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Statement on March 11 incident at Lakeview Library

Madison Public Library is dedicated to making our libraries inclusive and welcoming for everyone in our community.  Our mission includes the pledge that we will provide free and equitable access, and we see our libraries as centers for the community to gather, to learn, and to share.  So as a library staff committed to making this happen, we are deeply saddened by the events that happened on March 11th at Lakeview Library.

As managers of public spaces, our staff are regularly required to make decisions about what behavior is "too disruptive" in order to ensure a positive experience for all library visitors.  Library staff do their best to resolve these issues and are very successful, but in some cases, staff may need additional assistance.  On March 11 at the Lakeview Library, police were called to assist with a situation involving teen misbehavior in the library. For library staff, calling the police for behavior-related incidents is something we do as a last resort, after we have tried communicating with patrons, explaining our policies, and giving people a chance to show they understand them and to comply with our requests.  And typically, this action achieves our expected resolution.  Unfortunately, on that day it did not end in that manner.   

As a result, we have already met with affected neighborhood organizations, school officials, and police officers to discuss the incident.  We plan to create a platform for the community to take the opportunity to reflect and consider ways that, as a community, how we can better serve our children, our teens and their families in Madison, and to begin an empathetic and open dialogue about how to do so.  For our part, we will review our policies, practices, training, and partnership efforts concerning behavior expectations in libraries and specifically concerning how we engage and interact with youth in our spaces.

Madison Public Library does not see this as something we can only accomplish by ourselves.  We are focused on making this a community driven solution.  I am encouraged by the many members of the community that are already contributing to that goal.   We will maintain that level of engagement with the community’s leaders, city agencies, and local expertise, so we can continue to provide a welcoming place for everyone to experience and enjoy.

Greg Mickells, Library Director
Madison Public Library

March 18, 2019