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Gift policy to address Little Free Library ‘confusion’

By Sawyer Smook-Pollitt -editor@sippicanweek.com, January 3, 2024


ROCHESTER — A new policy adopted by the Rochester Board of Library Trustees aims to address “confusion” surrounding library gifts, including Little Free Libraries installed on Plumb Library grounds. 


The policy stems from a recent controversy, when a Little Free Diverse Library built by the non-profit organization Tri-Town Against Racism was removed following a Sept. 28 vote by the Board of Library Trustees. 


In addition to their decision to remove Tri-Town Against Racism’s library in September, the Board of Library Trustees voted to indefinitely table a request by Rochester resident Jeffrey Costa to build “pro-family” and “pro-freedom” libraries outside Plumb Library, and a request by Rochester resident Greg Hardy to build a little free library. 


Explaining the Sept. 28 decision, the Board of Library Trustees cited “confusion surrounding the ownership and control of the Little Free Diverse Library.”


“Pursuant with [Plumb Library gift policy], the library director is charged with administration of content but the Tri-Town Against Racism organization has asserted that ability,” said Board of Library Trustees Chair Kelley Medeiros at the Sept. 28 meeting. “Thus, we have a situation where there is confusion over the ownership and control of the Little Free Diverse Library.”


The new policy, adopted by the Rochester Board of Library Trustees on Dec. 12, 2023, includes language that regulates gifts of “permanent structures,” which would include free-standing little free libraries. 


“Any structure permanently affixed to the grounds becomes the responsibility of and owned by the library,” according to the new policy. “The library can use, remove, or alter the structure as they see fit. Any potential content within a structure is required to be maintained by the library, unless otherwise documented in a written agreement approved by the Board.”


According to the language of the policy, all gifts to the library are considered to be “unconditional and unrestricted.” Restricted gifts, which could include stipulations on how a gifted item should be used, “must have agreed upon terms and conditions in a written agreement between the donor and the Board,” according to the policy. 


“Prior to full execution of the written agreement, the restrictions must be discussed at a Board of Trustee meeting to allow for discussion as required by the Massachusetts Open Meeting Law,” reads the policy. “Verbal agreements do not comply with this policy.”


Tri-Town Against Racism’s Little Free Diverse Library first found itself in the spotlight when a diversity flag that flew on the Little Free Diverse Library was removed following the adoption of a new flag policy by the Rochester Select Board on July 10. The Board of Library Trustees adopted the town’s flag policy during its Sept. 28 meeting. 


According to the flag policy, only certain flags can be flown on town flagpoles “to keep it simple,” said Rochester Town Administrator Glenn Cannon. 


The flags are: The United States flag, the Massachusetts state flag, the Rochester town flag, the POW flag and official flags of United States military branches, according to the policy.


“It’s curious to me why once people started complaining that they didn’t like our flag, then suddenly there’s all of these issues that weren’t hammered out ahead of time,” said Tri-Town Against Racism President Allison Noyce, addressing the Board of Library Trustees in September.

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