Lawmakers are moving forward with an effort to create a tougher legal environment for unwelcome library visitors. On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 19-0 to advance S. 813, which says someone who refuses to leave a public library after previously being warned is guilty of a misdemeanor.
“I’m very concerned about the safety and the operation of our public library system,” said Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston.
“Having said that, I’m also concerned that the public has the right to use to library.”
An amendment by the freshman lawmaker would reserve authority for the library director, the branch manager, and acting branch manger.
“What’s different from the original bill is we’re not any longer allowing the rank-and-file employee to kick the person out,” said Kimpson.
Lawmakers struggled with finding a harmony between existing trespassing law and new protections for library staff, who sometimes encounter inappropriate touching, comments and behavior from members of the public. Another complaint aired by librarians: The practice of library patrons photographing them with their phones.
The bill cleared the committee Tuesday amid concerns that people would be ejected from libraries for looking different.
Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Darlington, raised the possibility of “some guy in there with a skinhead sort of like mine, or dreadlocks or something, and all of a sudden they look out of place.”
He added: “It makes people uncomfortable, and all of a sudden, they’ve got to leave just because they’re not at the same country club I’m at or at the same lunch diner I’m at.”