Last time, in Part 1, I described some of the background of my first lawsuit against a library. Writing that was prompted by my being ejected from my local Pickerington library for being barefoot, after nearly 20 years of being a barefooted patron there.
After my ejection (according to the director because I or another barefooted person might have Athlete’s foot and because they had kids on their floor, he could not take that risk) I wrote a letter to every member of the Board of Trustees.
And then . . .
Well, not quite nothing.
On December 8 (6 days after my letter), I got a call from my doctor’s office. You see, in my letter to the Board of Trustees I included a copy of my doctor’s note, and one of the Board members must have shared it with the director. The library director had just called my doctor’s office about that note.
Now, by my reading of the ADA, that’s really not kosher. The only reason a business or other entity can ask about a disability is to help that entity ameliorate the disability. So I was a bit annoyed.
[Jumping ahead, I later found out that the director had been advised to do this by his attorneys, and that the attorneys claimed it was legal. Supposedly, all he was doing was verifying that my doctor really had written the letter. If that is the case, my take is that such an action falls in the gray area of the ADA.]
So I sent him an email, complaining about his action.
And again . . .
Well, there was a Board Meeting on December 14. And my situation was not discussed at all. (I know, because my wife attended. She also has a different last name than mine, so they didn’t know why she was there.) I came up only in the Director’s Report part of the meeting. From the minutes:
10 Security incidents were filed in November; 1 theft of patron property, 3 intentionally destroying or defacing library property, 2 creating unreasonable noise, 1 engaging in a sexual act, 1 evacuation due to gas leak, 1 missing child, and 1 inappropriate dress (no shoes).
I’m the last item there, in case you were wondering. 🙂
You would think my letters would have been an item to discuss, but you’d be wrong. (I’ve found in the past that these sorts of things are often worked behind the scenes, and then the Board generally rubber-stamps what the director wants.)
So, after the Board meeting, I’ve still had no reply, to either my original letters, or my email to the director about his calling my office.
So I decided to take advantage of their Administrative Procedure,
which included Rights of Redress. That included
Any patron evicted from Library premises has the right to appeal that eviction. The patron is not permitted on the Library premises during any appeal, unless the original term of the eviction has expired.
If the individual disagrees with the eviction, the following procedure for redress will be utilized:
1. The patron should contact the director or assistant director within 48 hours of receiving his/her eviction to initiate an appeal. The patron may do so via telephone, mail, or email. The patron should explain the reasons for the appeal and include any additional information that he/she wants considered during review.
2. Upon receiving notice from the patron that he/she would like to appeal the eviction, the director/assistant director shall consider the appeal and whatever additional information is submitted and advise the patron of his/her decision on the eviction terms within seven business days. Notice of the decision may be made via telephone, mail, or email.
3. Upon receipt of the decision by the director/assistant director, the patron has the right to further appeal the eviction to Board of Trustees. The patron should notify the director within 48 hours of receiving his/her notice of decision regarding his/her eviction to initiate a board appeal. The patron may do so via telephone, mail, or email. The patron’s appeal will be added as an agenda item on the next scheduled Board of Trustees Meetings. The patron has the right to attend the meeting to personally explain the reasons for the appeal and to include any additional information that he/she wants considered during review.
On top of that, I was damned if I was going to stop using the library. I’d been using it for nearly 20 years and as far as I was concerned, they were just making up excuses. (In fact, because of the lack of response from them, it wasn’t even clear to me what excuses they were even contemplating.)
So, on December 18, I picked up a book (one that I’d ordered from their library consortium). The intent, aside from using the library as I always had, was to jump start the appeal process if necessary. As far as I could tell, they were just ignoring me.
When I picked up the book, I went to the “Patron holds” area, grabbed the book, checked it out, and then left. (I really wanted to read that book, so I didn’t dawdle. I wanted it checked out before I was stopped.) I did notice, however, that a couple of the librarians did see me, and discussed me amongst themselves.
And then . . .
I got an email from the director on December 22. He was not pleased. The first part was a response about my doctor’s note. As far as he was concerned:
With all due respect, I as the representative of the Pickerington Public Library was eminently justified in inquiring after the nature and extent of your disability where it was not evident. Furthermore, the note you mailed to the Library Board members does not allay the Library’s concerns. The Library’s safety-based concerns relative to footwear for you and all of our patrons is well-considered and evidenced in other litigation you have brought.
Huh. The whole point of the ADA is that disabilities are often not evident, and it is not within the purview of entities to pry into them and embarrass the disabled. Also note that, despite his later claim that he had contacted my doctor merely to verify the note, in this email he claims he was “inquiring after the nature and extent of [my] disability.”
Regarding the cases, I litigated those cases. I knew exactly how ill-considered the judges’ decisions were. They had totally ignored the evidence that interfered with the way they wanted to rule.
His email reply also demonstrated that he was well-aware of my propensity for suing libraries. (This did not surprise me.)
His email also ended by noting that I’d been spotted when I was in the library a few days ago, and that, since I’d managed to leave before the librarians could summon a manager, they’d been instructed to stop me themselves.
OK, so I now had a second incident, but you really could not consider it an eviction (or ejection).
[By the way, their eviction procedure for violations of their dress code just says that, each time, the patron gets warned and has to be told to leave to correct the problem. As far as I could tell, I could just do that forever. Except . . . their table only went to three evictions . . . and I was pretty sure they’d escalate things as they got more and more pissed at me.
With the Columbus Metropolitan Library, despite what their Eviction Procedure said, on my second eviction they actually evicted me for the whole day; I could not even come back after “correcting” the problem. (And then the court backed that up—what’s the point of having written procedures if the library is free to violate them at will?)]
And then we were back to . . .
On December 28, I had another item that I’d ordered come in to the library. So, I went to fetch it . . .
And got nicely evicted.
I have to admit that, after grabbing my item as soon as I went in, I puttered around for a bit. I was trying to get an eviction so that I could trigger their whole appeal process. It’s not as if things were progressing in any other way.
The librarian, very politely and diffidently, approached me and told me I’d have to leave until I put shoes on. It seemed to me that she really didn’t want to do it, and that she was really concerned that I would make some sort of awful scene (like refusing to leave and then she’d have to escalate).
But I’m experienced at this. I’m not trying to piss these people off. I’m not trying to cause scenes. I’m not trying to get arrested. I am trying to use the library like I think I have the right to do so, and I’m trying to be as effective at that as possible.
So I asked her to please check out my item while I waited outside (in the cold!) and then bring it to me. She was very gracious and let me (immediately) check it out myself.
So, later that afternoon I officially filed my appeal with the director (via email). In that appeal, I also responded to his email about the doctor’s note, saying
I doubt you’d want me calling up your doctor’s office to inquire about your medical history without your permission. Frankly, I found it quite rude that you did so behind my back.
In my appeal email I also, as a peace offering, included copies of some recent spinal MRIs (which show the degeneration of my spinal column). I discussed how going barefoot helped ameliorate my back and knee pain. I discussed safety some more. I asked how, if bare feet were so bad, that the Pickerington library had survived my using it for the past 20 years. I also reminded him that I had religious reasons for going barefoot, and referenced the Ohio Supreme Court Opinion I was relying on.
In his previous letter to me, the director had also asked what sort of accommodation (“other than walking throughout the library without footwear”) might suffice for me. He’d already suggested using their outside lockers. But half the fun of a library is browsing the collection; outside lockers prevent that. I saw no reason for any such accommodation—going barefoot in a library causes to problems unless you buy into myths.
So I finished my appeal my saying I was not interested in any accommodation:
I am not interested in other forms of “accommodation”. I know what works for me, and I also know how weakly-founded supposed safety concerns really are, having experienced going barefoot in almost all situations for nearly 20 years. I think you may need to walk a mile in my shoes to truly understand. (To use a totally inapt phrase that still captures the essence.)
And then, again, . . .
According to the Administrative Procedure, the director was supposed to have ruled on my appeal in 7 business days. After 9 business days, I sent him an email reminding him of that.
He did reply immediately, saying that
We are researching the points you outlined in your appeal and it is taking longer than 7 business days. I expect to have a final decision to you on this matter early next week.
But he also could not resist adding
Pending the results of that research, the decision stands to enforce the Library’s Code of Conduct on this matter.
Because we all know how horrible it would be to have a patron who had used the library barefooted for the past 20 years to show up even one more time. But I had no intent to go back in. I was trying to make this work, and according to their own rules.
“Early next week” came and went. Near the end of the week I got another (unprompted!) email from the director saying they were still researching it and he’d let me know when he made a final decision.
Meanwhile, there’d been another library Board meeting. And the Director’s Report at least included something. From the meeting notes:
Security incidents – 7 incidents; 4 intentionally destroying or defacing library property, food spill, feces on floor and wall in men’s public restroom, urine on floor in men’s public restroom. 1 creating unreasonable noise, 2 inappropriate dress violations – no shoes. Patron did appeal the eviction. He made some points and research is being done. A decision for the patron will be available next week.
Well, I guess he missed that deadline, didn’t he?
After 21 business days (January 28, two full months after my first eviction) I still had not heard anything, and I sent another reminder email. After all, how long can it take to find out that all the excuses are bogus?
I’m afraid I was a little put out at this point:
It looks to me as if you have no problem making an exception to your rules when it suits your own purposes, but have great difficulty doing so when it comes to serving your customers. And meanwhile I am prevented from using the library the same way I have been doing for nearly 20 years.
But on February 1 (23 business days), I got my reply from the director:
This request required more attention and research due to the unique nature of this situation and the claims you made in your appeal. After a thorough examination of all the issues that your request has posed and in light of the fact that you have rejected the opportunity to cooperate in identifying less restrictive alternative accommodations, the library policy will not be modified and your eviction will not be retracted.
Please let me know if you wish to appeal your eviction to the Library’s Board of Trustees as that is the next step in the right of redress process.
Right. It is all my fault by rejecting the opportunity to “cooperate”.
But yeah, of course I was going to appeal to the full Board. And I could not help but point out that the sort of accommodation he wanted would treat me like a second class citizen. That is not the intent of the ADA, nor does it comport with any concept of justice.
The next meeting of the Board was scheduled for February 11.
And I was now on the agenda.
At this point I see that this posting is getting really long again, so I’ll have to continue into a Part 3.