Magazine article American Libraries

Morristown PL Homeless Case Generates Nationwide Attention

Magazine article American Libraries

Morristown PL Homeless Case Generates Nationwide Attention

Article excerpt

What began as a matter of concern for prudent public librarians has become national news, prime-time "infotainment," and has even inspired a play.

The case of homeless man Richard Kreimer, the victor in a federal court suit (AL, July/Aug., p. 610) against the Joint Free Library of Morristown and Morris Township, N.J., has also polarized a town, pitted library associations against one another, and forced tens of thousands of Americans to face a social problem they'd rather ignore.

On Aug. 12, the library appealed the decision of U.S. District Court Judge H. Lee Sarokin, who ruled that the library's policies concerning patron hygiene and behavior were unacceptably vague and overbroad and violated Kreimer's rights. The judge's decision generated news stories and editorials in newspapers and other media across the country.

The appeal asks the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia to overturn Sarokin's decision. According to a Morris County Daily Record report, the library will argue that it "seeks only to prohibit behavior which has proven to impede the use of its facilities by the general public."

New Jersey Library Association (NJLA) President Nancy Vernon confirmed to AL that NJLA will file an amicus brief in support of the library, "to give the judge more information about libraries in general." Vernon added that NJLA believes the case centers on patron behavior, not on First Amendment issues such as freedom of access: "It's not just the homeless when it comes to behavior. Latch-key kids also cause behavior problems."

The Freedom to Read Foundation will file an amicus brief in support of Sarokin's decision, affirming that equal access is the heart of the matter, and must be protected. …

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