An event featuring Quaker historian Steve Chase organized by the Northern New Jersey chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace will take place Sunday. Montclair Public Library Director Janet Torsney released this statement on open conversation and the decision by the Board of Trustees:
The Montclair Public Library Board of Trustees held a special, emergency meeting on Saturday, November 11, 2023 to review reconsideration forms regarding the Open Conversation scheduled for November 12 at 1:30.
The Board is grateful for everyone who shared their views during and before the meeting. We sincerely hope this important dialogue will continue.
The Board concluded that there was no basis to cancel the event, which is not a library program, so it should be permitted to proceed as scheduled.
The Open Conversation is being held by a group of nonprofit organizations, which followed the proper procedure to request meeting room space.
The Library’s Meeting Room Use Policy states, “Permission to meet at the Library does not in any way constitute the Library’s endorsement of any organization’s viewpoints, beliefs, policies, or affiliations.”
The policy also states that the Board of Trustees endorses the American Library Association “Meeting Rooms: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights” An excerpt from the ALA Interpretation is included below:
“Publicly funded libraries are not obligated to provide meeting room space to the public. If libraries choose to do so, such spaces are considered designated public forums, and legal precedent holds that libraries may not exclude any group based on the subject matter to be discussed or the ideas for which the group advocates. However, if a group’s actions during a meeting disrupt or harass others in the library, library policies regarding acceptable behavior may apply. If libraries adopt policies that are perceived to restrict potentially controversial groups’ access to meeting rooms, they may face legal and financial consequences. Allowing religious groups to use library meeting rooms and spaces does not constitute a breach of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.”
The Library looks forward to continue being the location where all ideas can be
exchanged freely in a safe atmosphere.