December 11, 2000

Mr. David C. Swaddling, President
Board of Trustees
Columbus Metropolitan Library
96 S. Grant Ave.
Columbus, OH 43215-4781

Dear Mr. Swaddling:

I am writing you about a situation requiring corrective action on
your part.

For spiritual and other reasons, I customarily go barefoot. I realize
that this may appear a bit unusual, but no more so than many other
non-disruptive choices in personal appearance, such as earrings on
men, tattoos, nose studs, or green hair. However, as I was leaving
the Main Library last November 10, I was stopped by library guards
and told that the Library required me to wear shoes.

I have written to Director Larry Black and am not satisfied with his
dismissive reply (enclosed).  I look now to the Board of Trustees to
help correct an apparent misunderstanding which has resulted in the
enforcement of a non-existent regulation.

The Board of Trustees has enacted no Patron Regulation (see File
Case 20.14) requiring patrons to wear shoes.  Yet, the Eviction
Procedures (see File Case 20.142) as approved by the Executive
Director, call for evicting patrons with no shoes.  It would appear
that this exceeds the authority of the Executive Director, which is
simply to implement policy based upon regulations approved by the

The Board of Trustees has been given the power by the state
legislature to "[m]ake and publish rules for the proper operation and
management of the free public library and facilities under its
jurisdiction . . ."  And you have done so.  The Patron Regulations, as
written, do a good job of addressing disruptive behaviors that would
injure the Library or disrupt patron usage of the Library.  However,
nowhere is authority granted to impose a dress-code on non-disruptive
styles of appearance.   Yet, Mr. Black has chosen, on his own
authority, to create such a de facto regulation. The Mission Statement
(File Case 17.3011) does say: "We are committed to providing exceptional
service to all."  Evicting patrons based on their mode of dress
does not seem to be consistent with this.

I humbly request that the Board take such action as necessary to
remove this restriction on my ability to use the Library.

I realize that you might have some concerns about this issue, and
decide that you, after all, feel compelled to create a new regulation
regarding bare feet in the Library.  Let me try to reassure you:

  * There is no Health Department regulation requiring shoes in
    any establishment.

  * There is no law requiring shoes in any establishment.

  * There is no particular danger associated with going bare-

  * Liability laws in Ohio are not receptive to lawsuits. "A business
    owner is not an insurer of a customer's safety."

  * Insurance companies do not require businesses to ban bare
    feet in their establishments.

  * Bare feet are not disruptive to other patrons.

If you have any questions about any of these areas, I would be more
than happy to provide you with detailed information and data (the
attachment to my letter to Mr. Black contains some additional
information).  If necessary, I would be willing to address the full
Board in person to discuss this.

Finally, I wish to comment on a newspaper article, "Pleas for some
quite fall on deaf ears", that was in the Columbus Dispatch Septem-
ber 25, 2000. The article was about the increase in disruptive talk-
ing in many public places, including the Columbus Metro Library.

One paragraph says

    "Don't look for the Main Library--or many other
    places, for that matter--to crack down on the noisy.
    No one wants to chase patrons away, [Director of the
    Main Branch Deb] McWilliam said."

Apparently, disruptive talking is allowed because "no one wants to
chase patrons away," yet Mr. Black has no problem chasing away
patrons when they are not dressed according to his personal prejudices.

Thank you for your efforts in this regard.


                                                   Robert A. Neinast

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

                               Acts 7:33