Over the course of several months, librarians at Mission Valley, San Ysidro, and downtown libraries have grappled with the problem of some patrons bringing large carts inside.
Staff say the carts, often as high as four feet tall and loaded with boxes, clothing, and bed mats, limit accessibility for others; however, some of the cart pushers, many of whom are homeless, say they need to have the carts at their side for quick access to medications. They say barring their belongings violates disability laws.
In a July 16 memo, deputy city attorney Sharon Li eased librarians’ concerns, stating that current rules allow patrons to use mobility devices but not large carts.
To ensure a "clean, pleasant, and safe environment," current library policy bans large boxes, briefcases, and bundles as well as shopping carts and other large "wheeled conveyances." Making exceptions to the rules, says the deputy city attorney, could potentially diminish the experience for others.
"While the city’s policies, practices, and procedures must avoid discrimination against persons with disabilities, the city is not required to make any modifications that would fundamentally alter the nature of its services, programs, or activities," Li cited in the memo. "Further, the city may impose legitimate safety requirements for the safe operation of its services, programs, and activities."
At Mission Valley Library, branch manager Karen Reilly has accommodated patrons by allowing them to use the computers located near the front door in order to keep an eye on their belongings. The patrons refused unless they were allowed to chain their carts inside the library entrance. But Reilly and others objected, stating that carts chained to walls near the library entrance posed a threat to safety.
"Based on the facts provided, the city has offered the patrons reasonable accommodations and alternatives and need not modify its policies to allow them to bring their carts into the Mission Valley Branch Library computer lab, San Ysidro Branch Library, or any other City library. The requested modification in the Library Rules of Conduct would fundamentally alter the library’s services, programs, or activities and could jeopardize legitimate safety requirements," wrote Li.
At Mission Valley, the two sides did find some common ground. Patrons pushing more than one cart are now allowed to chain their carts together and leave them inside near the entrance to prevent theft or vandalism.