Saturday, June 1, 2013

Joint Powers Board Votes to Ban Sleep in Santa Cruz County Library Branches

On March 4, Santa Cruz County's Library Joint Powers Authority Board voted unanimously to ban sleeping in all branches of the library located in the City and County of Santa Cruz.

Workers at Santa Cruz Libraries already had the authority to remove patrons if their behavior was interfering with the ability of others to use Library equipment and or the facilities, but on the recommendation of staff, the language "Refrain from sleeping in the Library" has been added to the Library rules of conduct. 

Now those caught may have their Library privileges suspended for sleeping, and the rules of conduct also state that violators may be, "photographed to assist in identification." 

Present and voting for the sleeping ban were Library Joint Powers Authority Board members Bruce McPherson, Cynthia Mathews, David Terrazas, Jim Reed, Michael Termini, Dick English, Martha Dexter, and Nancy Gerdt. Board member Zach Friend was absent. The meeting was held at the Aptos Branch Library. 

In December, the Library Joint Powers Authority Board voted against the sleeping ban when the membership of the board included Sam Storey, Katherine Beiers, and John Leopold. At that time, they were joined by current members English and Gerdt to vote it down. 

At the March 4 meeting, however, there was no debate among the board members before they voted, and only one member of the public spoke out concerning the Library "code of conduct" agenda item. 

Bruce Holloway of Boulder Creek said, "I don't think that sleeping is a crime, and I am afraid that I might doze off when I am in the library someday." 

Holloway cited a recent quote from Senator Bill Monning, who said he regularly falls asleep while reading, and Holloway also noted that at least one other public library out of state that has banned sleep has written in an exclusion for children. 

"I remember when my kids were up to about five years old, they were kind of like body appendages," Holloway said, noting that many parents must take their children out on errands with them, and typically youngsters "crash" in places for short periods of times while waiting. 

Holloway also expressed concerns that there would be "selective enforcement" of the new rule, and he suggested that someone who looks "a little scruffier" might be singled out unfairly for enforcement. 

"There are other rules. If somebody is drunk, if they smell bad, if they are in the way, those are all particular things in the policy that you can bring up," he said. 

Holloway also suggested that if a patron was heard snoring, that would be a reasonable reason to enforce the Library rules, but not simply if they have been seen quietly sleeping. 

The Library Joint Powers Authority Board has been tweaking the Library code of conduct since November, and in August the Downtown Santa Cruz branch of the Library hired security guards for enforcement issues at that branch. August also saw the removal of heritage trees from the downtown branch, which was widely seen as an effort to render the exterior grounds of the library less hospitable to street people. 

City-wide, 2012 was also a big year for enforcement efforts that targeted homeless people in Santa Cruz. In July, the Santa Cruz Police Department and the Department of Parks and Recreation initiated a series of homeless sweeps where at least 300 citations were given, more than 100 camps were destroyed, personal belongings were trashed, and more than 150 arrests were made. 

In the City of Santa Cruz, a sleeping ban has been in effect for four decades. Within city limits it is illegal to sleep outdoors between the hours of 11pm and 8:30am. Local civil rights advocates see the new ban on sleep in county libraries as a continuation of a type of policy making that criminalizes sleep and homelessness in the area. 

Board members Bruce McPherson, Michael, Termini, and David Terrazas

Board members Dick English, Cynthia Mathews, Jim Reed, and Nancy Gerdt

Board Members Terrazas and Martha Dexter listen to staff


Bruce Holloway

New Library Rules of Conduct

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