INDIAN LAND — Amid growing complaints, the Lancaster Community Library Board of Directors is reviewing a policy that prohibits meetings in the Lancaster County Library and the Del Webb Library after hours.
The libraries allowed local organizations and community members to use the facility for meetings after closing until the board voted to change the policy last summer, said Rita Vogel, director of the Lancaster County Library.
Vogel, who came on as director June 3, 2013, learned that groups were meeting at the library when no member of staff was there.
“I was most uncomfortable with this,” she said. “It’s not a good practice.”
The board agreed.
Vogel said the change disappointed many community organizations that were using the meeting rooms. The Lancaster system’ Kershaw Branch Library does not have a meeting room.
The Indian Land Action Council has met at the Del Webb library after hours for four years, President Wanda Rosa said. Del Webb opened in 2009.
Rosa said the change disrupted more than 10 groups that met at Del Webb and she plans to join other residents at the board’s July 29 meeting to argue in favor of reversing last year’s policy change.
The Indian Land Action Council had to move to the Indian Land Recreation Center, where it pays $25 a month for the meeting space, Rosa said. Council dues are $20 a year. ILAC held its last meeting at the Del Webb library on Nov. 18, and had its first meeting at the center on Jan. 27, Rosa said.
Rosa said the council would like to work with the board to come to a solution for meeting at the library, which ILAC and other groups see as a community venue.
“It’s a shame it is not being used for the purpose it is intended,” she said.
The policy change just meant a new meeting time for Red Rose Riders, a motorcycle group that has been meeting at the Lancaster County Library for more than 10 years, said Riders member Nancy Berry.
Berry is also the branch manager of Del Webb Library. Berry said the group was not bothered by the change, but had to meet 45 minutes earlier to be out by closing.
“We’re very flexible,” she said. “We had no problem making arrangements.”
At Del Webb, Berry said, she has heard some negative response to the change, but was able to schedule groups that wanted to meet before closing.
The Del Webb meeting schedule is available each November for the following year, Berry said.
The policy change also did not affect VITA, a group of volunteer tax preparers that meets at Lancaster County libraries during operating hours, said Richard Band, VITA member and former Lancaster County Library director. The group just had to meet clients earlier to be out by closing, he said.
While neither library had any incidents with meetings after hours, the policy, which went into effect in January, reflects the typical arrangement of public libraries and reduces the risk for liability, Vogel said.
“We never meant for anyone to be hurt or angered by it, but at the same time we have to protect the library,” she said. “We are here for the community.”
Lancaster Library Board Chairman Erick Crawford said safety is a concern.
“We want individuals to use the library to its maximum potential, but want to make sure all our patrons are safe in doing so,” he said.
Under the current policy, organizations that meet once a month can schedule the room for the entire year, with all other meetings scheduled one month in advance.
The room may not be used for business, sales or political campaigning.
Library programs take precedence over public use of meeting rooms. Groups must leave the meeting room 15 minutes prior to the library closing.
Crawford said the board hopes to find a compromise and is looking into options for safely allowing meetings after hours, including a possible expansion of Del Webb. He said there is no funding to hire someone to be there after closing.
“It’s not an easy fix, but we know that it can be a happy medium,” he said.
The policy is similar among other public libraries, Vogel said.
The York County library system’s meeting policy limits groups’ access to meeting rooms to library hours.
However, some libraries do allow access after closing. The Greenwood County Library allows groups to use the auditorium as a meeting room outside of regular library hours, according to the library’s website. Groups are responsible for picking up the key the day before and returning it the day following the meeting. There is a replacement cost of $100 for a lost key.
The Lancaster Community Library Board will continue to review the meeting room policy and is open to modifying it if necessary, Vogel said.
“We appreciate the input,” she said. “It shows they care about the library. We couldn’t ask for more.”