions on the Mid-Hudson Library System’s External Policy page: Exhibits & Posting; Meeting Space/Room Equipment

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.