Library board votes down sleeping ban

J.M. BROWN

Santa Cruz Sentinel:   12/04/2012

SANTA CRUZ — Trustees have narrowly defeated a measure that would have explicitly outlawed using the library as a place to sleep.

Monday’s 5-4 vote of the Santa Cruz Public Libraries Joint Powers Authority Board denied an attempt by staff to add sleeping to a list of banned behaviors.

Library Director Teresa Landers said staff had sought the specific right to remove people who are lying down in the stacks or placing their heads on tables and sleeping for hours at a time, not people who fall asleep briefly while reading. She said people are seen sleeping for extended periods a couple of times per day, mostly at the downtown branch.

But board President Sam Storey, a Capitola City Council member, was joined by Santa Cruz Councilwoman Katherine Beiers, county Supervisor John Leopold and citizen members Nancy Gerdt and Dick English in voting no.

“I think it would be very difficult to enforce and identify who is guilty and who is not,” Storey said. “In my heart of hearts, we all knew who this was going to impact the greatest, and a certain group of people would be disproportionately affected. It brings up a lot of social issues, like how we handle our homeless population.”

County Supervisor Ellen Pirie, who joined Santa Cruz Councilman David Terrazas, Scotts Valley Councilman Jim Reed and citizen member Leigh Poitinger in supporting the measure, said staff should have the ability to handle what has become “a big problem.”

“We’re a library not a dormitory,” Pirie said.

Landers said library workers still will be able to ask sleepers to leave if they are impeding the ability of others to use materials and equipment. The proposed sleeping ban was part of other changes in the library’s conduct policy that the board otherwise approved.

Managers will now be able to seize unattended backpacks and other items and suspend patrons for up to a year for multiple violations of any conduct rule. Previously, staff could only seek a 30-day suspension, after which a temporary restraining order would have to be sought.

Landers said hiring First Alarm security guards around the downtown branch this year has had a positive impact on people loitering outside. However, problems remain inside, including Sunday when a woman was arrested for punching someone and a man wielded a hammer at someone but fled before police arrived.

Also as part of the new safety measures, the board instructed Landers to further study a policy on emotional support animals, those not protected under disability laws, such as dogs and miniature horses. Landers said staff, who want to be able to ask what kind of support the animal offers specific to use of the library, want to ensure patrons are treated fairly.

“This whole conduct in a nutshell is about making the library a welcoming place for everyone,” Landers said.

COMMENTS

by Robert Norse

All the paranoia and prejudice of the comments here aside, how about restoring the benches outside the library, eliminating the “War on the Poor” curfew on standing outside the library after 9:30 p.m. on public property,as well as dumping the “unattended property” pretext for harassing homeless people in the library? If the library is concerned about homeless property there, how about some lockers?
Meanwhile at the state level, Ammiano has introduced the California version of the Rhode Island Homeless Bill of Rights. It’s not clear to me whether this bill is more than window-dressing, but , but here’s activist Paul Boden’s call for supporting a state-wide measure: http://www.sfgate.com/opinion/openforum/article/California-needs-rights-for-homeless-4091545.php

by Richelle Noroyan

The library’s purpose is not to provide a space for long naps regardless of one’s housing status nor should the library be seen as a solution for homeless people needing sleep. This proposal would have done nothing to lessen library services to the homeless. What a ridiculous decision.

by Becky Johnson

I use the downtown library frequently and I have never smelled pee there. Ever since Ronald Reagan took office, homelessness has been a growing problem. Across the nation, libraries have become the de facto day shelters for homeless people. I know many of you posting think the solution is to drive homeless people away with increasingly restrictive and punitive laws and measures. I assert that you will never solve “the problem” this way, and that what you propose cannot be justified in a democratic society. You are basically arguing that libraries should be reserved for housed people only. Congrats to Beiers and Storey for showing moral courage. As for David Terrazas…we have to talk.

For a frightening barage of bigoted comments, see Sentinel story – http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/localnews/ci_22125587/library-board-votes-down-sleeping-ban

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *