The library is changing its practice of renting meeting rooms for a fee during and after library hours. Instead, the library will allow use of its meeting rooms for non-commercial gatherings during library hours only.
These changes and many others become effective for meeting room reservations made beginning in April, 2018. New online tools for making these reservations will be available when the project is complete. In the meantime, library meeting room reservations are unavailable. Check the Room Reservations page of the library website for up-to-date status.
Library Director Nancy Kerr says these changes are designed to improve safety and security in library buildings, increase meeting room availability for library- and city-sponsored events, and provide more effective services by better matching the services offered with the staffing available to support them.
Regular users will especially notice the following changes:
- Meeting rooms will be available for public use during library open hours only.
- Use of library meeting rooms will be limited to non-commercial community groups only. Library meeting rooms will no longer be available for commercial and private uses.
- Eligible groups will be allowed to use library meeting rooms free-of-charge after registering and agreeing to room use expectations.
- Groups will be limited to one use per month, and will be able to reserve rooms up to 90 days in advance.
- Groups will be required to register and agree to room use expectations using new online tools through the library website.
The policy establishing these changes was approved by the Library Board of Trustees in December 2017. Since then, library staff have been developing new procedures and updating software to implement policy changes.
Impact to regular users
Kerr acknowledges these changes will inconvenience some long-time users of library meeting rooms. Some users will still be eligible to use library spaces, if they are non-commercial and schedule their meetings and events during open hours. Other users will need to find new meeting and gathering locations, due to their commercial or private nature or their schedule requirements.
“We regret the impact these changes will have, and we sincerely apologize for the inconvenience. We appreciate everyone’s patience while we make these changes, and we’ll do what we can to help people find new places to meet,” Kerr said. She added that a number of other low-cost and free-of-charge meeting room options have become available in recent years, which will help make this transition smoother. These options are listed on the Meeting and Event Spaces page of the library website.
Community use of library meeting rooms
Meeting rooms at the Central Library and Fairhaven Branch Library have long been used by individuals and community groups for a variety of meetings and gatherings. Some are private functions, such as private business meetings, birthday parties and fee-for-service private classes. Other rented uses are open to the public, such as free public programs hosted by non-profit organizations. Rented uses occur day and night, often when the library is closed.
Safety and security concerns compelled the Board of Trustees to limit meeting room use to times when the library is open and staffed.
“We are not comfortable renting rooms in empty buildings,” Kerr said. “We can’t be sure uninvited people don’t enter the buildings, we can’t assist if there is a problem, and we can’t be sure everyone is out of the building when the room renters leave.”
In addition, she said, demands for other library services have made staff less available to manage meeting room reservations, changes and cancellations, collect fees, monitor room and equipment use, and provide other meeting room services.
Kerr said the policy changes adopted by the Library Board of Trustees are typical in libraries across the country, as library leaders face increased demands for core library services and the need for attention to patron, staff and facility security.