My tax dollars help support institutions that reject both democratic procedure and public accountability. This is simply not acceptable. Sturgis Library, which permanently banned me last June without warning or due process, serves as an egregious example. The President of the Library Trustees, Ted Lowry, refused to even respond to my request for due process. My “offense” comprised simple written criticism of the library’s own written policy, especially regarding censorship and openness to all points of view. When I asked director Lucy Loomis why she made the decision to ban me, she said: “You’ve been critical of me, you don’t like it here, so now you can’t come here anymore.” Several days later, the police officer, who’d taken Loomis’ phone call, informed that Loomis had said, I’d made her “feel uncomfortable” and “said inappropriate things.” The officer noted Loomis did not provide any further information or details. Nothing is written about any of this in the police report, not even the precise duration of the trespass order. Sturgis has refused to provide any written documentation regarding the trespass order.
1. Publicly-funded libraries in the Town of Barnstable shall not punish patrons, who simply and peacefully criticize a library—staff, policies, events, etc. Such libraries should encourage criticism, not crush it.
2. Publicly-funded libraries in the Town of Barnstable shall not be permitted to dismiss peaceful criticism as “harassment,” a term clearly and legally defined. Instead, they should follow that legal definition.
3. Publicly-funded libraries in the Town of Barnstable must provide a written warning to a patron, prior to punishment, noting the precise “offense” and precise punishment if said “offense” continues. In fact, a list of punishable “offenses” should be posted on the bulletin boards of each publicly-funded library.
4. Publicly-funded libraries in the Town of Barnstable must not only offer, but also clearly define, procedure for due process in a written document, so that punished library patrons have the opportunity to question and challenge the “offense” and penalty before an independent committee.
5. Publicly-funded libraries in the Town of Barnstable shall hire library directors with the expectation they possess sufficient spine to be able to deal with criticism in a fully democratic manner, as opposed to in an authoritarian one.
6. Publicly-funded libraries in the Town of Barnstable shall make their records available to the public.
7. Publicly-funded libraries in the Town of Barnstable that choose to ignore the above points will be excluded from further public funding, though given the opportunity to rectify errors in the framework of due-process procedure.
Citizen Russell Streur noted regarding Sturgis’ trespass order: “I am outraged. And I want to know how this can happen in the United States of America. I filed the enclosed Public Access Records request to find out, citing 950 CMR 32. I received the enclosed denial, claiming the library was not subject to the Regulation as it was not a Government Entity.”
Streur then appealed the denial, to the Supervisor of Public Records, Office of the State Secretary, “on the grounds of 950 CMR 32.03, which defines a Governmental Entity as ‘any authority established by the General Court to serve a public purpose.’”
Streur notes “The argument that the Sturgis Library is not subject to the Regulation is specious. It is obvious that a town library serves a public purpose. The authority of the Town of Barnstable devolves upon an entity to which it contacts to serve a public purpose. The library cannot claim the rights of the public purpose and at the same time hide behind the skirts of its organizational structure to evade the responsibilities of the public purpose it undertakes.”
Streur also notes: “My purpose in filing this request is to discover the truth of this thing, how an individual can be permanently banned from a public library for no reason, with no hearing, and with no recourse; and how the individuals who have protested this action also end up without a voice in the matter.”
Shawn A. Williams, Supervisor of Public Records, replied on January 4, 2013, “I have directed a member of my staff, Attorney Donald White, to review the matter.”
Loomis’ arbitrary decision and the silence of her colleagues have served to reduce democracy in the publicly-funded libraries of the Town of Barnstable. Why should taxpayer money be used to fund institutions that seem scornful of democracy and individual liberties? Quite simply, it should not be used to do so!
[Not one person responded to this proposal.]