The Bellingham Public Library is a very active center of information, cultural activities, recreation and learning. With the amount of activity in the library, rules have been established regarding proper library behavior necessary to maintain both an atmosphere which promotes the use and enjoyment of the resources and services of the library, and which protects the safety of the general public, the library staff, and the equipment and materials of the library. It is expected that persons using the library will conduct themselves in an orderly and respectable manner.
The Library reserves the right to require anyone who violates these rules of conduct to leave the premises. The library may deny permission for a person to enter its facilities for a specified time if that person continues to violate these rules, or if that person has engaged in criminal behavior on Library premises. Unlawful activities will be reported to the Police.
In the event the property of the library is damaged or destroyed, the person or persons responsible for the damage will be held accountable for their actions and the matter will be turned over to the Trustees of the Library and/or the Police.
Patrons are expected to comply with the reasonable requests of any member of the library staff. The following guidelines for patron conduct, inclusive but not limited to, are essential to ensure respect for individuals who use this public facility.
Behavior Policy Enforcement
Formal actions may be enforced by staff based on their judgment of specific facts and circumstances. Before formal action is initiated to address unacceptable behavior/conduct, a patron normally will be given an informal warning, excepting emergency situations. For example, if a group of students are studying and occasionally become loud; asking them to keep their voices down need not be a formal action such as expulsion. This is a common issue and would not typically lead to the removal of a patron from the building. In other words, the staff member may ask patron(s) to cease certain unacceptable behavior/conduct before a “first warning” is issued or more serious action is taken. If needed, the following formal actions will be taken.
If a patron exhibits unacceptable behavior/conduct, the patron must be told his/her behavior or conduct is unacceptable in the Library, and must stop immediately. The patron will normally be told that this is a first warning.
The Reference, Children’s, and/or Circulation desks may be made aware of the warning, if staff involved deems it appropriate.
A patron who continues to engage in unacceptable behavior/conduct will be told that, if her/his actions continue, he or she will be asked to leave the Library; and that this is the second and final warning and that expulsion from the Library is the next step.
If the unacceptable behavior/conduct continues, despite the previous warnings, the patron’s name and phone number will be taken and verified, if possible. The patron will be informed that he or she must leave the Library premises (inclusive of grounds) and s/he is not to return before the next business day. If the patron refuses to leave, or re-enters through a different department, he or she should be warned that if he or she doesn’t leave for the day the Police will be called.
For most incidents, staff shall fill out an Incident Form and deliver it to the circulation desk and director.
Procedure for repeat removal from the Library
The second time a patron is asked to leave, he or she will be barred from the Library for one week.
The third time a patron is asked to leave, he or she will be barred from the Library for one month, with a letter to be sent to the patron or parent/guardian, by the Library Director.
In extreme circumstances, the Library Director may recommend to the Library Board of Trustees that a patron’s library privileges be suspended for more than one month based upon the nature and history of the unacceptable behavior/conduct and the patron’s history of non-compliance with the policy.
After reviewing the patron’s history of noncompliance with the Library Director, the Library Board of Trustees or a subcommittee thereof appointed by the Chair of the Board to investigate the violations may offer the patron the opportunity to make an oral or written statement. Upon completion of its investigation, the Library Board of Trustees’ sub-committee shall determine if a recommendation of an indefinite suspension shall be placed before the full Library Board of Trustees for consideration. A decision to suspend requires a majority vote of the Library Trustees present at a publicly posted meeting with a quorum of the Board members present. The patron may be allowed an opportunity to be present and speak at any such meeting. A written notice of this suspension and its terms shall be sent to the patron.
The Library Board may find that a patron’s behavior has been so egregious that it warrants barring from the library upon the first offense. In such instance the Board may ban a patron for a period of time that is commensurate with the offense and the Chair of the Board may appoint a sub-committee of the Library Board of Trustees to investigate the violations. The sub-committee may offer the patron the opportunity to make an oral or written statement. Upon completion of its investigation, the Library Board of Trustees’ sub-committee shall determine if a recommendation of an indefinite suspension shall be placed before the full Library Board of Trustees for consideration. A decision to suspend requires a majority vote of the Library Trustees present at a publicly posted meeting with a quorum of the Board members present. The patron may be present and speak at any such meeting. A written notice of this suspension and its terms shall be sent to the patron.
The Bellingham Police Department may be called for the removal of a patron who fails to comply with a directive to leave or not to enter Library premises.
Library staff may show patrons the behavior/conduct policy as evidence of the Library’s policy. As with all policies, there must be an element of flexibility based on individual facts and circumstances. The above policies may be waived or modified if deemed necessary to address the facts of a particular situation. At the same time, the staff must strive for consistency in the application and enforcement of this policy.
Under no circumstances should library personnel touch or try to restrain a patron as part of the foregoing process.
Audio Equipment – Playing audio equipment so that others can hear it is not allowed.
Bicycles – Bicycles must be parked in designated areas outside the building. They are not allowed in the library building and must not be ridden in the library parking lot other than to enter or exit the property.
Cell Phone Use – Many people visit the library expecting to find a quiet place to read or study. Although the Bellingham Public Library does not encourage the use of cell phones in the building, we do understand that there are times when it may be necessary. During these times we ask that you be considerate and respectful of others by: Please put your phone on vibrate or silence; Limit your calls to brief, quiet conversations; Do not use your phone in quiet study areas; Do not use your phone at public services desks; Do not use your phone during library programs; When possible, make and take all calls outside the building. Library patrons with cell phone usage that violates our behavior policy on disturbances, creating a disturbance by making noise, talking loudly or engaging in other disruptive conduct, will be asked to leave the building.
Clothing – Shirt and shoes must be worn in the library.
Computer Equipment – The abuse of library computer equipment violates the law (MGL, Chapter 266, Section 100) and may be prosecuted. Abuse of equipment includes banging on the keyboard or other excessive force, misappropriation of hardware or software, and attempts to alter the software.
Daily closing – Patrons are responsible for knowing the closing time for that day. Personal belongings left in the Library at closing time will be locked in the building until the next day the Library is open to the public.
Damages – Those who damage or deface Library materials or property will be prosecuted (MGL, Chapter 266, Section 100). Parents can be liable for damage done by a child under the age of eighteen (MGL, Chapter 231, Section 85).
Disturbances – Creating a disturbance by making noise, talking loudly, or engaging in other disruptive conduct is not allowed (MGL, Chapter 272, Section 41).
Emergency Closing – When the library closes due to an emergency (power failure, inclement weather, etc.) and there are people in the building, the staff will make every effort to assist people in finding a place to go.
Entrances – The building entrance and exit may not be blocked and people entering the building can not be interfered with. Groups are not allowed to congregate in the entry and exit areas. Carriages and strollers are permitted in the building and should not be left in the entryway.
Food & Drink – Drinking covered beverages is permitted in all areas of the library, except the local history room. Eating is permitted only in the Community Room.
Interfering – Interfering with another person’s right to use the Library or with the Library staff’s performance of their duties is not allowed.
Latex – No latex balloons or gloves are permitted or allowed in the Library.
Library Furniture – In order to maintain clean and attractive library facilities and furniture, sitting on tables, placing feet on furniture, and lying on floors (other than for children’s programming) is not permitted. Patrons should sit one to a chair.
Littering – Littering is not permitted. Trash barrels are located throughout the facility.
Loitering – Loitering on library property is not allowed. Staff will exercise discretion in determining unacceptable loitering behavior. In general, the determining factor will be whether the offending party prevents others from enjoying the library.
Personal Possessions – Should not be left unattended.
Pets – Certified service animals and guide dogs are allowed in the Library at all times. No other animals are allowed in the building without the permission of the Library Director.
Public Displays of Affection – Excessive displays of affection are inappropriate behavior for the Library.
Restrooms – Misusing the restrooms (using them as a laundry or washing facility, or defacing the walls) is not allowed.
Running – Running is not allowed in the library building.
Skateboards, Roller Skates and other Sports Equipment – Patrons may bring these items into the Library, however they may not be used on library property.
Sleeping – Habitual sleepers, noisy sleepers and those who are sprawled on the furniture or floor in a manner that is disturbing to other persons will not be tolerated.
Solicitation – Soliciting without the express permission of the Board of Library Trustees is prohibited.
Staff Only Areas – Patrons are not allowed to enter areas posted as “Staff Only” without permission. These areas include but may not be limited to, any staff work area, the staff kitchen and the mechanical areas of the building.
Theft – Theft of library materials, use of false information to obtain a library card, or use of another person’s library card without his/her permission is prohibited. (M.G.L. Chapter 266 & 99a).
Threats – Threatening the safety or rights of another person, including but not limited to, violent or disorderly behavior, threats of violence or abusive language and possession of weapons is not allowed.
Tobacco – Smoking and the use of tobacco products and non-tobacco products that are meant to be combusted and/or inhaled, including, but not limited to, cigarettes, cigars, pipes and e-cigarettes, are prohibited in the library. MGL Chapter 270 section 22 prohibits such activities in a library. In addition, no smoking (including the use of electronic cigarettes or tobacco use) is permitted within twenty five feet of the building. Smoking is permitted in personal vehicles on library property.