Vineyard Haven library offers rule-breaking patron an appeal

Vineyard Haven library offers rule-breaking patron an appeal

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The library rescinded the man’s computer privileges after he reportedly violated the library’s technology policy on November 20, according to a letter signed by Amy Ryan, library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


  1. Why does it take so long to get rid of someone who is offensive? Now he gets to argue for reinstatment. What is it with you folks?

  2. Sometimes being correct is way too slow. When someone crosses boundaries, which they have been made aware of, and infringe on others in a public setting, suspending that activity should be swift, leaving no grey area. “Don’t do that” seems to be a phrase we are afraid to use. A clear message is always best.

  3. What happened to freedom of expression? Is the library in the business of censoring materials we are allowed to read? Put the computers in a “child-free” area of the library and avert your eyes if you don’t want to be offended. Why was the person reporting the “offensive” material looking over his shoulder? What if he/she was doing their on-line banking, taxes or something else we might now want the world to see? Should the library censor political expression as well? Do they redact the the word God from the library’s copy of the Bible or do they only stock copies of the Quran now and give traffic advice?
    The trustees are starting down a slippery slope, tread carefully. You may hit the pile face-first.

    1. Freedom of expression exists…does that trump other’s rights? But, if we’re going to play your game of reductio ad absurdum so can I, Am I free to express myself in the library by projecting hardcore pornography onto a wall while I smoke cigars? I guess the library should build separate rooms and have special ventilation systems? Better, how about we all show just a little bit of respect for each other. Think a little more about “we” and “us” rather than always about “I” and “me”. There are plenty of places where this person would be free to watch just about anything they want…a public library just isn’t one of them.
      All that being said, I don’t know what the specifics of the infraction were…nor does it appear you do. Respecting others also means that there will be times when what someone says or does won’t be to my liking…I personally may find that to be offensive. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong, or shouldn’t be happening in that location. It’s a balance. It appears that’s what the library rules are attempting to do.

      1. Projecting it on the wall is a lot different than spying over someone’s shoulder. On a computer screen, no one is making you look. Avert your eyes and keep walking. As for cigars, the secondhand hand smoke might be invading my space and as such it’s not allowed in a public building.
        How about the “spy” respects the other person’s right to free expression and keeps their nose out of their business. If I were walking by and observed someone watching episodes of “South Park” which I find offensive can I get that person banned as well? The limit to free speach is yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theatre when there is none. It would tend to endanger the public at large.
        By their actions, the Trustees are opening themselves up to a lawsuit, one they probably can’t win. Think the ACLU would take the case? How much would it cost the town? Tread carefully.

        1. Is it spying over a shoulder or was the monitor clearly visible to anyone walking by? Without the specifics of the case you and I don’t know. There are many other limits to free speech in public areas that have been upheld by the Supreme Court (CIPA for instance). I’m not calling for censorship, but in some cases people need to not push their “rights” to an extreme if it means infringing the rights of others…not because of law, but because of common decency…and that goes both ways.

  4. Wow, Lone_Conservative hit the nail right on the head !! We need more “child free” areas in every part of our lives! In fact why the heck aren’t our library’s more like Hooters to begin with? We need more places for the misguided people and most likely raised by incompetent parents to go and hang out and do what ever the heck they want to do ! Why should our children have it like the “old days” when the parents kept the worlds problems from them?? Why should a child have the right to grow up not being directly effected by all the crazy’s in the world? So lets all put down our video games and march for what is right! Why should we have to wait for some highly intelligent person to pull up next to us in their $800 car with their $3000 stereo with ear blasting screaming profanity?? We shouldn’t ! Free Speech !!

    If we had more leaders like Lone_Conservative this country would be a better place !

    One day we just may have library’s all across our nation with peep shows in the back and rap music playing !! For now we can only dream….