February 17, 2018

RI City Council Criticizes “Adult” Newspaper Insert at Library

By LJ Staff

The adult content inside free newspapers has sparked another controversy at the Westerly Public Library (WPL), RI, where some city council members want the Providence Phoenix‘s section in question to be available upon request to adults only. The stick: a possible delay in $400,000 unless WPL complies. Library executive director Kathryn Taylor said that WPL has a procedure in place to deal with such complaints, but no one has filed any. Instead, "someone is taking the adult inserts," she said, "and leaving them on town council seats."

In 2003, when similar complaints occurred, WPL responded by moving the Phoenix higher than the other free publications, to a five-foot level, but it remains accessible to all. At that time, WPL’s board looked into the complaint and endorsed the library’s policy, which is to "look at the publication as a whole," said Taylor. She feels confident that the board will do "the same this time around. We’re proud of them." Taylor will suggest revision of WPL’s policy, based on the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, to include language against restricted access. Taylor does admit that the council could delay distribution of funds. The $400,000 represents 20 percent of the library’s budget. WPL is a private, not-for-profit organization that receives the remainder of its funding from the State of Rhode Island and the nearby town of Stonington, CT, which it services. WPL also has an endowment that generates $750,000 annually and an aggressive fundraising program.