August 5th Storytime heads up

Black and white photograph of a woman reading to a group of children outside

NYPL lantern slide of story hour c. 1910

Vermont libraries should be aware of a coordinated, nationwide series of story hours planned for Aug. 5.

They are being organized by author, conservative speaker and former child actor Kirk Cameron and BRAVE Books, a Texas-based publisher whose mission is “to help parents instill a love of truth in their children so that the children will withstand harmful progressive influences.”

We don’t know of any events scheduled for Vermont yet, but there are a few simple tips to keep in mind:

  • By definition, libraries are places for exchange of ideas and information. So yes, libraries should be prepared to host one of these events, the same as any other public use of your meeting space. That assumes that you have space for community-sponsored events as well as library-sponsored ones.
  • In either case, you should have policies and procedures in place outlining who can use your space, what steps you require, restrictions, fees, and etc. For example, here are Burlington’s and Rutland’s meeting room pages. Both have links to their application form and policy, and some basic ground rules.
  • Libraries should be careful to draw a clear distinction between library-sponsored programs and community programs at the library. This is particularly true of municipal libraries striving to maintain neutrality, not to mention the separation of church and state. Letting community groups of all stripes use your space is a perfectly legitimate use of your facilities, whereas actively sponsoring a religious-based or politically based organization may be inappropriate.
  • In this excellent BookRiot piece, some libraries report that the Aug. 5 organizers have not always followed the rules, possibly in an attempt to be blocked from using a library in order to create social media buzz. While that may be the case, libraries need to take any room usage application as a legitimate request. The BookRiot article has several detailed suggestions for preventative steps to take near the bottom. It is worth a read.
  • Some libraries are planning on having fun, inclusive library programs in their meeting rooms on that date.

If your meeting rooms are booked for Aug. 5 and this group wants to just plop into your public spaces, you are able to enforce your usual patron behavior rules and don’t have to put up with unreasonable disturbances by these or any other groups.

In short: Have consistent rules; follow them; enforce them evenly. Please contact the Intellectual Freedom Committee of the Vermont Library Association (email if you have questions or concerns.