Librarians have long asked you to “shhh,” and starting Monday, they may also ask you to please stop waving your gun around.
That’s because the Seattle Public Library now allows patrons to pack heat – provided they do so respectfully. The library’s board reversed its long-standing rule banning firearms after reviewing a state Supreme Court ruling last year allowing firearms in parks and community spaces. The high court had chosen not to overturn two lower court decisions.
Patrons had asked library officials whether the gun ban would be reversed in light of the Supreme Court decision.
Marilynne Gardner, the library’s chief financial and administrative officer, said the rule change doesn’t mean people may now pull out their guns in the library. She said intimidated patrons could “immediately go to the nearest library staff person and inform them of their concerns.”
“And then we would talk with the person and assess the situation,” Gardner said. “Is the person indeed, legally carrying a firearm, and is it acceptable behavior?”
The new library rule prohibits carrying, exhibiting, drawing or firing a firearm in a way that alarms or intimidates others.
Gardner said that she periodically reviews state laws to make sure the library is in compliance. That, coupled with patron inquiries, triggered the law change.
“We were the only library system in the state of Washington that was not complying with the law,” Gardner said. “When we reviewed our rules of conduct, it seemed reasonable, given other library systems, to comply with state law.”
The library came under fire recently for its policy allowing patrons to view pornography at its public computer terminals – the view being that no content should be censored.
In 2012, Julie Howe, a mother of two, spotted a man watching hardcore pornography, his computer screen facing the rest of the library. When she complained to a librarian, the librarian was sympathetic but told her there was nothing she could do because of the library’s open Internet policy.
KUOW's Marcie Sillman contributed to this report.