Tag Archives: libraries

Black-only meetings banned at Nashville library

Nashville Public Library officials have told Nashville’s chapter of Black Lives Matter that meetings that welcome only people of color can’t take place inside the city’s libraries, reports The Tennessean.

That decision has outraged members of Black Lives Matter, who say the library canceled all future meetings the group had organized for later this month.

But library officials say they’re simply enforcing a library policy that says all meetings at their facilities must be open to the general public and news media.

“The library didn’t cancel anyone’s meeting,” said library spokeswoman Emily Waltenbaugh, referring to a Black Lives Matter meeting for Saturday morning that the organization has now rescheduled for a church instead.

“We’re a library,” she said. “We’re taxpayer funded. We have to be open to anyone anytime.”

For the past few months, Black Lives Matter in Nashville has held its chapter meetings at the North Branch Library in North Nashville.

According to Joshua Crutchfield, an organizer of the Nashville chapter of Black Lives Matter, the group has a rule: Only black people as well as non-black people of color are allowed to attend the gatherings. That means white people are excluded from attending.

An individual complained this week to the library system about the Black Lives Matter policy, prompting a library employee to inform the group that events excluding groups of people can’t be held inside Nashville libraries. As a result, the group plans to have its meeting Saturday morning at Dixon Memorial United Methodist Church in North Nashville.

“Due to white supremacy in our local government, this week’s BLM General Body Meeting location has changed,” a notice posted Friday on the Nashville chapter of Black Lives Matter’s Facebook page reads. The notice says the group’s meetings are “open to black and non-black people of color only.”

“We were surprised about it, but we shouldn’t have been,” Crutchfield told The Tennessean of the library’s decision. “We kind of know the history about how this goes in this country. … It’s definitely something we want to make public to tell people what’s going on in the city.”

Haslam trying to get USPS to go along with TN law banning book shredding

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday that he’s continuing to negotiate with the U.S. Postal Service to prevent it from shredding Imagination Library books delivered to incorrect addresses.

Haslam spoke to reporters following a ceremony celebrating the 10th anniversary of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in Tennessee.

Earlier this year, the governor signed a measure lawmakers passed to ban the shredding of the books, and instead direct the U.S. Postal Service to donate them to pre-kindergarten or other programs.

For a while, many post offices had been setting aside the undelivered books until a volunteer could pick them up because the Governors Books from Birth Foundation — a partner with the Imagination Library — wasn’t paying to have them returned to their facility in Nashville.

However, USPS officials said that wasn’t fair to businesses that do pay for the right to get undelivered mail returned.

Haslam said his office, as well as U.S. Tennessee Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, are still trying to work something out with the postal service.

“We have not had a resolution yet,” Haslam said. “We would like the opportunity to pick them up rather than have them just be destroyed.”
Continue reading

Audit criticizes Chattanooga library for excessive travel payments, possible employee fraud

Chattanooga City Auditor Stan Sewell has issued a report criticizing Public Library Director Corinne Hill for excess reimbursements for worldwide travel and saying that her top two employees have been reported to the state for suspected fraud, according to the Times-Free Press.

Assistant Library Director Nate Hill and System Administrator Meg Backus were reported to the state comptroller’s office after auditors found they took multiple paid speaking and consultant jobs on library time. The total excess reimbursements that Corinne Hill and her staffers received and the amount of mismanaged funds are estimated in the auditor findings at nearly $3,000.

Sewell also found that the library lacks substantive travel policies and procedures and that the library’s governing board — formed in 2011 when the library came fully under city control — lacks checks and balances and doesn’t have any bylaws on the books.

Library board Chairman James Kennedy said Thursday the board will take each allegation seriously. At next Friday’s meeting, he said, members will go line by line through the findings to see what actions if any, need to be taken. But he said the audit findings shouldn’t take away from all that Corinne Hill has accomplished in her two years in Chattanooga.

“We will get to the bottom of it and get it right without any hesitation. Corinne is right there with us. She’s world class,” he said.

Since Chattanooga hired Corinne Hill in 2012 for $120,000 — one of the top 10 salaries among city employees — she has made sweeping changes to the downtown library that include revamping the forgotten fourth floor into a creative lab with 3-D printers and program tutorials. She introduced children’s reading programs and teen activities and her model has been copied in libraries across the country, earning her the 2014 national Librarian of the Year award.

Corinne Hill declined to comment Thursday, referring questions to the board. But in the past she has credited her success to support from inside and outside the library and said her staff nominated her for the national award.

However, Sewell said in his report that he launched the investigation after several library employees reported concerns of wasteful activity and abuse to the city’s hotline.

ACLU Objects to Knox Ban on Sex Offenders in Libraries

The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee asked Mayor Tim Burchett on Friday to withdraw a policy he implemented earlier this week banning registered sex offenders from county libraries, reports Mike Donila
In a one-page letter, the ACLU said the mayor’s new rule is “overly broad and raises a host of constitutional issues.”
“As you know, access to information is a fundamental underpinning of the protection of the First Amendment’s guarantees of free speech,” wrote executive director Hedy Weinberg.
The U.S. Supreme Court and other lower courts have held that “some level of access to a library cannot be proscribed if there is no compelling state interest,” according to Weinberg.
“ACLU-TN asks that you rescind this and instead consider addressing your concerns in a less-restrictive manner that is mindful of the First Amendment rights of all Knox County residents,” the letter states.
A federal court in New Mexico last year struck down a similar ban in Albuquerque.

Continue reading

Others Not Rushing to Join Knox in Banning Sex Offenders from Libraries

Some state leaders and library officials in Tennessee question whether Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett went too far this week when he banned sex offenders from county libraries, reports Mike Donila. The mayor, though, doesn’t care what anyone thinks about the new rule.
“I’ll take some heat and I realize that, and I know that a lot of folks are going to come to the defense of the poor child molesters and poor rapists, but I’m not going to be one of them,” he said. “I have no sympathy whatsoever for them. They can go to a bookstore.”
Burchett’s ban is based on a law passed by the Legislature unanimously earlier this year under sponsorship of Sen. Tim Barnes, D-Clarksville, and Rep. John Tidwell, D-New Johnsonville. Donila talked with them and with officials of other libraries around the state – and none have any plans to follow the Knox County lead immediately.
“Discretion is one of those things where you and I will disagree, and there will be differences of opinion over how it will be exercised,” said Barnes. “But most important, it gives librarians legal authority to control the access that sex offenders have to libraries.”
He added that small libraries without a separate children’s area that can’t easily be monitored probably should outright ban offenders.
…(Tidwell), however, said the intention was not to ban offenders. The point was to give library directors “the authority to ask them to come back at a later time when there is not a gathering of kids,” the House sponsor said Wednesday.
“I wanted the librarians to have some leeway about what they can do,” said Tidwell.
Tidwell and Barnes said they came up with the new law after a librarian in Houston County several years ago grew concerned over a local sex offender who would routinely visit the library during children’s events.
Knox County appears to be the first of the state’s big four metropolitan library systems to put such a policy in place.
Officials in Nashville, Memphis and Chattanooga said they are monitoring Knox County’s initiative but don’t expect to implement it. Top library representatives said they have yet to have an incident beyond someone exposing themselves, and they already question and monitor any lone adult who goes into a children’s area.
“I wonder how (Knox County) is going to enforce this,” said Eva Johnston, interim director of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Bicentennial Library system. “Unless they’re checking IDs at the door and comparing them to the list, it’s probably not going to work.”
Tricia Bengel, interim library director for Nashville Public Library, which has 21 branches, said officials talked with their attorney about Knox County and the state law and “determined that we are not going to do a wholesale ban.”
For example, she said, people use the Nashville system to job hunt in an effort to “make their lives better.”
Officials with the Tennessee Library Association, a statewide, non-profit advocate for libraries, say libraries already have policies in place to protect children, and so long as visitors follow the rules, they should be given access.

Ramsey Handing Out Checks to Libraries

On Friday, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey presented the Sullivan County Public Library’s staff with a $21,622 check they will use to buy 12 new laptop computers – including one designed to help people who are visually impaired – along with the software, furniture and other equipment needed to operate them, according to the Bristol Herald-Courier.
“The digital divide is one of the more glaring obstacles to success for our underprivileged and rural residents,” said Ramsey, who made a similar presentation to staff at the Johnson County Public Library System in Mountain City on Friday. “These grants will help the hardworking people of Sullivan and Johnson counties bridge that gap, stay informed and reach their potential in the job market.”
Library System Director Theresa McMahon said more than 12,000 people used the computer labs set up at her system’s five branches in Blountville, Bloomingdale, Bluff City, Colonial Heights and Sullivan Gardens between July 2010 and April 2011.
Many of them come in to learn about filing for unemployment, look for a job or take a computerized course that teaches them to put together a resume or improve their skills. McMahon said she hopes the new laptops will help her expand these services so they can help more people.
Money for the computers came from a partnership formed by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Office and the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office that set aside $1.45 million to help libraries in 61 of the state’s rural counties upgrade their computer systems.