Do you have legal questions about what your library can provide to its users?


A quick update regarding the Ask The Lawyer page! If you’ve been on it recently, you may have noticed some changes. Each question now has its own unique permalink, so you can easily share certain questions with others. I will now be linking the title of each recently asked question to the permalink on our page.

The Ask The Lawyer page also now functions as a database. Each question has been tagged with relevant topics and the year in which it was posted. You can click on a topic on the right side of the page and you will retrieve a list of questions that only have to do with the topic. We hope that this will make your visit to the Ask The Lawyer page easier! If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.

Here are the most recently asked questions as of August 2019:

  1. Fragrance and ADA: What does ADA say about providing fragrance-free bathrooms in public libraries? Our reasonable accommodation to a patron with fragrance sensitivity issues was to take the fragrance dispenser out of the public unisex bathroom. Are we in compliance?
  2. Live Music Covers and Permissions: First question[:] Our library will be hosting a live music event in the local auditorium this summer. The musicians are all local (one is a library employee). The performers are all volunteering their time and there will be no admission fee to attend the event. Do we need special licensing if the musicians perform covers of published songs? Is licensing needed for a performance if it is all original music? If covers are done would making an announcement that no recordings are to be made safeguard against copyright infringement? Second question[:] When a library schedules a live musical performance what should they be concerned about in terms of public performance? Does the library need to have any coverage in place if the musical group is playing covers of song by other artists? Is it the musical groups responsibility to obtain that permission? In this instance a local television news crew would like to cover parts of an event with musical performances. The concern is that some of the artists will be playing music that they may or may not have the rights to. What should the library consider in this situation? Even if the news crew was not covering the event, is there some type of infringement the library should be concerned about?
  3. ASL Interpreting Services and Legal Recourse for Service Cancellation: Greetings. We have used an ASL Interpreting service a few times over the past few months and have had a situation occur twice where the patron canceled their visit with our library 2 hours before the appointed time. The service we are using requires a 48-hour cancellation notice or else we get invoiced for full service. Is it legal to forward that charge on to the patron as they are the party who canceled the service? If this behavior becomes habitual (a request is made, the patron cancels past the 48-hour minimum time frame, we get invoiced), does the library have any recourse per ADA compliance law?
  4. New NYS Smoking Ban: The new NYS smoking ban in regards to public libraries states that smoking is banned “within 100 ft of all entrances, exits and outdoor areas”. Does that mean all of the library property including the parking lot and grassy areas attached to other grassy areas? e.g. [A nearby business]’s property line abuts our property line a few feet from their building and their staff stand in that area to smoke. On three sides of our property line the 100 feet includes a road and commercial enterprises across the streets. 
  5. Patron Confidentiality in School Libraries: Is a parent or guardian allowed to access the titles of books that that their child(ren) have checked out from the school library?

Are school administrators allowed to access the titles of materials a student checked out?

Are school safety officers and Student Resource Officers (“SRO’s”) allowed to access the titles of materials a student checked out?

And remember – if you find yourself plagued by a potentially thorny legal issue, you can always ask the lawyer!

Note: questions in this email may be truncated for the purposes of brevity. Please visit the page to view the full question.