Jul 13, 2012

Allentown Library's Exclusionary Policy

The Allentown Public Library discontinued renting it's meeting rooms last spring, to formulate a new policy, and ended up failing it's own stated mission. The purpose of the Library's meeting rooms is.... to champion the principle of intellectual freedom by providing a forum for the free exchange of ideas, and to fulfill the Library's role as a community center...This morning, when I attempted to rent a room for the Allentown WPA Association, I was given a 7 page packet. Among the new requirements, I would have to produce a certificate of insurance, showing that my group has $1 million dollars in coverage. It seems the free exchange of ideas is no longer free. I'm not too worried about my park group not being able to use the library. I suspect that the Director would rather pay our fees herself, than be submitted to more of me. I am concerned about other groups, with less of a voice, looking to raise the community's awareness on one issue or another.

47 comments:

Anonymous said...

OUTRAGEOUS!

SHAMEFUL AND OUTRAGEOUS!

Anonymous said...

Wow, another reason not to go to the library. Pure genius on the part of those who made the decision.

Bill said...

So our public Library is off limits to community groups. Disgusting.

Anonymous said...

Not just bad news,sad news,but creepy and unsettling.
An affront to the civic culture of Allentown and the region.
Let's see what the MC does with this.
The old and very missed editorial staff would have been all over it.

Anonymous said...

TREXLER TRUST gave the library $70,000 last year. Every year their contribution to the library is significant.
Maybe they will claim the have no influence on the library, like they claim they have no influence on decisions regarding priorities concerning Allentown's park system.
TREXLER TRUST abrogates it's mission and the community's trust should it let such an outrage stand.
Mr. Gross?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Talk about a chilling impact on the right of free speech. That policy has no rational basis. I could see it for a parade, but a meeting?

Anonymous said...

The United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley also has influence here. If this chilling policy isn't overturned they share some part of the responsibility.
9:21 yes,does Trexler Trust know about this?

Anonymous said...

Anybody who pays school tax to the ASD contributes to the library. Scott,David,Bob, get on this ASAP please.

A tax payer.

Anonymous said...

Michael:

As we discussed, I have begun to address this issue and will keep you informed on the progress.

My sincere apologies for any inconvenience or ill feelings this may have caused to anyone.

David Fehr Zimmerman
APL Board of Directors

Anonymous said...

It's hard to not imagine some higher up force is not at play to forbid you access. This new policy is very sad to hear. Please do not give up on your group's mission.

Anonymous said...

It is a "chilling" policy. Will think long and hard before donating again to the library. Always a favorite of mine, but now, very disappointed. Maybe an attorney will step in here to sooth this out or if permitted to stand, maybe someone else will challenge the library's tax exempt status.

Anonymous said...

Definitely an ill feeling reading this latest news. Someone who attended your recent library meeting mentioned there was criticism from a library employee even the night you first met.

michael molovinsky said...

@12:01, this is their new general policy, and was not just targeted toward me or our group.

@12:05, that was a misunderstanding. i was told a month before the last meeting, that they were not renting rooms until the board created a new policy, but that i was welcome to use a regular library table, which we did. however, i did not clear it with the desk or custodian the night of the meeting, which caught the custodian off guard.

Anonymous said...

You mean the Neighborhood Crime Watch now has to post million dollar bond? What about those volunteer after school tutors? What about support groups for all sorts of projects?

Anonymous said...

I'm willing to bet such a short sided,foolish policy will be overturned.

Thank you Mr Zimmerman. What a blessing you are on the APL board.

Anonymous said...

Zimmerman is a high quality board member. All around smart,competent,comitted guy. There are no doubt other excellent people on that board. How did this pliƩ of bullshit get past the board.
Are the APL BOARD meetings open? It is after all a PUBLIC library.
When is the next board meeting, anyone?
This is too small minded to be true.
It feels like a scene from Mississippi Burning.
Dark and creepy indeed.

Anonymous said...

All those years K.S. ran the APL like she was the Iron Lady, Maggie Thatcher herself. She exerted tight control and was not a fan of messy or contentious discourse. Yet she would never have allowed closing her APL meeting rooms to the citizens of her city.And it was hers.
This is really something----for the public center of learning! Is there something in Allentown's water( besides Poole Trust fluoride [ "I won't boil my spegetties in that water!" Emma Tropiano! ] )?
Emma and Katherine, two very different icons of Allentown womenhood. When giants walked the earth!

A reverential tip of the chapo to these two giant civic forces. Gone,not soon forgotten.

Anonymous said...

Pool trust gives $5,000.00 to the APL.
Pool is certainly interested in community groups and civic conversation. They should get on the horn with the APL, ASAP. OK --10/4 2 deep 6 this SNAFU.

Alright,enough.

If I recall correctly David Zimmerman has a long standing and close working relationship with the Big Dogs at Pool. Get to it gentlemen,right this wrong.

Anonymous said...

Yes sir re baby, an outrage.
Over ONE MILLION U.S. DOLLARS goes to the ALLENTOWN PUBLIC -- that's PUBLIC WITH A P, ---LIBRARY, from the coffers of the ALLENTOWN SCHOOL DISTRICT. That, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS, BROTHERS AND SISTERS,is our school tax $$$$$$$'ers.
To paraphrase Woody Guthrie on the occasion of his
100th birthday," that room belongs to you and me!"

Then there are the $$$$$ers that the library gets from the Common Wealth of Pennsylvania , yours and my state taxes the APL gets. ( ....and let's all hope, even in these hard times, that these funds are never cut. Even hard times, esp in hard times, culture,literacy and learning must be preserved. Even in Allentown we are not all savages,yet.

Forward!

Anonymous said...

I'm having trouble with my smart phone finding the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valleys award to the Allentown Public Library.
Could one of you dear readers help?
Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Iron Lady Label, Appropriate.
Without negatively commenting on any of the current board members, maybe Mr. Zimmerman would offer an explanation as to what if anything is being done to try to reopen the south side library branch. With millions in awards to an arena, not a small amount of money can be found to reopen a library?

Anonymous said...

It's not the award you want but the Allocations Committee member list.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes sir re baby, an outrage.
Over ONE MILLION U.S. DOLLARS goes to the ALLENTOWN PUBLIC -- that's PUBLIC WITH A P, ---LIBRARY, from the coffers of the ALLENTOWN SCHOOL DISTRICT. That, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS, BROTHERS AND SISTERS,is our school tax $$$$$$$'ers.
To paraphrase Woody Guthrie on the occasion of his
100th birthday," that room belongs to you and me!"

Then there are the $$$$$ers that the library gets from the Common Wealth of Pennsylvania , yours and my state taxes the APL gets. ( ....and let's all hope, even in these hard times, that these funds are never cut. Even hard times, esp in hard times, culture,literacy and learning must be preserved. Even in Allentown we are not all savages,yet.

Forward!

July 14, 2012 3:24 PM

How can this be true?

michael molovinsky said...

@4:33, it was very considerate that dave zimmerman responded to my off line inquiry, and our concerns, on this forum. however, that doesn't mean that he wants to, or should, speak or answer questions for the board.

Anonymous said...

It's about time someone in a position of authority in the City With No Spending Limits listened to me as I have been saying it behind all closed doors and in every dimly-lit back alley for quite some time now :

"If you can't put Comrade Molovinsky in chains and drag him off to the Siberian salt mine ... just box up the Siberian salt mine and re-distribute it right outside Comrade Molovinsky's front door."

Shaibu!

VIKTOR TIKHONOV

Anonymous said...

A million dollar policy can range from $150 - $300 dollars depending on who or what insurance agency you use. So in effect, the cost to use a public facility is a couple of hundred dollars. (And if may be PER meeting, depending on how the policy is underwritten) I know this because in order to do outside events in A-town or other places in the LV, you need this policy to have it. (No lawsuits)

Alfonso Todd

www.alfonsotodd.com

michael molovinsky said...

alfonso, for one of your events, which take up a block or so, with dozens and dozens of vendors, and hundreds and hundreds of people, an expected expense. for a small interest group, using a small room with a conference table and 15 chairs, prohibitive.. they have also changed the rental rate from per use to per hour.

Anonymous said...

I'm proud to call David Zimmerman my friend and colleague. With all do respect Mr Molivinsky,he is also an elected public official. He, and the rest if the school board and APL board,have an absolute obligation to be responsive to the citizens they were elected to represent.
Let us remember where exactly the horse and the cart are juxtapositioned in a democracy.
( Not to say I don't appreciate it David.)

AJM

Anonymous said...

Insurance money to rent a small public room? For a small 90 min meeting? The APL is not insured for that?
How large a policy to bring in two school kids to return several books? A $200,000 short term polic?. An Agent in the lobby perhaps?
WTF ?
Crazy!

Anonymous said...

If only two regular readers of your blog would volunteer each month to attend an APL meeting and then report back here, regs would learn what's really going on.

michael molovinsky said...

@7:23, would you be one of those volunteers? it's hard to get two readers to even sign their name, much less attend a meeting. although i appreciate my readership, blog reading appears to be mostly a spectator sport.

Anonymous said...

Sunday morning,just back home with my Sunday NYT's. Got to get out early to find one in Allentown.
The third largest city in a great,historic state. What,population 115,000 ?
NOT ONE BOOKSTORE!
Not one decent news stand any longer.
Have you seen what they have done to Wally's ?
And now,a decent,if not great library,controlled by small minds.
( Allentown,it should be pointed out,has a wonderful little art museum and art house cinema. Knock on wood.)
Is it any wonder that Bethlehem and Easton both have attractive,welcoming downtowns and active citizens and reasonably effective politics,while Allentown struggles in some kind of Dark Ages. Even the bridges are out.
A rotting Allentown will indeed have a very depressing impact on all of the Lehigh Valley.
Discussions like this point to a regional crisis.
The APL meeting room issue is another small bellwether.
One more small slide into an ignorant backwater.
I hope and pray this downtown development,I wish I could say I'm optimistic,succeeds .

Anonymous said...

I would think a lot of your readers are active,engaged people.
Exactly why they stay annon when venting or speaking their naked truth.

Anonymous said...

4:35
Allentown residents may not be all savages yet.
But those that aren't look like they are pretty well surrounded.
Circle those wagons.

michael molovinsky said...

@8:20, i know that most of the leadership of the valley does in fact read this blog. my assumption was that they don't comment, as opposed to venting the naked truth anonymously. on the other hand, i assumed that those who do comment anonymously, do not engage in the community. i based this assumption on the fact that you cannot speak at a public forum without identifying yourself. your premise of two levels of public speech, by the same person, may be correct; i'm so politically incorrect, that never even occurred to me.

Anonymous said...

Dear NYT Reader
Do you know who loved her Sunday New York Times the most? Articles would be clipped and sent off to friends; conversation tidbits stored away for the next special event. A True
Allentownian, Ms. BD.

Yes, Wallys! Horrible. Even the former cigarette-smoking owners
carried every possible publication and would special order too.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I would attend a board meeting.

Anonymous said...

Still can't believe the library would charge such community groups as the local crime watch. What a
poor impression that would present.

michael molovinsky said...

@9:50, i presume that board meetings are not open to the public

@9:52, the library always charged for use of the their rooms. they have taken the previous flat rate and now turned it into a hourly rate. furthermore, Any organization other than the Allentown Public Library or the Allentown School District, or Salisbury Township must provide a certificate of insurance

Anonymous said...

Wait! Am I correct? OMG an elected official who apologized? In public?

Perhaps other political bodies and organizations could learn from this instead of vilifying the motives of this man.

Anonymous said...

Seems to me a significant sub-set of your commenters must be people who are,or have been involved. How else would they know the people,places, things,they know?

Anon. is the rule,not the exception,in this peculiar new medium. I think it's a mistake to interpret it as cowardice or lack of integrity.

Given the mean spirited political and civic culture in Allentown,why would people put themselves,or their family at risk in a medium where anon. is exceptable?

I know for a fact that some of your anon. commentators speak at public meetings,where they temper their remarks in a fashion they deem appropriate to those specific forums.(Others have given up in despair.)

Most blogs attract their share of axe grinders or simpletons. Your blog is no exception. I'm a little surprised you don't have more confidence in what seem to me to be thoughtful and knowledgable,if anon.,commenters.

Anonymous said...

Mike-- I think your on to something with your thoughts on "two levels of public speech".

PS That Zimmermans a stand-up guy.
Looking forward to hearing from Mr Armstrong here,on this site,where he's a regular contributer.

michael molovinsky said...

@2:00, i do have confidence in my commenters, otherwise, I wouldn't permit comments. i have found, to my surprise, little correlation between the number of comments and the number of views a post receives. comments can enrich the post; on occasion they become part of a future post.

Anonymous said...

It's entirely reasonable for the APL to charge a nominal fee to cover janitorial costs. Any more than covering those costs is charging tax payers for what they have already paid for via school taxes. Cleaning up after a 90 min. meeting doesn't take any longer than cleaning up after a 60 min. meeting.
It is the PUBLICS library by definition.
( As a public facility, board meetings should be open to the public,just like the school dist.)

Anonymous said...

Mike--Re. 4:18
Then please don't assume lack of moral fortitude by those choosing to remain anonymous.

GW said...

This problem of Liability has been a problem as far as i know for the last ten years.Many community groups have stuggled with the issue.Remember the stawberry festivals in the playgrounds from the past.Can no longer have because of insurance issues.Besides slip and fall theres dog bites and coverage in case someone gets sick eating a snow cone,for Gods sake.Dennis Pearson knows how expensive the coverage costs for kids sporting and community events.Also the reason why apt complexes no longer have pools and one of the reasons ASD no longer offers jr high sports.Seems to me that the current insurance that the library has should cover all visitors including meetings and theres somethings fishy about singling you out.

michael molovinsky said...

@10:26, yes, i agree that their building policy would cover all visitors, including meetings. i agree that if they had recognized me, i would not have been handed the packet of information titled Allentown Public Library Meeting Room Use and Rental Policy which makes one demand after another, including the insurance bond. the form was clearly designed to discourage application and exclude usage.