First Amendment Audits in Libraries

I am wondering what your experience or thoughts are on First Amendment audits in libraries. I feel so conflicted – on one hand, I completely support the idea of holding public employees accountable (ie. police officers). On the other hand, the nature of these audits tends to be purposefully confrontational and inflammatory; thereby disruptive to the operations of the library. Additionally, when people start filming in the public library, they are potentially capturing patrons who are there doing private/personal activities, who then become collateral damage in the auditor’s attempt to film the library employee.

For some context, my present library (I am temporarily located to a new branch while my library is under renovation) was just the subject of an audit during a drag storytime program. The video was posted on conservative/anti-LGBTQ sites, and now we are receiving 30+ harassing phone calls per day, mostly from out of state. They specifically claim that our supervisor restricted the photographer’s first amendment rights by asking him not to film.

At the risk of giving the video more clicks, here it is, if you’re curious: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_BNOzFl57E

Well, I’m sorry someone showed up and ruined your story time! Ugh. Someone who’s written library policy probably knows more about this than I do, but a library is a limited public forum, so under the law you can create “place, time, and manner regulations” if you deem some activity is disturbing the intended purpose of the space. So patron’s first amendment rights can be curtailed somewhat under the law. I think what it boils down to, though, is that if you make a rule it has to be because it is interfering with the activity and you have to apply the rule equally to everyone. Not sure about the details on rules against filming.

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Thanks! Drag storytime was still awesome – most participants had no idea this was going on at the time.

You’re right about the library as a limited public forum. There’s a good article here that explains the distinction: https://www.oif.ala.org/oif/?p=18859

My library allows filming and photography unless it is disruptive or is in violation of another public use policy. My real concern is how we protect ourselves (as accountable government employees) who still have a vested interest in protecting our personal privacy and not have our full names and places of employment blasted out on websites full of crazy people.

Our county attorney is in the process of looking into this and getting clearer parameters about how we can respond. Does anyone else’s library have a clear practice/policy in place?

We’ve had ‘auditors’ in our Children’s space filming drag story times. While there may be some in the auditor community who are legitimately testing the public’s right to film police etc., often they are right wingers who want to provoke an assault, arrest or ejection from the producers of an event that they oppose. It’s not a ‘first amendment’ action, it’s targeted harassment of LGBTQ folx and an attempt to further their bullshit narrative of being ‘victimized by the homosexual agenda’.
Also, filming kids and occupying spaces for minor children is pretty gross. We have a policy that our teen room is for folx in grades 6 through 12; so we have a posted, publicly available policy that states that adults cannot occupy the space or the seating and can only transverse the space to retrieve a book for the YA collection.

This is good except for the crap about labor unions: https://www.scisusa.com/knowledge-center/first-amendment-audits/

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THANK YOU. This is a very good reminder that their actions are not neutral but harassing and damaging.

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