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Lawrence Public Library board approves agreement to have control over lawn

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The lease agreement will go next to the Lawrence City Commission

The Lawrence Public Library will likely soon be able to extend its behavior policy to the library lawn, which staff members hope will make the whole campus safer and more welcoming for everyone.

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The library has received numerous complaints from patrons about safety issues in and around the library. Library administrators have also pledged to improve public safety in the library, but the lawn and parking garage are owned by the City of Lawrence.

That limits staff members’ ability to address issues that may arise: for instance, if needed, the library can eject or ban people, but those people can still hang out outside, said Kathleen Morgan, acting library director and director of development and community partnerships.

The LPL Board of Trustees on Monday approved a lease agreement with the city. If approved by the Lawrence City Commission, for $1 per year over the next five years, the library will lease the green space between the library and the parking garage at 707 and 725 Vermont St., respectively.

Morgan further explained the reasoning for the lease. She said she thinks it’s another tool available to the library to manage behavior on the campus.

“I want to make it real clear that everyone is welcome at the library. That has always been our policy. But bad behavior is not welcome at the library, and we want to just put some parameters around behavior,” Morgan said. “And we have the right to do that through the courts, according to our lawyer. We can set a code of conduct that is reasonable, as long as we apply it to everyone.”

library-lawn-space

The library is actively reinforcing its behavior policy, Director Brad Allen wrote in an August letter to cardholders.

Behavior that violates local, state or federal law is prohibited, according to the policy. Unacceptable behaviors also include being in possession or under the influence of drugs or alcohol in the library; smoking inside or within 25 feet of library entrances; using obscene, abusive or threatening language; fighting; carrying a weapon into the library “unless authorized by law” and more, the policy states.

There will be some tweaks to the policy to adapt it for the indoor and outdoor spaces — for instance, only service animals are allowed inside the library. Any animals will be allowed outside, but dogs must be leashed and owners must pick up after them, Morgan gave as an example.

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The library has also selected a new database to help staff members track security incidents at the library. That will be implemented before the end of the year, according to a report in the board’s agenda materials. Additional cameras and signage will soon be installed on the south side of the building to monitor activity on the lawn, also.

In addition, “We also have scheduled a consultation and walkthrough of the building with a representative of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). This is a free service that will help us improve our safety policies and procedures,” according to the agenda.

Morgan said a walkthrough with a security auditor is scheduled for late November.

City staff members anticipate that the commissioners will agree to the lease during their Tuesday, Nov. 7 meeting, Morgan said, and the lease would then take effect Nov. 8.

In the meantime, staff can examine changes for the behavior policy and work on a communication plan to inform patrons about the new behavior rules, according to the agenda.

The LPL board’s next meeting is set for Nov. 20.

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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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