Vineyard Haven library offers rule-breaking patron an appeal

— File photo by Susan Safford

The Vineyard Haven Public Library’s board of trustees will give a library patron whose computer privileges were suspended for six months an opportunity to argue for reinstatement when the board next meets on December 19.

Tuesday night, Tisbury selectmen approved a request from the library board to have town counsel present at the hearing. Library board chairman Karen Casper told the selectmen that if the patron, whose name has not been made public, decides to bring legal counsel to the hearing, which is his option, the board also wants to have counsel present.

The library rescinded the man’s computer privileges after he reportedly violated the library’s technology policy on November 20, according to a letter signed by Amy Ryan, library director.

The letter to the patron, dated November 29, states that he was reported to the staff as violating the library’s rules for computer use, “which prohibit the display of materials determined by the staff to create an intimidating or sexually offensive environment in the library.” After a staff member spoke with him and walked away, the letter states, “You spoke of her in a degrading and profane manner, which was offensive to surrounding patrons.”

The library patron was not identified at the selectmen’s meeting, because no formal legal action was taken against him, interim town administrator Aase Jones told The Times in a phone call yesterday.

As of late yesterday morning, Ms. Jones said the patron had not notified the library board whether he would attend the hearing with legal counsel.

In response to a request from The Times for documents related to the incident, Ms. Jones provided a copy of Ms. Ryan’s letter informing the offending patron of his computer use suspension, with his name redacted. Ms. Jones said she was advised to do so by Tisbury town counsel David Doneski. She also gave The Times a copy of Ms. Ryan’s letter to the selectmen, dated December 11, in which she outlined the board’s request for legal counsel.

The man had received an earlier verbal warning and a written copy of the rules for failing to comply with library policies, on March 12, 2010, according to the letter. In light of that, the library board of trustees voted on November 28, to suspend the man’s computer use privileges for six months, through May 31, 2013.

According to Ms. Ryan’s letter to the selectmen, he still has access to other library resources and reference services, and his suspension does not affect his ability to use computer services at other libraries.