November 15, 2000


Larry D. Black, Director
Columbus Metropolitan Library
96 S. Grant Ave.
Columbus, OH 43215-4781

Dear Mr. Black:

For spiritual and other reasons, I habitually go barefoot.  I realize 
that this is a bit peculiar, but it is no more peculiar than many 
other non-disruptive choices in personal appearance, such as ear-
rings on men, tattoos, nose studs, or green hair.  However, as I 
was leaving the Main library last Friday (November 10, 2000), I 
was stopped by library guards and told that the library required 
me to wear shoes.

I have researched this.  First, as enacted by the Board of Trustees 
03/04/96, the Patron Regulations (File Case 20.14) contain no 
such regulation.  While it is true that the Eviction Procedures 
(File Case 20.142) of 06/25/97, as promulgated by the Executive 
Director, have a procedure for removing patrons without shoes, 
there is no authority behind this procedure without the concur-
rence of the Board.  As I understand it, the Board has authority to 
make policy, while the Director has authority to implement that 
policy.  But the Director does not have the authority to imple-
ment a procedure unless is it based on a regulation created by the 
Board of Trustees.

Second, the Board of Trustees has been given the power by the 
state legislature to "[m]ake and publish rules for the proper oper-
ation and management of the free public library and facilities 
under its jurisdiction . . ."  Nowhere is authority granted to 
impose a dress-code on non-disruptive styles of appearance. 
Thus, even if they were to create a regulation requiring shoes in 
the library (which they have not), it would be beyond their 
authority.

Third, the Federal Courts (particularly in Kreimer v. Morristown, 
958 F.2d 1242) have ruled that public libraries are limited public 
forums, and that any rules or regulations that would require "the 
expulsion of a patron who might otherwise be peacefully 
engaged in permissible First Amendment activities within the 
purposes for which the Library was opened, such as reading, 
writing or quiet contemplation," must be "narrowly tailored to 
serve a significant government interest."  No such interest exists 
here.  A rule requiring shoes addresses no legitimate problem and 
is based on common ignorance.

I note in passing that it is a myth that Departments of Health pro-
hibit bare feet in business establishments or restaurants, it is a 
myth that any special liability attaches to barefoot patrons, and it 
is a myth that there is something offensive about bare feet.  
Please see the enclosed information sheet, "Barefoot Myths and 
Prejudice."

I wish to mention that the guards that I dealt with that day were 
unfailingly polite and professional.  They are a real credit to the
library and were only following their orders as they understood 
them.  I was also similarly impressed when I talked to Assistant 
Director Chris Taylor.

Nonetheless, I expect you to take the steps necessary to remove 
this barrier to truly serving your customers.  Next time I visit the 
library in my preferred, non-disruptive mode of dress, I expect to 
be able to do so without being hassled.  Please provide the guards 
with instructions that make it clear that there are no Patron Regu-
lations requiring shoes, and that I should be allowed in without 
hindrance.

              Thank you for your efforts in this regard.

                                                      Sincerely,

                                                      Robert A. Neinast

   -----------------------------------------------------------

               Put off thy shoes from thy feet:
         for the place where thou standest is holy ground.

                         Acts 7:33