An Unfortunate Battle Over Books
Librarians aren't in the habit of turning away readers or otherwise discouraging people from reading books. Yet in Worcester, Mass. library officials have for the past three years implemented a policy that precludes homeless people from checking out more than two books at a time. To a fellow named Robert Bombard, an avid reader who lived in a shelter for a while, and who was thus denied the right to check out books, that wasn't good enough. He and several other homeless people complained and now there is a lawsuit pending against the library brought by the ACLU and a local legal assistance group.
Library officials say the policy was put into place because homeless people typically were unable to provide an address where they (and the books they checked out) could be located if a book became overdue. Yet people with a permanent address, the AP reports, are able to check out "as many as 50 materials at a time." Advocates for the homeless say there has to be a better way for libraries to both protect their books and give homeless people the same sorts of rights as other citizens. This is a classic story about the law and the way it can shape human behavior. I will keep track of Bombard's battle and keep you guys posted.