Libraries committed to rights, safety
The mission of a public library is to serve its community's information needs. Libraries are public spaces where community members gather, create, borrow reading and a/v materials and utilize cutting-edge technology, all vital services in the digital age. As public spaces, libraries seek to balance the First Amendment rights of individuals to access information and library venues, consistently reaffirmed by federal courts, with the need for public safety, a responsibility we take very seriously.
Libraries utilize a number of safety-related policies and procedures, such as restricting adults who are not with children from entering the children's area, prohibiting parents or caregivers from leaving children unattended in the library, designing the library space to allow for clear sightlines from staffed desks, library staff periodically walking through areas of the library, working with local law enforcement when unacceptable or illegal behavior occurs, potentially banning those who violate law or library policy, hiring professional security staff and more.
The Illinois Library Association strongly affirms the importance of public safety in libraries and reiterates the importance for all public libraries to develop such policies or review existing ones and to put a priority on ensuring compliance, with the ultimate goal to ensure that patrons are free to use the library and its significant resources as designed.
Library staff can then focus on what they are prepared and trained to do: Help people find the information they want and need, guide patrons in evaluating resources, present educational and entertaining programs and develop collections that are relevant and valuable to the community.
The Illinois Library Association and public libraries everywhere place great import on our unique role to provide access to information, a cornerstone of an educated democracy. Well-thought-out public safety policies and procedures that are enforced are key to serving this role and our public.
Molly Beestrum, President; Diane Foote, Executive Director
Illinois Library Association