my employer says we can’t stop patrons from filming us

A reader writes:

I work at a library in a two-party consent state for recording people. Recently people have been coming in and harassing the staff and filming their reactions. Some of these videos have ended up on social media websites, giving our library a minor amount of fame (much to the staff’s dismay).

In response, we no longer wear name tags at the desk, so if our faces do end up online we still have some amount of privacy. Our director has told us that we are not allowed to ask the people filming us to stop or call the police. We are allowed to tell patrons who are uncomfortable that they can call the police if they don’t want to be filmed, though. My first question is … is this even legal? Are they allowed to tell us that we can’t ask the people filming us to stop doing so? We are allowed to walk away, and if possible enter a staff area where we cannot be followed. I do think that the rule was made as an attempt to prevent escalation, but I’m really not okay with some random person filming me and then posting it online and calling me a groomer.

My second question is, is it legal to tell us we’re not allowed to call the police? And finally, I suppose the most important question, how do I navigate asking for more protections from these sorts of incidents?

Some other libraries in the area have been receiving bomb threats and having to shut down so it feels a bit silly to be complaining about middle-aged men with tripods, but I feel like we all deserve to feel safe when coming to work.

With the (large) caveat that I am not a lawyer and you might want to consult with one familiar with your local laws:

It sounds like your library is saying that their policy is that they permit filming of their staff by the public. If that’s indeed what they mean, they’re allowed to do that; they can set their own policies about filming on their premises and filming of their employees and make it a condition of your job to comply with those policies.

The majority of states do have laws that protect employees’ right to call the police in emergency situations and/or report a crime to the police, but I wouldn’t think those would apply here. Since your employer has chosen to permit people to film you, the filmers are complying with the policies of the property they’re on.

It’s possible that those laws would protect your ability to call the police when a patron is being filmed, but you’d need to look at the wording of the specific state law and how it defines an emergency (and again, probably consult a local attorney).

Your best bet is likely to band together with your coworkers and together ask for policies that better protect you. It sounds like currently your library is trying to take the path of least resistance — they don’t want to risk more aggression from the people filming (even though they obviously have ill intent against the library and its workers and patrons) — and you might be able to get movement by adding more resistance on that path.

Also, to make sure I wasn’t missing anything, I ran this by employment lawyer extraordinaire Donna Ballman, author of the excellent book Stand Up For Yourself Without Getting Fired, and she pointed out that you might have some legal rights regarding how your image is used once the filming is done (more here).

I’m sorry you’re dealing with this.

{ 628 comments… read them below }

  1. fish*

    Just want to say, this is so effed up and I’m so sorry it’s happening. Thanks for doing what you’re doing. Libraries and librarians are important.

    1. Sassy SAAS*

      Seconding this. My younger sibling is a librarian, and the amount of harassment that they and their colleagues are receiving is terrible. People are worse than during the pandemic. It’s horrible that even libraries aren’t safe. OP, sorry to have to deal with this.

    2. Dr. Doll*

      Same. What utter jackholes people must be to harass librarians, ffs. Cowardly, too, to bully and bait people who are not allowed to protest.

      1. SopranoH*

        And frankly, useless dregs to society. No one doing anything remotely useful with their life has time to harass librarians.

        1. Carl*

          But they are saving us from the scourge of knowledge! Noble cause!

          Seriously, so sick of these people. It’s not enough for them to be ignorant – they think it’s their right to insist that everyone else be ignorant too.

    3. Random Dice*

      Hard agree!

      Libraries provide so many wonderful community services, above the obvious.

      It’s odious that Republicans are egging on the unstable to attack librarians.

              1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

                Amen. It’s like that saying about playing chess with a pigeon:

                “Never play chess with a pigeon. The pigeon will just knock all the pieces over, shit all over the board, then strut around like it won.”

        1. Angela*

          I highly doubt that their employer will allow the librarians to film patrons if they don’t even allow them to tell patrons not to record them. That would be escalation which is exactly what their employer is trying to avoid.

        2. L'étrangère*

          I don’t know Joanna, that sounds like a good suggestion to me.. If these bozos escalate further, or an undeniable crime is committed, it’d be useful to have a record. Also library management might be less willing to have you harrassed if they were confronted with the extent of it

    4. Barbara*

      The workers should consider wearing masks (with a smile printed on) hats(or wigs), and large distinctive eyeglasses (clear lenses). thereby following the rules of allowing patrons to film them, yet maintaining their anonymity.

  2. Rusty*

    Recording is generally legal in public buildings. I work in a health department which has an exception because of patient privacy, but the public can record in non-clinical areas.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      This was my thought too. If it’s a public library, can they even forbid it if they wanted to?

      1. Petty_Boop*

        From the OP’s use of “being called a Groomer” … it sounds like (if it’s what I’ve seen a couple of) Right Wing Nuts who want to ban books and are deliberately provoking the staff about it to get their reactions, etc… I’d think that just for the sake of how disruptive/aggressive/confrontational it could be, they’d have a good excuse for going to management and demanding it be disallowed. Heck you get shushed for speaking too loudly in a library but these people are supposed to permit purposeful disruptive activity for the sake of some nitwit’s tick tock or twitter account?? That’s seriously messed up.

        1. Liane*

          My first thought went roughly in the same direction. This is Banned Books Week (although the ALA website says it’s “usually” the last week in September) after all and our local library has a small exhibit that started last month. Granted, books get banned for many, reasons but many of them are things the extreme right factions hate.

        2. Artemesia*

          I agree this is awful and it is sad that the management wants to put the burden on you. What I would do is create with other librarians a bland statement about the value of the right of everyone to read and the role of the library in making books available. And then whenever one of the book banning creeps starts in to film just blandly look in the camera and recite that bland endorsement of the right to read. EVERYONE says the exactly same thing; no one reacts with anger.

          If physical harassment occurs the library needs to have a policy to deal with that; that is assault.

          1. Throwaway Account*

            I worked in public libraries, I would NOT recommend even a bland statement. They will twist that!

            Once you realize what is happening, go get a manager. Don’t talk to the people unless they have a normal library question (where is a book on x, where are the computers, etc). Maybe sit at the public desk and do your job but if they talk about anything other than a normal library question, go get a manager (they will video you and say things like “look at the fat ass sitting there doing nothing on the taxpayer dime?”). Just say, “Oh, a manager can help you with that” in a cheerful voice and go in the back where they are not allowed to film. And get a manager.

            1. Zelda*

              Then the manager has to say or do something. “Get a manager” may be the end of it for an individual check-out clerk or shelving page, but it’s not the end of it for the library.

              1. mb*

                True. But if the manager has to handle enough of these situations, the library may institute a “no filming” policy. As management is currently responsible for letting this happen to begin with.

                1. SHEILA, the co-host*

                  This. Make it their problem until they do something to actually solve it. Right now it sounds like they’re trying to not make things worse/make the videographers more aggressive, which is understandable, but it’s also making the staff unsafe, and that’s not ok. I get that library management themselves are probably feeling overwhelmed themselves and having “this isn’t what I signed up for” feelings, but if they want to stay a manager/director, at a certain point, they need to step up for their staff.

                2. Library Director*

                  I’m a library director. We don’t have many options. If the person is being disruptive (including rude/abusive to staff) we can kick them out. If they’re simply walking around filming we allow it, we’re a public place.

                  We need conservatives to stand up and say this isn’t ok. People do these “first amendment audits” because they are against the government and are feeling empowered by prominent conservatives to be assholes.

                3. Hillary*

                  Library Director here, public library in California, and I will say that often this isn’t Library Management policy but a legal interpretation by a lawyer. This can also be state to state (in the US) as well as whatever laws apply to a public library, and the entity that governs it. Both libraries where I have been director allowed filming in places that were already public, but not in staff rooms or behind the desk where private patron transactions took place. We had separate rules about harassment, slurs, and the like, and enforced those with the behavior policy. Now I will stay on topic and say that management can do better for you OP. They seem to have explained the “what” (filming is allowed) but not the “why” and that makes a lot seem like manager whim or ignorance. Second on topic point, think the “no filming in the library” response all the way through to the front line person having to enforce it. No grandma filming child doing something cute, no online job interviews (cameras!) or telemedicine or veterans getting a check in with the VA. No students doing their homework if it is “make a video” because that’s filming. Front line staff have to enforce all that, all the time. For the “why” of people wanting to film and harass, or goad someone into responding, we get first amendment audits (look them up) where the entire point is to get a response and get prohibited from filming something that is legal to film. Others want to point out content in the library they don’t like – Pride displays, drag queen storytime, banned books displays, books on sexuality, what other people are doing or allowed to do, and make a video about it. Even others want to annoy and harass and film it happening. Each requires a different response, from simply being aware of the situation to an immediate call to law enforcement, and the one size fits all statement will not work across the board for filming. Management, OP, needs to step up and help you with this, including discussing types of filming, practicing scenarios, putting together some scripts, and managing responses. Management should be able to do it all with you.

                4. Charlotte Lucas*

                  I am curious about whether Alison’s answer would be different if the staff person were underage. (When I was a page, all the pages were in high school and generally under 18.)

                5. Library Director & Conservative*

                  I too am a Library Director and the comments here are good. I am also conservative.

                  People have legitimate concerns about what’s going on in their community libraries. They should be discussing it and taking an interest in their community and their library. And if that means filming, all the more power to them.

                  The issue is when cameras are turned on employees (and patrons, but that’s not the issue here). This is work. Everyone has good days and bad days. And then to have a camera in your face… not only could your bad day get a lot worse, but it’s filmed for all to see, forever.

                  Even if the filmers are not being obnoxious, it’s rude to have a camera pointed at you when you’re just trying to do your job.

                  But, in most cases, just do your job. You’ll be boring enough they won’t stick around and won’t want to come back.

                  I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the video they were referring to:

                  Unfortunately, drama like this gives them good incentive to keep coming back.

            2. This_is_Todays_Name*

              I think I would simply repeat over and over in the most robotic voice possible, “May I help you with a library or research related question?” Or, maybe look around them at another person behind them, and say, “May I help you with that, sir/ma’am?” like they aren’t even there if they won’t move, so that now they’re the jackholes blocking people who are actually in line doing library-related stuff.

        3. NothingIsLittle*

          If it’s a public library, none of that matters. I work for local government in the same department as our libraries, and the public can 100% come in and scream at people and be as disruptive as they want because it falls under free speech (the library is a government entity), the only stop being violence or the threat of it. The library can and will be sued if they try to police this behavior and, in my area at least, the videographer would win. Because they do win.

          They call themselves “freedom warriors” as though harassing the minimum wage peon at the front desk is even remotely helpful to a single thing other than their view count.

          1. NothingIsLittle*

            In retrospect, I slightly overstated this. The public can make pretty much any rude or uncomfortable comments they want, but screaming or yelling would have them removed under most circumstances. “Disruptive” doesn’t matter as long as they’re not using hate speech, threatening violence, or raising their voice significantly. (And even hate speech in my area would be tricky.)

            Our county has lost lawsuits by patrons coming in with cameras and being asked to stop recording by people who hadn’t been appropriately trained to deal with them.

      2. Gwen*

        I work in a large public library and we have a policy against filming anything in the library, to protect other customers’ privacy. Just like we have other behavioral expectations you have to obey to use the library—no food, no skates, no swearing at staff, no loud yelling while playing computer games, etc.

        1. JaneDough(not)*

          A friendly reminder that people who use libraries are patrons, not customers. (“Customer” is derived from Medieval Latin: custumarius = a toll-gatherer, tax-collector.) Let’s not allow vulture capitalism to take over everything in our lives, including the language that we use. Thanks. :)

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            As Gwen works in a library, Gwen knows what language their library uses. We don’t nitpick language here.

          2. Throwaway Account*

            A friendly reminder that things change, including definitions.
            Patron is “Middle English: from Old French, from Latin patronus ‘protector of clients, defender’, from pater, patr- ‘father’.”

            Are library patrons “protecting” the library or library staff. Not so much these days. They are all too often the ones banning books and filming staff to call them groomers.

        2. Meyers and Briggs were not real doctors*

          Just because the library creates its own policies, does not mean that those policies can be upheld in court, due to being unconstitutional.

          I don’t live in a two-party consent state, thankfully, so first amendment auditors , as well as the general public, are perfectly within the law to take pics or video In a public place, such as the library, and cannot be asked to leave simply due to practicing a first amendment protected activity. they would have to be breaking the law, in order to be asked to leave. taking pics and video is not an illegal activity by itself.

          I have to ask, why would you take a job as a public servant, if you want to be kept secret from the public? I have never understood this, amd would really like to know why? I just don’t understand that part. it’s a public facing job, and you work for the public. ?

          1. Elle*

            It seems like there is a pretty big difference between not wanting to be harassed/practically doxxed and “wanting to be kept a secret.”

            1. rollyex*


              There is large continuum between secret and exposed online for the entire foreseeable future, possible in ways that are searchable at scale.

          2. Distracted Procrastinator*

            I’m assuming from the letter that the issue isn’t the filming so much as what the filming is being used for and what these people are trying to achieve with the filming, e.g. calling library workers “groomers.”

            You should be able to do your job without being harassed for doing it, especially when performing a public service like library work.

            1. Chairman of the Bored*

              The people involved here have fewer protections against being filmed *specifically because* they are performing a public service.

                1. Poupon*

                  Unfortunately, there is a disconnect between their obligation to transparency as a public service worker, and the civil matter regarding being insulted online.

              1. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

                Fewer protections of their privacy at work, sure. But they don’t have fewer protections from being harassed at work. Or do they?

                1. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

                  Based on how we get treated in the public library world? We absolutely end up with fewer protections against being harassed.

                  Not how it should be, but it’s a reality of the field.

            2. Specks*

              That’s like asking why someone would become a server if they don’t want sodas thrown in their face or why someone would become a nurse if they don’t want to be punched. There’s a huge difference between being “secret” and being filmed specifically for defamation purposes by someone with a screwed up agenda. All are things are occasionally done to people in those profession, but that doesn’t make them ok, acceptable, or something to tolerate without comment.

              And if you come into someone’s workplace, where they can’t leave or retaliate, and harass a public servant with a specific agenda (like filming them to call them groomers), you’re not an auditor of anything. Let’s not normalize right-wing asshole behavior by calling it “first amendment auditing”.

              1. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

                Harassment and creating a public disturbance are against the law. They don’t become legal just because the perp is making a video of it.

                The video recording is a legal red herring. The problem is harassment of library employees trying to do their jobs by people who aren’t even there to use the library’s services, and the disturbance of other people who are. Address that. They may have a right to record you in public, but they don’t have a right to harass you anywhere.

                1. SopranoH*

                  Right, and if these people are videoing people and calling them groomers, wouldn’t that be slander? Also not protected.

                2. goddessoftransitory*

                  This. They’re using the “filming in a public place” as a stalking horse for “harassing and doxxing employees.”

              2. SweetFancyPancakes*

                That’s what they call it- and that’s what they will insist it is if you try to stop them.

          3. Library worker*

            Working for the public does not automatically mean that you’re willing to having hyper-conservatives posting your image online for people to dox and harass you for upholding library policies or for having books about lgbt people on the shelves. Most people probably don’t even consider that a thing a library worker would have to deal with because it’s not something that’s been happening til recently! They’re filming with the intent to harm the people they film, so I can absolutely see why someone would want to be able to refuse to be filmed in the first place.

            1. Rusty*

              “Working for the public does not automatically mean that you’re willing to having hyper-conservatives posting your image online for people to dox and harass you for upholding library policies or for having books about lgbt people on the shelves.”

              It really does though, at least the “doxxing” and the filming. The harassment stuff should not be tolerated.

              It’s not doxxing if you can look up the name and salary of the employee in public records.

              1. Zelda*

                Having your image broadcast online is different from a name in a county record somewhere. It’s being actively pushed out to a hostile audience, not just made available to the few who are willing to put in the effort to go look. And having your face included can expose a person to harassment at the grocery store, etc.

              2. mb*

                most general employees cannot simply be looked up – usually only those making over a certain amount are available via public record. And their faces aren’t automatically attached to that record. So no, it does not automatically mean that they’ve agreed to be doxxed.

                1. Kara*

                  Plus there are often volunteers working at a library – older folks and high school kids – and they should not be subjected to the harassment or the doxxing.

                2. I'm just here for the cats!*

                  That might depend on your state. I work for a state university and all employee’s salaries can be found online.

                3. GarlicBreadAfficianado*

                  It’s not just employees making over a certain amount in all states. My state has “open checkbook” which is a STATE run website. All you have to do is google “name of state and open checkbook” and it will take you to that page. Put in the name of someone you know, or just click on the agency and Et Voila! all the info is there. And it’s for every state employee/ contractor. You drive a plow as an independent contractor? You’re there. You’re an admin assistant? You’re there. You’re the chief of staff for the state senate.. you’re there.

              3. IneffableBastard*

                My teenage daughter volunteers at the library. Should she be filmed and the video distributed to alt-right and potentially violent persons because she is working for the public? How about the little kids she helps to read? Aren’t they allowed any privacy? smh

                1. Jerry Thule*

                  No one has an expectation of privacy when they’re in a public place, which public libraries are. Its essentially a tautology.

                  This includes teenagers and children. if you don’t want your picture possibly taken by someone who is Alt-Right, Antifa, or just some guy messing with his phone camera then you, your daughter, or the little kids should move their activities to a private place.

                2. Lenora Rose*

                  Jerry: Why are you treating an expectation of basic respect and safety as laughable? Is that a world you want to live in?

          4. Anne Shirley*

            Probably because their intention was to assist library patrons and not be displayed online as part of someone’s agenda.

          5. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

            Really? It’s only been very recently in history that humans have had to ability to record video at all, let alone an almost infinite amount. I’m old enough to remember when taking a picture was a Thing because you only had a certain amount of pictures on a roll and you wouldn’t waste them on people who weren’t important to you. Let alone video- yeah, we had recorders in the 80’s, but who was going to waste time and tape on a cashier?

            Unless you’re going into a job that’s in media and the requirements are literally that you’re on camera, you’re not expecting to be filmed and exposed to the the rest of world while you’re working. Sure, I’m technically in a “public” facing job right now, but it’d be hella weird for anyone- coworkers, the public, etc- to be filming me, especially if they were doing it in such a way to provoke a specific response (good or bad). It’s not about me “hiding” from the public- it’s about the expectation that I can do my job without having to ALSO worry that someone is going to use me against my will as a prop in their drama.

          6. Lenora Rose*

            I think there is a highly obvious difference between being a public servant who speaks to members of the public and is fully accountable for their treatment of the public (which is normal) and not wanting to be filmed by someone who is hoping to be the next Liberals of TikTok (which is not normal however much you try to behave like it is).

            First amendment auditors, at least in theory, are trying to be neutral; this person is already calling librarians “groomers”, which makes it clear their purpose is not neutral. Indeed, the camera is likely not the issue here nearly so much as the obvious harassment. Harassment does not become legal simply because the person holds a video camera.

            1. Princess Sparklepony*

              I’m not sure that there has ever been a “first amendment auditor” that hasn’t been a crazy right winger hopped up on hate. That title is one they seem to use exclusively.

              1. Lenora Rose*

                I gathered that from other answers after I posted this; the title itself gave me the impression they were referring to something like a legal observer — where even if the person has political opinions, their job is required to be silent.

          7. Jezebella*

            These filmers are clearly showing up and being provocative assholes while filming. It’s not about “secrecy” at all. It’s about anti-trans nutters calling people who work in libraries with any LGBTQ content at all “groomers.” (in other words, calling them pedophiles. on the internet). There’s nothing okay about being harassed at work and accused of depraved crimes for doing your extremely non-criminal job.

          8. GarlicBreadAfficianado*

            I’m a public servant. My name, position, agency, salary and home address are all public information.

            Because I work with the public, I know how unhinged some people can be. I’m not concerned about my photo being taken… but I don’t want my face or my person on some youtube video where I’m being accused of acting inappropriately with a child. It’s not that far of a jump for a Mom’s for Liberty loony to see my name, working at Public Agency X for them to go onto the website for the state and find out my personal information… And then WE ARE OFF TO THE RACES. My family’s privacy, my husband’s job.. my neighbors?

            This isn’t Joe Schmoe taking a video of the OP bungling a card catalog. This is being done, to goad them into a reaction, then edited and put on youtube and lying and defaming. These are you’re random run of the mill wackadoos. These are people with malicious intent to destroy lives.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Defamation is actionable in court, isn’t it? Assuming you could find the person who shot the video and posted it (might be easier than you think, as the folks who do this kind of thing aren’t generally the sharpest tools in the shed).

              If other patrons are being disturbed, I guess they could call the cops instead. But by the time they get there, the cult members miscreants would be gone.

              1. GarlicBreadAfficianado*

                It’s actually suprisingly easy to mask your IP for stuff. Plus, once it’s online… it’s online forever. These videos are hydras. You can cut one head off but three more sprout in it’s place

              2. TJ*

                In my country, which is different to the US but I’m sure not that different, a standard non-contested defamation suit, where you know who did it and they are not fighting you, might start out costing $15,000 and costs only go up from there.

                While defamation is theoretically actionable in court, in actual practice for a low paid worker it is not. Besides which, there are some harms possibly resulting from this kind of defamation that after-the-fact compensation will not fix, even if you are able to bring a suit and win.

          9. Former Librarian*

            I have to ask, why would you take a job as a public servant, if you want to be kept secret from the public? I have never understood this, amd would really like to know why? I just don’t understand that part. it’s a public facing job, and you work for the public. ?

            There’s a difference between a parent posting a picture of me presenting storytime on their Facebook feed (which has happened to me multiple times and which I am absolutely fine and happy about), and someone with a video camera getting in my face and demanding I justify why my library carries certain materials or allows homeless people to sit in the air conditioning (which has also happened to me, and which left me shaken and not okay).

            I became a librarian because I wanted to improve literacy levels in my community by making reading fun and providing access to reading materials that people couldn’t necessarily get on their own. I did not become a librarian to be a punching bag on some bully’s TikTok or YouTube. I didn’t sign up for this, please don’t act like I did.

          10. Laser99*

            I’m assuming you are deliberately being provocative for whatever unfathomable reason. The answer is that NO ONE welcomes harassment, it doesn’t matter what type of job you have. Feel better?

            1. birb*

              I’m assuming he likes recording people without their consent and believes the bar for whether that is right or wrong to be whether it’s “technically illegal”. I hope he has the day he deserves!

          11. Purpleshark*

            Not for nothing -but if you can be filmed and put on the nightly news eating an ice cream cone while the broadcaster drones on about America’s obesity epidemic I am not sure anything is sacred. I am pretty sure the courts have decreed that there is no expectation of privacy in a public place here. Public servants are not the only ones who would be vulnerable. A random Youtuber can film you and post it and it could change your life if it went viral. Public-facing jobs are not the only people who are vulnerable to this type of thing.

          12. Worldwalker*

            When you call these harassers “first amendment auditors” and talk about library staff “wanting to be kept secret” because they don’t like being insulted or threatened on social media, I’m concerned about the place you’re coming from. There have been more than a few examples of people in jobs like this (not to mention school board members, city council members, teachers, etc.) receiving death threats due to this type of thing. (and don’t forget “Pizzagate”) Working in a public-facing job should not mean that you have to worry about a psycho showing up at your house to kill the “groomers.”

            1. Starbuck*

              Right, these people don’t care about the first amendment – they want to ban books and any discussion/acknowledgment of whatever they find “icky”. They’re censors, not auditors.

              1. Librarian*

                Not American but I am very confused- is the first amendment the right to free speech? Isn’t protesting the availability of certain books the opposite of free speech?

          13. Student*

            Because we stepped out of “normal first amendment political discussion” into “guerilla warfare”. These folks don’t want to have a discussion about speech or librarian behavior or library policies, or even LGBT+ rights.

            Instead, they want to banish LGBT+ folks from the public square, through any means available, including violence, harassment, and murder. The goal of these videos is to harass librarians to the point where it’s easier for them to remove all acknowledgement of LGBT+ people from the library than suffer being associated with us. The point of making the videos is only to defame the library workers, not to talk – the videos are tools to commit crimes against the library workers. When the video-makers find actual LGBT+ members, they put them up as targets for like-minded folks to attack, with intent to kill, but with just enough of a fig leaf of indirectness to avoid obvious legal repercussions and immediate police response.

            If the video-makers wanted to have a discussion, it would be one thing. But this library policy is essentially trying to force library workers to passively submit to being victims of crimes.

            1. Media Monkey*

              can i ask (genuine question – i’m not american and the answer to this might be clearer if i was!) what happens when their right to free speech about books they want banned comes up against the authors’ right to free speech in writing about LGBT issues?

              1. Nethwen*

                What happens is, libraries get stuck in the middle, having the obligation to allow both forms of free speech, and staff get harassed for working for an organization that attempts to protect free speech.

                So often, when I worked at libraries, I had to explain to people that by allowing the content they object to, I’m protecting the ability for the content they like to be in the library. Not everyone got it, but a few people had an “ah-ha” moment.

              2. NotAManager*

                Essentially, both are allowed to exist in tandem. People can shout to high heaven about all the materials they want banned and authors are free to write about the topics that inspire them.

                Where the immovable object meets the unstoppable force is in libraries. Just because anyone can write about any topic, it doesn’t mean they have the *right* to be published or, once they’re published, they don’t have the *right* to be added to a library’s collection. Materials selection is a big deal, it’s an essential part of the job. Librarians select books based on professional standards: areas of the collection they seek to develop based on the needs of their patrons, the popularity of the material, the quality of the writing (since we try to buy books as they’re published, often we haven’t read the books beforehand and are relying on reviews published in professional journals and trade publications). Librarians don’t buy every book on the market – we can’t, we’re limited by space and budget. So there’s a selection process that goes into buying books.

                9 times out of 10 any given book on a library’s shelf will have gone through this process: The author gets an idea for a book, writes up a manuscript, that manuscript is edited, then published by a publishing house where it’s assessed for what audience to sell it to – Is this a book for elementary schoolers? Middle schoolers? A young adult audience? Is it romance? Science Fiction? Then professional reviewers get advanced copies of the books to read and they write up their thoughts on it: Does this book effectively tell the story? Do the characters feel authentic? Will it appeal to its target demographic? Then the librarians take in all these factors: Whether the book got positive reviews, whether they think their patrons will enjoy it, whether it aligns with their collection policy, whether they have the money to buy it, then they purchase it.

                After *that* the book is catalogued, which is an additional level of vetting to find out where the most appropriate place is for the materials in the library. I work in youth services. We’ve had books come in that were sold as being for a teen audience that we think read too young and we put them in the children’s section. We’ve had books that were being sold as best for ages 9-12 and we’ve put them in the teen section. Different libraries will catalog different materials differently depending on the layout (Do they have a teen section? A tween section? Have the genrified the shelves? Do they separate graphic novels from traditional novels?).

                All this is to say that a LOT of thought from a LOT of people goes into the selection and placement of books in the library. So it’s incredibly frustrating to hear people demanding books be pulled from shelves based on their personal opinions and standards of morality. The fact that individual opinions are being given more weight in the public discourse than dozens of people’s professional opinions. What’s really unfair is when one person’s complaint results in the rest of the community (whether it’s a school or public library) being unable to access those materials. *That* to me is where the First Amendment argument falls flat – should ONE person’s preferences affect the ability of potentially hundreds of other people to have reasonably convenient access to a book?

          14. I'm just here for the cats!*

            “I have to ask, why would you take a job as a public servant, if you want to be kept secret from the public? I have never understood this, amd would really like to know why? I just don’t understand that part. it’s a public facing job, and you work for the public. ?”

            1. A librarian is not the same type of public servant as say a mayor or a firefighter. When people take the job of librarian they don’t think their face is going to be made public.
            2. The OP doesn’t want to be kept a secret. They don’t want these banana crackers people accusing them of being a groomer. How would you like it if someone came to your workplace, shoved their phone in your face, recorded you, and then posted online that you were a child predator? Their faces and names are on social media now with the association of these accusations. Even though anyone with any common sense could see they are not legit, it’s still out there.
            3. There are a lot of public facing jobs, both public and private. That does not mean that people have the right to record them in this manner.

          15. metadata minion*

            When I worked in a public-facing position, I expected to interact with the public, at work, in person (and via email and chat, as appropriate). I don’t think that should have to mean being filmed and posted out-of-context for the entire world to view and harass me.

            If I were in a park and started doing a silly dance because I was happy, I would expect that other people in the park would be able to see me, and would be ok with that level of public lack of dignity. I would be pissed off if someone else filmed me and posted it forever on the internet. Yes, they are legally allowed to do that but they are also assholes if they do.

          16. Ex-Teacher*

            Working as a public servant, or in a public facing job, is not tacit consent to be harassed.

            That should not be hard to understand, and even 1A auditors don’t have the right to harass individuals simply because they’re on the clock.

          17. Starbuck*

            Oh please. These people are filming because they’re trying to get he library staff harassed by their hateful audiences and create enraging enough content that they’ll get paid for views. They are not doing something noble here.
            “Kept secret from the public” you are not arguing in good faith here, they’re already in view of patrons / the public while working. Doesn’t mean you need a camera shoved in your face.

          18. Gan Ainm*

            If you work in my town’s public library, you have agreed to serve a local population of around 30k people, of which, maybe… 100 or so a day go to the library? These librarians have agreed to serve this small local population, to help them pick out books, read, access computers, etc, and these customers/visitors can see their face (while present) and first name.

            The librarians did not agree to have permanent images /videos recorded of them, in a purposely provoking, inflammatory, negative way, against their will, posted for potentially millions and millions of people to see, to be the object of denigration or hate for millions of people, and be in videos that can be manipulated with editing and deep fakes.

            Those same librarians might agree to be recorded reading a book to kids or showing someone how to use a reference book, because it’s not a negative, coercive, aggressive situation.

            Context matters. What they agreed to do as a job and what is being done to them are extremely different scenarios, and if you can’t see that… I don’t know how to explain it to you.

          19. zuzu*

            I don’t live in a two-party consent state, thankfully, so first amendment auditors , as well as the general public, are perfectly within the law to take pics or video In a public place, such as the library, and cannot be asked to leave simply due to practicing a first amendment protected activity.

            You misunderstand the purpose of two-party consent.

            But I’m sure you’d love it if someone came to your workplace, stuck a camera in your face, accused you of grooming children, and then posted the result on the internet.

          20. Kevin Sours*

            Making an ass of yourself is legal but you can absolutely be asked to leave a public place for making as ass of yourself. This take is garbage but I doubt it’s being made in good faith anyway.

          21. And the Skeletons Are ... Part of It*

            “If you don’t want to be filmed by screeching homophobes and then have your face posted online so Qanon cultists can email you death threats for the next 20 years, why did you take a job curating books?” Get real.

          22. Introvert Teacher*

            I think there is a huge difference between filming someone and something as a way of holding someone accountable or documenting an altercation (someone filming cops or a traffic accident) in a way that in no way interacts with or disturbs the person being filmed vs. filming someone and causing disruption to that person’s workflow, harassing them, or otherwise trying to bait someone into producing an emotional reaction, or trying to start an altercation. I don’t know a ton about first amendment auditors, but it does seem like ya’ll run the gamut and don’t really believe in this distinction. Also, who wouldn’t be alarmed at someone filming them at work? Wouldn’t you question that person’s intentions? What in the world should we hope to “expose” by filming a librarian… shelving books? creating displays?

          23. Maggie*

            The two party consent thing is kind of a misnomer in the question – it usually refers to conversations that have a presumed expectation of privacy. So, if I live in a two party consent state, asking me over to your home and then recording the conversation without my consent is probably illegal. Filming me in public is likely not. There’s actually quite a bit of case law that supports the right to film in public. Heck, some state rulings have specifically upheld taking “upskirt” photos as legal as long as it happened in public. One and two party consent isn’t necessarily the most applicable law here.

          24. Ms. Murchison*

            We take the jobs because we want to serve the public, for the public good. We do not take these jobs to be harassed or to be punching bags for empty-headed fools trying to score political points..

          25. paxfelis*

            “I have to ask, why would you take a job as a public servant, if you want to be kept secret from the public? I have never understood this, amd would really like to know why? I just don’t understand that part. it’s a public facing job, and you work for the public. ?”

            This seems like, if allowed to continue for long enough, it would lead to the same pit as the slope labeled “Well, look at what she was wearing!”

            Yes, it’s a public-facing job done by people who work with the public. Nowhere in that is an agreement to be abused by said public. Nowhere in that is an agreement for their families to have their health, safety, livelihoods, privacy, or reputation threatened or damaged.

            If you think that being a public servant means that someone or their family deserves to be abused or threatened, then I suggest you might need to consider why you believe that.

          26. Moonstone*

            @Meyers and Briggs were not real doctors – Please stop. This is so disingenuous and patronizing. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know damn well what is happening in libraries right now and the all out assault and harassment that’s taking place. Yes they are public facing jobs but no one signed up to be tormented by right wing lunatics on a daily basis for simply doing their jobs.

          27. MCMonkeyBean*

            I’m not a lawyer but I don’t think the concept of two-party consent is really related to filming people in public for social media. Isn’t that more about recording things for evidence in court?

            1. MCMonkeyBean*

              [Your last paragraph is wild though–wanting transphobic assholes not to come harass you at work and then post it on the internet has nothing to do with wanting to keep things secret…]

        3. Lyngend Canada*

          Just wait until a “first amendment protestors” finds your library if you are in the USA. It’s likely you actually can’t stop patrons from recording inside. (it’s a whole thing on YouTube)

        4. Cat's Paw for Cats*

          Retired library director here. Your policies would not likely survive a court challenge.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            Agreed. You can have whatever policies you want, right up until they’re challenged.

            To this point – I wouldn’t recommend involving the police. You don’t know who they’re going to side with ideologically, and legally you are likely not under their protection in these cases.

            1. Hedgehog O'Brien*

              Agree 100%. We had a similar issue a few years ago with someone filming and harassing our staff (we are a private/nonprofit tenant in a public building), and the police were *very* reluctant to do anything because he might “cause a scene” aka complain about the police kicking him out when he wasn’t doing anything illegal. FWIW, people are asked to leave our building allll the time if they are lurking around, acting sketchy, or behaving inappropriately – but I guess that goes out the window when it’s a young white guy who could make you look bad on YouTube.

            1. SnowyRose*

              Quite a few of them. Libraries are the latest targets, but these folks have been around in one form or another for awhile now.

            2. Starbuck*

              Libraries have been getting bomb threats lately because of people making this type of content unfortunately.

          2. Gwen*

            Well, I suppose it’s our policy until someone actually brings a court case. Library leadership way above my paygrade are the ones who decided on the policy.

        5. Menace_to_Sobriety*

          That policy makes a lot of sense to me. Someone may be using a public computer to view banking information, or their online health portal, or searching for a hitman…whatever. Someone may be reading Fifty Shades (ugh) in a corner and not want to be filmed doing that or whatever. But, it isn’t about just BEING in a public space; people can do private things in that particular public space that others shouldn’t be permitted to film and … well make public!

            1. Lenora Rose*

              We’ve established often that the law isn’t the same as the bounds of courtesy and decency – in both directions. (It is fully legal but not decent to cheat on your spouse, and fully legal but not at all courteous to film people in a public space with intent to harass.) So as a defense, this is pretty weak for what we all agree is asshole behaviour.

              (plus, if someone did decide to film someone connecting to an online health portal or exposing their banking information, we DO start teetering on the edge of legality.)

            2. Menace_to_Sobriety*

              Right because, as we know, the law covers every possible contingency of any given situation. Laws are open to some degree of interpretation and applicability based upon circumstance.

        6. Throwaway Account*

          We had rules in my library about 1. filming customers in the building, especially children and 2. about speaking to the media. All media/interviews go through the media office. You can definitely say you can get their manager and then just walk away.

          I suspect these are “First Amendment auditors,” people who go around filming like this in public as a test. They target cities and public spaces like libraries. You can google them.

          All of this is traumatic for the library staff experiencing it and I am so sorry you are going through it. Please look online for other library systems and what they have done and band together as staff to develop your own policy. Like all of you agree go get the manager Every. Single. Time. Do it politely and with a tone of, of course you want to speak to the person in charge who can help you and I’m so happy to go get them.

          1. Sleepy in the stacks*

            This likely would not apply to 1st amendment auditors unless they were trying to film screens that have patron accounts up or shelves that contain patron holds. The ALA library bill of rights is more so to protect things like parents pulling up their kids account to see what the child checked out, cops from seeing what a suspect checked out, and keep us in line from violating patron policy by not tracking unnecessary information.

      3. Ismonie*

        I wonder. I don’t think two-party consent laws have been used in this way, but maybe they should. OTOH, libraries are generally public buildings. On a third hand (lol) there are certain states that have protections meaning that employees are entitled to a harassment free workplace. So if the videos or recording is being used in a way to harass or stereotype people of a protected class, and the state has these sorts of laws, there might be some avenues, such as a workplace violence restraining order (doesn’t require violence in CA despite the title), or an employer may have liability if they are allowing patrons to harass staff. But that would have to be harassment based on a protected class.

        Overall, what a nightmare, but talking to a local labor-side (employee side) attorney, and/or an attorney who handles restraining orders might give you a better sense of your rights.

        And local law school clinics might be interested. We law students love our law librarians—seriously, they are wonderful people, so you might get a very sympathetic ear and some help from law profs and students.

    2. Sloanicota*

      I don’t understand this since, as a nonprofit, we can’t post any picture of people at our events without lengthy signed permission documents that explicitly give us the right to use these images in our social media. It’s always a challenge for us to confirm the person in the picture we want to use has signed. How does that not apply to these same people posting videos?

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Even as a nonprofit you’re using it for commercial purposes in this context. Posting a public worker in a public space on personal social media doesn’t fall in the same bucket.

        1. Menace_to_Sobriety*

          Yeah but there’s a risk of getting someone in the background who is NOT a public worker in the shot/video, perhaps a patron, or someone who IS an employee but who’s working on … I dunno, payroll or something else on their screen that shouldn’t be captured. I think it’s just wrong, period to allow it. Too many “what ifs” for me.

          1. Maggie*

            It’s literally not up to the library, filming and photo in public places is legal and protected by a butt ton of case law. It doesn’t matter if patrons are filmed, people have very limited to NO expectation of privacy in public spaces. You can go to a park and stand there filling someone for 15 minutes and it’s literally legal. OP is in a really unfortunate situation, and I think the people filming her are wrong, but it is actually a right.

            1. Menace_to_Sobriety*

              People are routinely forbidden from filming in public spaces such as courtrooms, etc… It is not a blanket right. Just like Free Speech doesn’t allow someone to yell “FIRE” in a crowded space. There are always exceptions and applicability can be open to interpretation and CAN and SHOULD occasionally be challenged. If I’m at a playground and you’re filming my child for 20 mins., for example, WE are going to have a huge problem.

          2. Eldritch Office Worker*

            The legal assumption is that if you’re in a public space you consent to being recorded. Personally, I think these laws haven’t caught up with technology or the ubiquity of video recording and should be looked at with more scrutiny, but that’s me. You don’t have an expectation of privacy if you’re in public though.

            1. Zelda*

              “Personally, I think these laws haven’t caught up with technology or the ubiquity of video recording and should be looked at with more scrutiny”

              In particular, I think there’s an important distinction between *making* the recording and *publishing* the recording online that ought to (but I know it doesn’t yet) have legal recognition. The alterability of digital recordings and the broad accessibility and searchability of online postings is a Brave New World that we really haven’t figured out how to deal with yet. The Founding Fathers had not the slightest inkling about cyberbullying people to death.

      2. Jen*

        If it is a public library, it becomes a First Amendment issue. I am not a lawyer but I am a librarian, and First Amendment Audits have been a big discussion. Basically, if you’re in a public space of a public building or public place in an area where you don’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy (like a bathroom) you can be recorded.

        More here: and here:

        1. Sloanicota*

          This seems odd to me as a lot of our events are in public parks and we still have to ask permission every single time. I thought that was the law, but I suppose it could just be our own internal policy, or perhaps it’s unique to our state. An individual may have different restrictions than an organization, but it sounds like these filmers are part of some coordinated organization, unless they’re only posting the videos to their own private social media (I would guess they’re not).

          1. Ismonie*

            It’s because it’s advertising. If they used the images to say “support our org” they would have to get releases too.

        2. Little Local Gov today*

          I work in local government and we’ve had this issue, too with roving crews of “first amendment rights!” people periodically circling through with their cameras. Our instruction has been to stay calm and boring, even though we secretly cheer when a more colorful colleague in a neighboring local responds in less calm and boring ways.

          1. Sparkle Llama*

            Yep! This is very much a thing and we get annual training on how to respond. And we absolutely cannot tell them to stop filming. Just go about your work being boring and answering any direct questions calmly and appropriately.

        3. Meyers and Briggs were not real doctors*

          thank you for posting this!!! I don’t understand the legal ramifications of first amendment auditors in 2party consent states tho.

          would it make a difference if it was a publically funded library vs private vs nonprofit?

          there are several youtubers that enter libraries, Amagansett press is one of them. I watched another auditor supposedly/allegedly find a patron… playing with himself.

          whether we like first amendment auditors or not, we all need to agree to follow open records laws n public filming.

          1. Jess*

            Two party consent laws generally only apply to non-public areas and private conversations (i.e., where you have an expectation of privacy). To the extent the law is broader than that, it is unconstitutional and I would expect it to be eventually challenged in court if it’s actually being enforced. This is why filming cops in public is constitutionally protected.
            1A auditors are generally only going to places that are considered public forums, at least if they’re doing it right—which is a big if. (Being a public building doesn’t automatically make it a public forum, you can absolutely have “private” areas of public buildings or public buildings not open to public access at all).
            (I’m a first amendment attorney.)

      3. megaboo*

        Librarian here. We permit filming in the building and we have a sign sort of warning people that it can happen. This happened to a librarian friend who was doxxed and received hate mail among other things. The police were then involved. I’m sorry you are going through this and that the public can’t respect our jobs.

      4. NothingIsLittle*

        Most libraries, at least in my area, are government run not non-profit, which means they are public property. I work for the same branch of local government as our library system, and the concern taking photos of the public without a release is not the legality — it is legal on any of our properties — it is the optics of having a member of the public complain about our use of their photo.

    3. MeanieNini*

      Was here to say the same thing. I work for a Town and we cannot bar people from filming in the public areas of our building, however, they cannot come into the private office spaces of and certain areas that are designated as off limits to the public.

    4. sparkle_farm*

      I work in a public library and we have regular training from the city (since we are a city department) about how to respond to these “first amendment auditors” – people filming and trying to antagonize city workers – and the bottom line is that it’s legal and allowable in a public building, and although we could call the police, the police would say the same thing. Fortunately I haven’t had to deal with anyone actually doing this or calling me a groomer, although it’s definitely not out of the question where I am. *sigh* I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this.

    5. delazeur*

      Lots of people in this thread are speaking about the law as they wish it to be, not the way it is. Two party consent only applies when there is a presumption of privacy, and there is not a presumption of privacy in a public library. LW may have legal protections against harassment but not against being filmed.

    6. Laura*

      That’s absurd. These people are harassing the librarians, they shouldn’t be allowed to do this.

  3. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

    What is happening in your community that people are coming in to the public library of all places to accuse the library workers of being “groomers”? I would feel very unsafe in this situation. Collective action is needed here – all the workers need to come together and approach management as a unified front to ask for this to be addressed in a much stronger fashion. I do not think a “no filming in the library” policy is unreasonable, especially under these circumstances. Good luck OP and stay safe!

    1. Justme, The OG*

      Are you not aware of the mass right-wing push to ban any material they find objectionable?

      1. jasmine*

        It’s not a right wing push. I have two sisters on tik tok, one of them is gen Z. It’s become acceptable for young people to do what basically amounts to filming someone for doing something they find objectionable, and then posting it on tik tok.

        The grooming scare is not coming from the right, it’s coming from whatever cancel culture has evolved into on tik tok. Most of these kids are liberals. Fear mongering combined with “it’s acceptable to put videos of other people online” has created its own culture. It’s a nightmare.

        1. Ann*

          I’m curious what part of the country you are in. I’m in the midwest and it is absolutely a right-wing, Moms for Liberty crowd pushing this in this area. There are zero young people involved. I am a librarian and have heard of zero libraries in this country facing harassment from youth. I have heard of libraries across the country being targeted by M4L and M4L-adjacent groups.

    2. Blue*

      Libraries (school and public) have been a primary site of antagonism amid the violent/reactionary anti-LGBTQ+ backlash of the last 18 months. The claim is that libraries making information about LGBTQ+ identity, safe sex, etc, available to children are grooming them to become queer. It’s obviously bogus and doesn’t make any sense to someone acting with good faith but, well, they’re not doing that.

    3. Lisa*

      It will be the whackadoodle right wingers who think that any book that mentions bodily parts is encouraging 5-year-olds to have s*x.
      They appear to be everywhere these days.

      1. Single Parent Barbie*

        Make every day silly hat day! Go back into self imposed covid restrictions. Wearing window pane glasses. Wear wigs! Dress as a different literary character every day! Dress as a literary character from a banned book every day! Let them video!

        My daughter is 23 and I saw in the news the other day a book I read to her when she was little is now on the banned list. It is about a princess who must save her fiancée from a dragon who kidnapped him. She does it all while wearing a paper bag. If I remember correctly, her gown was burned. Its been a few decades. Why someone would want it banned I have no idea. Now I will be sending this book to every little girl I know. My heart goes out to every librarian who is being harassed, heckled , etc. If you don’t like what’s on the shelf at the library , do not go into the library.

        To quote the late great Sean Connery in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade “Goose-stepping morons like yourself should try READING books instead of BURNING them!”

          1. 2 Cents*

            From Google: “…frequently banned for being anti-family because the girl is the hero and it departs from the standard fairy-tale ending of the prince and princess living happily ever after together.”

            Just…there’s not enough wall for me to hit my head on.

            1. Hrodvitnir*

              What. What. I cannot handle this, actually. Bad enough to ban sex ed and queer positive stories: they even target cute kids books because they are *inadequately gendered.* -_-

            2. CommanderBanana*

              Which is bizarre because the Prince isn’t her family. He’s just some random dude.

              1. Elsewise*

                When they say “family”, they mean “heterosexual marriage”, and when they say “anti-“, they mean “not specifically promoting”. The problem isn’t that the Prince isn’t related to her, it’s that there’s a male character and a female character who don’t get married at the end.

                1. Itsa Me, Mario*

                  And that the male character isn’t in a patriarchal “head of the family” role within the story.

            3. Always a Corncob*

              I love reading that book to my daughter because the princess outsmarts the dragon, saves the spoiled prince she’s supposed to marry, and then dumps him! It’s a great way to turn a fairytale on its head. Calling it “anti-family” is asinine. These lunatics just want to send women back to the dark ages so we don’t get any funny ideas in our pretty little heads. [barf]

            4. whingedrinking*

              I really thought it would be because Princess Elizabeth, who’s like ten years old or something, spends most of the book technically not wearing clothes. But no, apparently people can be even more ridiculous than that.

        1. JJLib*

          I agree with you. The ALA Bill of Rights says that one goal of libraries/librarians is to provide access, not to mandate or censor. But, speaking as a former public librarian (now an academic librarian), just staying out of the library won’t be enough for this kind of person. Because public libraries are funded by the public (aka local taxes, etc.), these people object to their tax dollars being used to purchase materials that they find objectionable. Doesn’t matter to them that someone else might have asked the library to purchase those items.

        2. Bee*

          It is being banned for allegedly being “anti-family” by discouraging children from following gender norms.

          I suspect the people behind the banning haven’t read it and have only heard it described as “feminist” (to their horror).

          1. Lenora Rose*

            What gender norms does it not follow? Sorry, I love the Paper Bag Princess (And many other Robert Munsch books) but the princess loves her long gowns and pretty dresses and wants to marry a handsome prince. The ONLY reason she breaks gender norms is that a disaster happens, and if she literally has no more pretty gowns because they are burned to a crisp, then it’s not really “breaking norms” to clothe herself in the only thing remaining for miles that isn’t burned and will cover all her bits.

            1. Miley*

              “What gender norms does it not follow?”

              the female character rescues the male character. that’s it. yes, it’s really that stupid.

            2. Insert Clever Name Here*

              See, what she should have done was sit there in her paper bag and let Ronald get eaten by the dragon. Because gender norms!

              (Paper Bag Princess is one of my favorite books of all time, and if you invite me to a book shower you *will* be getting it)

          2. Nobby Nobbs*

            Well, there is a part where she rejects a boy for being a jerk. Can’t have girls thinking it’s okay to do that. Where would they get their breeding stock?

            1. Lenora Rose*

              I know.

              I just remember these same people at one point lauded the fact that while men were off at war, women *guarded* the home front (and that was in times and countries where the home front could ALSO be invaded, either by the war or by opportunistic bandits, and the guarding didn’t mean washing the dishes and minding the tots, it might mean finding the resources to defend.) The Paper Bag Princess is literally that; Ronald can’t save himself, he’s shut in with a dragon who only hasn’t eaten him because it ate a whole castle. Elizabeth is a great character and I am glad she dumps him, but she’s actually just doing what women always did when disaster messed up tradition; looking around, seeing no men in the vicinity, and going, “Welp, I guess it’s down to me.”

        3. J!*

          The problem with your suggestions is that it puts all the onus on the library staff to dress outlandishly to disguise themselves, when the issue is that their employer is putting them in an unsafe working condition.

          They COULD dress up every day but they shouldn’t have to (would you want to?).

        4. ScruffyInternHerder*

          Tell me that I am NOT the only one who read that line in his voice please :)

          The Indiana Jones movies were such gold.

    4. Jay_Ess*

      this is a huge movement across North America to frame LGBTQ+ folks or people (teachers, librarians) who read or provide access to books with LGBTQ+ characters or themes as sexual predators. it’s getting very scary and has recently moved from fringe alt-right rhetoric to mainstream rightwing talking point.

      1. I Have RBF*

        Yes, and as an LGBTQ+ person on many levels, it scares the living shit out of me. I’m lucky, I live in a liberal city in a liberal state, but we still have the whackadoodle “parents rights” people protesting at local school board meetings. (See )

        It hurts my heart to think that there are people who think that any mention of the very existence of LGBTQ+ people to kids is evil. Like they think if kids don’t know we exist they won’t ever consider being one. That’s not how it works. It just leads to confused, depressed and possibly suicidal kids.

        I grew up in the 60s and 70s. I didn’t even learn about the existence of trans people until I was a teenager, and then only M2F. Gay was used as an insult, and could get people hurt if others believed it was real. I don’t want that to come back. There were kids I knew in high school that killed themselves over it.

      2. Itsa Me, Mario*

        And is even seeping into the regular mainstream. I recently heard someone at work (who I don’t think is politically conservative?) talk in hushed tones about a children’s movie about a family where the parents get a divorce, and specifically discuss the movie as not being entirely appropriate for kids.

        And the parents in the movie are heterosexual!

    5. Box of Kittens*

      This is becoming a niche video category unfortunately called a “first amendment audit.” People who think of themselves as “first amendment auditors” go into public buildings and see if they can get employees (librarians, clerks, security guards, etc.) to ask them to stop recording, thus supposedly violating the first amendment. It’s just a gross cash grab. Municipalities are starting to try and educate their employees about it because it’s becoming a lot more common.

      1. A Poster Has No Name*

        Ugh, this is just gross. If this is what’s going on, or if it’s the right wing hatemongers I assumed, I hope the staff feels empowered to at least whip out their phones and start filming right back. Not that the truth ever holds up to idiocy like this online, but at least it’s something they can do.

        1. Sloanicota*

          This is actually an interesting idea. If nothing else it seems like it might kind of spoil the filming, which I assume is for Utube or FB or whatever.

          1. Jen*

            When I have talked to other librarians about this, the general tactic tends to be to be as dull as possible. They want a reaction; don’t give them one.

            1. A Poster Has No Name*

              If they got webcams for their help/reference desk computers they could turn them around and turn them on in a pretty low-key way. Or even just having a phone on a little tripod on the desk.

            2. Ticotac*

              I was going to suggest playing Disney songs so that the video could be hit with a copyright strike, but then I remembered these are library and should be quiet…

              1. Cafe au Lait*

                Oooooo, I like that idea–using Disney songs. The mouse has deep pockets and isn’t afraid to exercise the copyright law.

                1. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

                  I would think both the library’s use of Disney songs, as long as ASCAP is paid, and the video of it would fall under Fair Use?

                2. Elizabeth West*

                  If I were in the library and this started happening, I would be tempted to walk through the video frame quietly humming, “Beeee our guest, be our guest, put our magic to the test…”

                3. Dahlia*

                  @metadata minion Listening to Disney music is not violating copyright. Recording it and uploading it is.

              2. Lisa Simpson*

                Start singing them!

                Troll: Are you grooming children with gay books?

                Troll: Why do you want to sexualize children?

                Troll: Why are you giving porn to kids?

                1. cee*

                  You could also take the 30 Rock approach and just wear something with a copyrighted logo or hold up a sign with copyrighted imagery. Disney is a good choice since they are so litigious, but at the end of the day even they probably wont pursue removal of a random youtube video.

        2. Ashley*

          I am actually wondering if the local media might cover this and put a few folks on the evening news. That also assumes local new politics would theoretically portray the harm this is doing to people using the library.
          It is a terrible situation all around and one more way we lose good people in needed public jobs because it just isn’t worth it to deal with the public.

        3. Frickityfrack*

          Honestly, this isn’t a good way to respond, because they get more views the more someone reacts. They LOVE when someone shows that they’re upset/annoyed/whatever. I work in government and we had one in the other day and he was super obviously irritated that we treated him like any other customer, got him what he asked for efficiently and politely, and didn’t even glance at the camera, because it made the footage pretty much unusable for his purposes. Can’t get those rage clicks if all he has is a video of staff being friendly and helpful.

            1. Frickityfrack*

              Yay! I mean, don’t get me wrong, I do think it’s important that we’re not breaking the law or infringing on people’s rights. It’s just that these auditors are so lame sometimes. It’s like, congrats, you were kind of crappy to a bunch of people who are generally among the lowest paid, who already put up with the most crap by nature of being customer-facing, just for the sake of making about $1.50 on your youtube channel. Great job protecting our right to free speech or something.

      2. MsSolo (UK)*

        The cash grab element makes me wonder about the intersection of social media and the commercial use thing, because if you’re filming people in order to profit from the video (especially if you’re on a monetised platform like youtube, with ad revenue) it feels like it’s on the cusp, but I assume it probably falls under similar protections to documentaries and tv journalism making money selling their content.

      3. MeanieNini*

        We get them all the time at the Town I work for. Our staff who are in public parts of the building have started filming them back. It makes them angry and usually gets them to leave the premises. They also try all kinds of tactics to be let in to the parts of the building that are off-limits to the public. It’s annoying and distracting.

        1. Okay..*

          I am curious, how do you film them back?

          Does your library have its own filming equipment for that specific purpose, security cameras, or dies staff film with their personal phones and upload elsewhere?

          The implementation of how you actually do, this would be very informative.

          1. MeanieNini*

            We aren’t a library but the employees will go get their phones and turn the cameras toward the “auditors” and start recording them … I know one of the ladies prompts her phone with camera on her desk after hitting record when they come by and then promptly turns back around and continues working.

      4. Sarah M*

        We had one of these filming kids outside of school as they were being dropped off in the morning (it was when masks were still required). Creep. He’s lucky no one ran him over with a Volvo.

        1. Mister_L*

          The reaction I wish I had the presence of mind to think of in such a situation: “Hello police, a suspicious person is filming the children outside our school.”

    6. AceInPlainSight*

      It’s an anti-LGBT, especially anti-trans thing; if the library has any queer friendly literature or display, especially stuff aimed at kids or teens, or honestly sometimes any sex ed books at all, some terrible conservative people take to social media to harass them to try and get it all taken down. They don’t even have to be super local- once one person posts anything, they all pile on. It’s the same crap they pulled on Target re:Pride merch this past summer and on various school boards/ libraries across the US.

      1. TootsNYC*

        and speaking of super-local:
        There are people who travel to other areas to do this. So it may not even be super-local.

        1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

          This is happening in a few schools in my area. One lawsuit against the school, they are local but have no kids enrolled in the district. Then there is a HS that employs a gay teacher and they have been getting threats from outside the US.

          No wonder there is a teacher/librarian shortage. Not only do you need a degree for low pay, but now there’s the added bonus of being labeled a groomer for simply having books that are not exclusively cis white Christian.

            1. whingedrinking*

              I heard about his wife tweeting that the Barbie movie was anti-family or whatever and thinking, “Lady, I’d put those stones down if I were you.”

        2. Dek*

          The main mover and shaker behind the takeover of our library board by people like this (and the subsequent firing of two directors who wouldn’t toe the line, an attempt at firing a librarian who dared to make a pride display during pride month, and just general all around awfulness) doesn’t even live in out county.

          He just does this to libraries in our state.

          …although now it looks like maybe the AG was in on it too

      2. Box of Kittens*

        This too. I feel like this is more proof (as if we needed any) of how mixed up far right ideology is between stuff that’s technically (by the letter if not the spirit) a citizen-level check on public services (ie the first amendment audit) and stuff that’s just absolutely unhinged hatred and fear of things they don’t understand (anti LGBTQ/groomer language).

    7. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      This stuck out to me as well, posting video on social media is one thing but calling OP a “groomer” in a published medium is libel.

      1. Tinkerbell*

        IANAL, but I believe it’s only libel if the person publishing it knows it to be false. These nutjobs truly believe that anyone even vaguely queer-friendly is a pedophile (according to their twisted definition), so they might have a plausible defense :-\

        1. TootsNYC*

          I went looking.
          Found this at MincLaw[dotcom]:
          “Generally, for a plaintiff to succeed in a defamation lawsuit, the statements at issue must at least be capable of verifiable falsity. Therefore, even if a statement is false, if there is no method of proving the statement to be false, a defamation claim will be difficult to pursue.”

          So that might make it harder, since it’s hard to prove the falseness of that.

          And the bar is much higher for some people–a member of the press or a professional person might have a greater obligation to exert energy finding out whether it’s true or not (not spending that time and energy is considered a “reckless disregard for the truth”)

          But it might all come down to the jury or judge.

        2. Kesnit*

          IAAL, though criminal and do not handle defamation cases. However, IIRC, the standard is “knew or should have known.” And truth is an affirmative defense, which means the defendant has to prove that the statement is true. The plaintiff does not have to prove the statement is false.

        3. Ismonie*

          Nah. You can’t accuse people of a crime. Like pedophilia, with reckless disregard for the truth. The so-called “opinion” exemption doesn’t apply when the “sting” of the statement is “you’re a pedophile.” Which calling someone a groomer is clearly accusing them of pedophilia. So those statements are actionable. Might some courts screw up on the so-called “opinion” exception (the word opinion doesn’t actually appear in the case from which the exception is taken)? Sure. But I would take that case. If I were still taking cases.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        That particular slur has become automatic in some circles. Like if the diner is out of mashed potatoes, it must be run by groomers. I doubt you’d get any farther than if you pointed out any other insult was unfair and unfounded.

        1) I am very aware that this makes people ignore actual well-founded accusations of child sexual abuse.
        2) I suspect that for some of the people pushing the practice, this was a benefit they explicitly understood would help them.

        It’s very ugly.

    8. RabbitRabbit*

      As other people noted, it’s also a trolling technique used to bog down institutions and cost them money and time. A local bookstore shared an article about right-wing trolls going down lists of children’s books and submitting challenges online, which the school or library has to justify. One book was an Arthur (the cartoon aardvark character) book about birthdays and their complaint was that it “damaged children’s souls.”

    9. Solitary Daughter*

      Hi, Library Director here. We as a profession and institution are literally under attack and don’t have a lot of options for telling people they can’t exercise their free speech rights. Many of us are being called groomers for having LGBTQIA books on the shelves, as well as books that acknowledge the real experiences of people of color.

      Collective action IS needed here. But part of that support from legislation and the community to stop harassment and bullying of library workers and frankly, school librarians and educators. First amendment rights are being weaponized and exploited by unhinged actors in our community, and frankly, we don’t get paid enough for this.

      1. Calyx*

        Very well put. I’m so sorry this is happening. I’m writing hundreds of get-out-the-vote letters to help turn the tide.

    10. Throwaway Account*

      At my last professional conference for librarians, I attended a session on violence against librarians. There were multiple libraries represented in that one session who had a librarian murdered by a user/patron/customer or who had been attacked by one.

      Public libraries are not your grandparent’s spaces or jobs!

      1. I Have RBF*

        My grandmother was a reference librarian. I learned to use a card catalog as a grade school kid. They didn’t have this level of garbage back in the 60s. Yes, they had some issues, but my grandmother never had to worry about death threats.

          1. KTurtle*

            When I got a job at my local library in 2013, part of my orientation included what to do in case of a bomb threat. Not the same level of garbage, I agree, but still not great.

    11. And the Skeletons Are… Part of It*

      By “your community” do you mean the whole US? Cause: Qanon. That’s what.

    12. Hrodvitnir*

      Seriously. I know AAM is primarily for a US audience, but I would have liked a wee context explanation. Even being terminally online and living on Tumblr, from which I know there’s a homo- and transphobic push for book banning going on, I didn’t realise there’s a significant amount of harassing librarians happening. :(

      It was such a bluescreen moment when I read that, like who is harassing *librarians*? (The paedophilia accusation made it clear pretty quickly though.)

      Is this happening across the US?

      1. Rosyglasses*

        It is. I was agog when listening to NPR (National Public Radio) the other day and learned that a library in Central Oregon (the only one in a radius of small towns) was coming up on a vote to SHUT IT DOWN. I was literally WTF. I’m so glad I’m no longer teaching. It fills me with rage to see what is happening and I just want to burrow into a Hobbit hole. :(

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Columbia County library: luckily the judge said oh HELL no and said it could not be put on the ballot.

        2. Hrodvitnir*

          Thank you, and also I’m sorry. :( :(

          I’m not saying being a teacher isn’t a bit shit here (Aotearoa), but it sounds mostly just terrible in the US.

      2. metadata minion*

        As a general rule, if people try to ban books, they will also go after people who make books accessible to the public for free. That’s really just part of the standard playbook.

      3. I Have RBF*

        Is this happening across the US?

        Yes. Even in liberal cities in liberal states. They often come from out of state to harass “libtards”.

        These people make me want to commit violence.

        1. Hrodvitnir*

          Oo me too, and I don’t even live there. It’s so anger-inducing and also incredibly harmful! I saw a comic recently about an author of a book for kids that included information on recognising sexual abuse and a specific case where it helped the child be able to explain what was happening to her. The author, Robie H. Harris, has received death threats for writing her book. I’ll link the comic (it’s on Tumblr) in a reply.

      4. Lenora Rose*

        And creeping across the border into Canada. There have been school board and library challenges in several places in my province (And a thankfully losing election campaign which pulled out the “parental rights” dog whistle along the way.)

        1. Hrodvitnir*

          Ahhhhh. So sorry. We are certainly being affected by the right wing reactionaries here too (Aotearoa), and I’m pretty scared for our elections going on right now, but at least we’re not literally touching the USA. :/

    13. Laura*

      This is happening all over. A simple Google search for “first amendment audit” will explain it

  4. anonny mouse*

    A huge component of this is if you receive any government funding at any level. I work in a one party consent state and these people will say they are doing “first amendment audits” and are trying to goad you into calling the police. Then they can claim their rights were violated and attempt to go viral. I don’t know how that affects you in a two party consent state, but I assume that is why you were told you have to allow the filming

    1. anonny mouse*

      to clarify, government offices are considered a public area. so if you are government funded, that may apply to you. you give your consent by being in public.

      1. Tinkerbell*

        That may be true, but the library could mitigate this by beefing up their policy language around what can get patrons kicked out (and the police called to trespass them from the property if necessary). WAY too many libraries are strict about harassment of other patrons but absolutely roll over and accept harassment of employees :-\

        1. Thistle Pie*

          Kicking out for harassment of these folks is so tricky because they’re lawsuit-happy. It’s likely easier for library staff to tolerate 20 minutes of filming than a year long court case. And if the police show up to escort the person out (which they will likely require) then it opens up the police department to a lawsuit as well (generally the same employer as a public library). The goal is to get folks to be so bored that they leave on their own so you don’t have to involve any more people than possible.

        2. NothingIsLittle*

          Actually, the language in these videos, in my area at least, is considered political speech. As government entities, the library can’t legally tell these patrons to stop. (IANAL but this is how my county’s attorney explained the issue. Our county has lost lawsuits on these grounds.)

    2. MissElizaTudor*

      To be fair, if they’re filming in an area where they are legally allowed to do so, the police stopping them is a violation of their rights.

      First amendment auditors seem like they’d be annoying to deal with, but they do reveal how little cops know about the law, and they serve a useful purpose. Hopefully getting caught violating this first amendment when it’s someone who knows their rights will mean cops and other government officials are less likely to do it when it’s a regular person.

      1. Sloanicota*

        It doesn’t seem useful to me, particularly if the intent, as OP says, is to post video identifying certain people and calling them “groomers.”

        1. Admin Lackey*

          Precisely, their ‘purpose’ is to intimidate people and roll back LGBTQ+ people’s rights

          1. I Have RBF*

            This. And that makes me see… red.

            These clowns are wanting people like me and a lot of people I care about to simply cease to exist, by either dying, or being re-programmed into being cis-het “Christians”.

            I am deeply angry about this. I don’t have enough words to express how much this shit offends me.

        2. Starbuck*

          Yes these types are really pro-censorship (or are certainly serving that agenda) not really pro free speech. They’re still legally protected, but they’re not doing something actually noble or helpful, like for example the people who film cops.

        3. MissElizaTudor*

          I was talking about regular first amendment auditors, not the monsters harassing librarians and calling them groomers. Sorry that was wasn’t clearer!

          1. datamuse*

            I have literally never heard of a first amendment auditor *except* in the context of harassing librarians.

      2. Former Librarian*

        I’ve been filmed by so-called “first amendment auditors,” and it’s sheer intimidation tactics. The people I have personally interacted with who do this do not care about the first amendment. They like making people uncomfortable. They like the attention they get online for making people uncomfortable. And they know that if they threaten to “expose the government for violating the first amendment,” they can scare government officials into letting them do it.

        The people who filmed me in my workplace knowing I had no power to stop them knew they were hurting me, and they enjoyed it. This has nothing to do with the first amendment and everything to do with the fact that some people just want to hurt people and they’ve figured out they can use the first amendment as a smoke screen to do it.

        1. MountainAir*

          This, 100%. The local gov folks I know who are dealing with this stuff completely understand that they work for the public and in a public environment and respect the first amendment, but don’t want to be aggressively harassed at their workplace by people trying to make them so uncomfortable that they can create a “gotcha” moment and potentially file a lawsuit. What these “auditors” are doing is not commendable, it’s just poor behavior with a cloak of faux-righteousness. There are plenty of other ways to hold governments accountable in meaningful ways. This is just nastiness from people who get a thrill from asserting power/control.

          And that’s before you get into the anti-LGBT version of this that the LW is describing, which is a whole nother category of harmful.

          1. Jackalope*

            Yeah, at one point I remember being in a low-level public position and being grilled and harassed by someone back before this was common. At first she pretended to be acting in good faith and I didn’t know how to respond when that changed. It was something that I knew little about because I didn’t work in that dept; imagine something like harassing someone not in IT for not being able to list the room where the physical servers are held for a large organization. If you don’t work with them directly you probably have no clue. But this was clearly just to be a jerk rather than to get information.

        2. A Fellow Public Servant*

          It seems very naïve to presume these people give a flying fig about Constitutional rights and aren’t just in it to “own the libs.” These are hard days to be a public servant, and I appreciate the overwhelming commitment among librarians as a group to fight the good fight and continue to do the right thing. I know it’s not easy, and I’m sure it’s often terrifying.

        3. MissElizaTudor*

          I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with people doing this in bad faith! It must be scary to have people making you uncomfortable for the sheer enjoyment of it and not be able to get away from it easily.

          The ones I’m most familiar with focus on police behavior. Even some of these ones are probably obnoxious to people besides the cops, but don’t seem like they’re trying to be intimidating.

        4. Distracted Librarian*

          All of this. These people are bullies. As the saying goes, the cruelty is the point. They’d be happy if public libraries disappeared entirely, so making staff miserable enough to quit is a feature, not a bug.

    3. Anonymous 75*

      This! Are you perhaps a government employee in a state with broad open records laws? I used to work fairly high up in local government in florida which tends to have pretty open sunshine laws when it comes to public records and yes, this was permitted by state law (the recording, the not calling 911 sounds more like department or internal policy). It was not an issue that could be pushed back on due to state laws. if your library/municipality has an in house attorney you should be able to contact them to request clarification. Or happened all the time both in my office and on the attorneys office.

    4. MsSolo (UK)*

      This probably isn’t a helpful suggestion (and has probably been tried), but I do wonder if there’s something in grey rocking the filmers by directing them repeatedly to the relevant reference section. Just being the most boring librarian possible, treating them like the only reason they’d be exercising their first amendment right is because they’re doing research on that, rather than their real intent.

      “I hear that you’re interested in the first amendment. You can learn more about it on the second floor, in the legal section. I understand you’re exercising your first amendment rights. If you’d like to learn more about the amendments, I recommend reading up on constitutional law. Yes, the first amendment is important. We have many books you can check out to learn more about it. Are you interested in the history of the first amendment? I can direct you to the US history section.”

      1. megaboo*

        I ignore them. They film whatever nonsense and get out. If you engage, which is what they want, then it blows up. I completely agree with grey rocking it.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        My friend in the US turns her back on them once they start up with calling her names. They may be claiming they have a right to speak but they don’t have a right to an audience.

        (Also, it has provoked one or two of them to grab her and forceably turn her around which even in a library isn’t protected action at all)

        1. Starbuck*

          Wow, that’s so sad they don’t have better protections from assault. Where I live, other public workers (like bus drivers especially come to mind) there are prominent signs on the bus about what a serious crime it is to assault a bus driver.

          1. Former Librarian*

            Honestly, in my public library days, I don’t even think I’d get a day off if I was assaulted by a patron. Colleagues at other branches regularly had their tires slashed or paint poured on their cars by patrons to the point their insurance companies started denying their claims – management refused to do anything to support them. Even with a union.

  5. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    OP, is there a “friends of the library” type of volunteer group? I’d think they’d want to petition the leadership & overseeing government agency to improve their policies, in addition to what you and your fellow employees are doing.

    1. Tinkerbell*

      Chances are, the friends of the library have already been overrun by these same people. It’s been part of the same playbook for years – get sympathetic voices on the board, then change policies to “protect the children” and make a big stink if anyone objects.

      1. MountainAir*

        Friends of the library groups are usually nonprofits, not the governing library board – yes you will often see the board taken over by extremists, but friends groups occupy a different space — they’re often the true community library supporters and members are not elected (therefore aren’t narrow extremists voted in off partisan ballots). I actually think it’s a great idea to loop them in, because in a citizen voice capacity they have the ability to e.g. go to the county commission and say that the public is concerned about threatening behavior from these folks filming, etc. and make a request that library policies be strengthened to protect everyone from harassment.

        1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

          Yes, this is what I meant. A self-governing nonprofit, not the elected or appointed library board.

    2. ferrina*

      I would be livid if I learned someone was doing this at my local library. I’m not officially a Friends of the [LOCAL] Library member, but I follow them pretty closely. I would join in a heartbeat if I though my local librarians were being harassed this way.

      1. MountainAir*

        Not to be too bleak about it, but if you have the capacity, now might be the time to join. Often the organizing around this stuff happens in the background and then suddenly it’s an all out push that gets scary, fast. As far as I can tell, librarians everywhere are feeling pretty under the gun right now, and the more good people step up to be supporters before things explode, the better.

    3. NothingIsLittle*

      If the library is run by local government, and in my area they mostly are, there aren’t really any policies to change. The library is public property with no expectation of privacy and the ranting in question (in my part of the country) would fall under protected political speech. We have literally had lawsuits in my county around similar recording incidents and the videographers won.

      I work in the same branch as our libraries and I was told that if someone came into our building and started filming and causing a scene, to let them and be very careful about how I responded to them.

      Fun Fact! In Florida, that member of the public can request my personnel file and the Sunshine law means they must be given essentially any of my information, including my address, except my social security number. That applies to all government positions except those in the police department and a few other particular roles.

  6. ZSD*

    Is there a broad perception that librarians are grooming kids? (This isn’t something I want Google.)

    1. risk*

      Unfortunately, there’s been a large alt-right surge in protests against books about LGBT+ people existing at all. If the library offers a large LGBT+ section, does events for LGBT+ teens, or simply exists in a way these jerks find objectionable, then they’re going to be accused of grooming children into being gay/trans.

      1. Sloanicota*

        There’s whole lists of books these people want banned, not all of which contain LGBTQ elements (but many do) – so the argument is if the library contains any of these books the librarians are “groomers.” I believe in Florida this extends even to books that don’t depict slavery in the state-approved way or that pertain to race (so called “critical race theory”).

        1. LifeBeforeCorona*

          One book that has been cited for banning is The Diary of Anne Frank. A young girl writes about hiding out in fear for her life but continues writing because it gives her a voice to express herself. It boggles the mind that book banners can’t see the irony of what they are doing.

          1. RabbitRabbit*

            The response is usually that it’s bad and wrong to let children/young adults read about a girl talking about her own private parts and her own feelings about boys’ parts / another girl she has a crush on without the parents’ own individual approvals so libraries must never ever offer such a dirty book where The Children can get it.

    2. NaoNao*

      It’s a (hopefully) small but very vocal minority who is upset and “concerned” about things like drag story time and literature / media about and for the LGBTQIA community and allies.

      1. OyHiOh*

        I just saw a blurb on – Politico, I think? somewhere similar in tone to that anyway – that said way more than half of the book ban challenges filed in the US had been submitted by one of 11 people. I was just scanning briefs and headlines so I haven’t had time to follow sources or anything yet but if that’s the case, there’s a bunch of people yelling and screaming but the actual people challenging books (and events/activities in public spaces) are a vanishingly small minority.

        1. TootsNYC*

          and they travel to other towns to do this sort of thing. It may not be your neighbor or your actual constituent.

          1. Chirpy*

            This was the case with the anti-abortion people who were harassing women on my college campus. They were from out of town, and just traveled all over.

            (The university had absolutely nothing to do with abortions or medical training, it was just a convenient place to scream at young women who were daring to try to eat lunch while getting an education.)

        2. doreen*

          I think I saw it in the Washington Post – most people who filed challenges filed only one challenge but the 11 people who filed 10 or more challenges accounted for something like 60% of the challenges.

          1. Jules*

            The Post just had an article about it end of last week. I’ll share an (unlocked) link in a separate comment for folks who’d like to read.

        3. Ajjjjaner*

          there is a really interesting profile in the Washington Post (it’s in their education section) of one of those 11 people.

    3. KatCardigans*

      This is part of the current culture war about “parents’ rights” and book banning. Is it a broad perception? No, but it only takes a vocal minority to challenge lots of books, harass the librarians, and make everybody working in the library miserable.

      Also, it’s Banned Books Week this week, so it’s actually a pretty good week for googling about libraries!

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        This is the part that drives me nuts – if it’s about “parental rights”, they’re trampling all over mine by insisting that their values restrict my kids’ reading. If they spent this time exercising personal responsibility by policing their own kids’ reading rather than ruining it for the rest of us, the world would be a better place.

        I was a voracious reader as a child and read all sorts of things that were written for an adult audience. My mom took the stance that, if we needed to discuss something I read in the context of our values, we’d do that after I read it. I seriously cannot think of a book she every flat-out barred me from reading, and my mom is not the progressive type at all.

        1. doreen*

          I’ve never really been able to figure out why they don’t just forbid their own kids to read the books – and I’m torn between whether it’s because they think their kids will sneak around or whether they don’t want to be the “bad guy” who is forbidding books that other kids can read. Or both.

          1. I'm just here for the cats!*

            It’s neither. They are not reasonable. They just want to erase anything they don’t agree about.

            1. Watry*

              Yeah, it’s not really about parents’ rights, except very specific kinds of parents. It’s about their desire to force anyone not exactly like them from both the public square and public knowledge. If they can prevent anyone’s kid from finding out gay people exist, then no one will be gay…or at least no one will be willing to be openly gay.

          2. Tammy 2*

            It’s not about their own kids at all. Some don’t even have kids of the ages these books are written for. Some don’t even have kids.

            It’s an attempt to erase access to information about marginalized identities and human sexuality (abstinence only sex-ed, anyone?) for everyone’s kids. And restricting access for adults is probably next (this is already happening when books are removed entirely from public library shelves).

          3. SHEILA, the co-host*

            I’ve seen both reasons. And sometimes it’s reason 3 – they don’t want to actually parent and want the library to be their de facto babysitter, but for that to work, the library can only carry things that it’s “safe” for the kids to find on their own.

            But yeah, a lot of this seems to boil down to “I want LGBTQ+ content out of public spaces, because if my kid doesn’t know gay people exist, they can’t become gay themselves,” or, on the racial side, “my [white] child should never have to feel discomfort about anything related to race.” As one piece of online commentary saw succinctly put it, what’s really going on is that the people who were anti-civil rights and threw rocks at Ruby Bridges don’t want their grandkids to know that they threw rocks at Ruby Bridges. The race argument also tries to pretend universality by saying “no child” can be made to feel uncomfortable about their race, but the reality is that the laws are designed to protect white children only. Black and brown kids are made to feel uncomfortable on a daily basis just for existing, but the folks proposing and passing these laws don’t care about that, and don’t care about allowing black and brown kids to learn and feel pride in their own history.

            1. SHEILA, the co-host*

              And yeah, as others have said, often times it’s not about their own kids as well, it’s about avoiding anything that doesn’t adhere to a very narrow worldview.

          4. datamuse*

            Because they don’t want their kids hearing about it from other kids whose reading hasn’t been similarly restricted.

            At least, that’s how one of my friends’ parents explained it to my own mother, back in the 1980s. This is just the same thing but with the Internet to broaden its reach and weaponization.

          5. NaoNao*

            When I was a pre-teen there were copies of “racy” books that got passed around school, so someone with very strict parents still had relatively easy access to the book.

            But I also think it’s about “sending a message” through that action, it’s not about a single book, that book is the fulcrum by which social mores will be moved.

            Note: I *strongly* disagree with book banning in case that’s not clear.

      2. Jules*
        Here’s an unlocked link to the story Menace_to_Sobriety posted for folks who don’t have Washington Post subscriptions.

        (I think the Post either blocks or limits how much non-subscribers can see, and I want as many people as possible to be able to read about what’s happening. It’s a crisis that’s unspooling largely out of many people’s sight, as indicated by the comments here from folks who are unaware.)

        1. Menace_to_Sobriety*

          Oops since I have a subscription, I didn’t even think about it being behind a paywall for some people. My apologies! I know how frustrating that is. The Wall Street Journal is the WORST for that!

      3. Anon for This*

        I live in that area of Virginia. I was in my local (independent) bookstore the other day and a woman came in to pick up an order they had placed for her. The owner joked that it looked like she bought at least two of most of the banned books from their display. She said “yup — I’m putting them in Little Free Libraries in Spotsylvania.” The owner promptly gave her the employee discount <3

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      1) The librarians are near books.
      2) Books make people gay.
      3) Gay people are all child molesters.

      I wish I were being sarcastic, but I’m not.

    5. I'm just here for the cats!*

      It’s probably about the anti-LGBTQ+ and any books or programs that are for those folx or if they have story time with a drag queen.

    6. Aitch Arr*

      Between the Drag Story Hours and smut on the shelves, of course they are. /s

      *eyes roll so far back in her head she falls over*

    7. Starbuck*

      Broad? I wouldn’t say so, but there’s an extremely vocal and hateful minority across the country who think so, who are given a much larger platform than they deserve.

    8. Bibliothecarial*

      Kelly Jensen at BookRiot has been covering this extensively. There are 15-20 news stories every week about book bans in school and public libraries across the US (and Canada! …yay?). It’s pretty awful and only going to get worse and more widespread without massive organized resistance. OP may want to check out EveryLibrary, an organization that helps with book bans and harassment of librarians.

    9. Sindy*

      Alt-right and other people of that stripe are calling librarians and educators slurs and names for having certain books in their libraries or for assigning those books to their students as assignments. To give you an idea of what kind of books they are objecting to, please refer to this news story about a Texas teacher who was fired for assigning The Diary of Anne Frank to teach about the Holocaust:

  7. mango chiffon*

    Based on the wording here and the current environment, am assuming this is around LGBTQ+ related books. I don’t have much to add other than I’m so sorry that this is happening…

    1. narya*

      Thanks for that insight, because I couldn’t understand why these people would have anything against a library & its staff to begin with, and calling them “groomers.” But this makes sense. And is so profoundly effed up.

    2. Thistle Pie*

      I have a comment below but it likely has nothing to do with LGBTQ related books (I’m sure there are exceptions). It has to do with people believing they should be able to exercise their first amendment rights, which includes recording government employees. If you ask them to leave they can sue your employer and post the video online for ad revenue.

        1. Trans Library Leader*

          Auditors and the anti-sjw types run in the same circles though. From OP’s letter it sounds like people are commenting on the videos that library staff are “groomers” – not that they’re being called that to their face. Most likely it’s First Amendment auditors posting the videos and then a different group of people grabbing hold of the video as PROOF that the library is indoctrinating youth.

          1. MissElizaTudor*

            This. They aren’t necessarily the same people, and some auditors are more left than right, but it seems like a right wing libertarian hobby for the most part, and those people are in the same social circles and the type of people who accuse teachers and librarians of horrible things for supporting LGBTQ+ kids.

      1. mango chiffon*

        The being called “groomers” comment and the reference to other libraries getting bomb threats made me believe it has to do with the content of the books and the alt right who are opposed to the existence of LGBTQ+ content at all.

        1. Thistle Pie*

          Yeah, I think in some places this is more common than others. Being in MA we generally see a lot more people who are focused on exercising their free speech rights than people focused on “grooming” and banned books, but it’s not unheard of. Luckily we haven’t had any bomb threats in our area.

          1. penny dreadful analyzer*

            Hi, I am also in MA and this is incorrect. MA’s right-wing jerkwads are exactly like anywhere else’s–they hate anybody different than themselves and are using “free speech” as a smokescreen to deflect from what they’re actually saying and doing, which is trying to harass The Wrong Kind of People out of existing in public. Drag Queen Story Hours have been a particular target for right-wing protests and intimidation attempts, from both faux-respectable “concerned parent” type groups like the Mass Family Institute and outright neo-Nazi groups like Nationalist Social Club.

            1. Thistle Pie*

              I guess it’s just not the ones I’ve encountered then – or it hasn’t been as obvious! To be clear, I don’t think any of them are well intentioned, I guess all of the fuss I’ve seen locally has been specifically about government officials trying to kick them out.

      2. What, what?*

        This absolutely is about LGBTQ+ content. Calling librarians, teachers, etc “groomers” is part of a coordinated attack on queer people, specifically trans people.

        1. IneffableBastard*

          Yes. It is usually interloped with other kinds of prejudice (race, religion, etc), because bigotry rarely comes in single packages, but it is still about LGBTQ+ content.

  8. triss merigold*

    I don’t think it’s silly at all to complain about these people filming you considering it could very well be step one on the path to bomb threats.

  9. A. Nonymous*

    “With the (large) caveat that I am not a lawyer and you might want to consult with one familiar with your local laws:”

    So….any reason why you *didn’t* ask a lawyer before answering this question?

    1. wondermint*

      She did, its at the end.

      So…any reason why you *didn’t* read the entire post before commenting?

      1. A. Nonymous*

        My point is that that should have preceded her own answer, rather than being tacked on at the end.

        1. B. Nonymous*

          You asked why she *didn’t* do it, not ‘why did you do it in the way that you did it’. It’s not what you asked. If your question was about how the article is organized (in other words, if it’s about editing), you could have said that. You didn’t.

        2. Peanut Hamper*

          Probably because the lawyer’s answer didn’t change anything in her response.

          What a weird thing to get hung up on.

          1. Eliot Waugh*

            It should have, though. The lawyer seemingly ALSO missed that they can’t legally disallow filming in a public space.

            1. Lilac*

              The lawyer didn’t say that they can’t prohibit filming. Their comment was about how the resulting video footage can or can’t be used.

        3. Antilles*

          How would putting it at the start rather than the end change the advice?
          The advice would still be the same: You’d still want to consult a local attorney familiar with local laws, you’d still run across the issue of your employer’s policy, and you’d still probably need to band together with co-workers to push to change said policy.

          1. Another Librarian Here*

            In my state if it is in a public space of the library and not violating the aspects of our patron behavior policy , it IS legal and your library doesn’t have recourse. However, they cannot follow you into private staff-only spaces. We’ve had training on this in our library and, as a previous poster stated, the key is to be as boring, unalarmed and literal as possible, and when they ask a question to blandly say “Ok, let me find someone who can help you with that” and get a manager or the person in charge. They want you to get riled up, as boring things don’t get eyeballs. And the fact that the library allows you to remove your name tag is actually a big thing.

    2. Lilac*

      The LW didn’t say where they’re located, so an attorney contacted on the LW’s behalf wouldn’t be able to advise on their local laws.

    3. Colette*

      Alison is not a lawyer; she writes a workplace advice blog. It’s reasonable to assume that someone writing to her is writing for her opinion, not because they don’t know how to google “lawyer near me”.

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      Because lawyers charge for their time and expertise, law is very jurisdiction-specific, and this is a broad work-related advice column and not a legal consultation service?

    5. connie*

      Always remember that any lawyer quoted here or anywhere else on the internet isn’t YOUR lawyer (the one YOU PAY) and that’s the one whose advice matters.

    6. NothingIsLittle*

      Because local laws are enormously different and presumably OP has not revealed their location to Alison? Not to mention, of course that there’s a comment from a lawyer at the end of the response or anything.

      In Florida, the Sunshine Law means that nearly any government employee’s address must be given to a member of the public who asks for it; how many other places do you think that applies to?

      So… is there any reason you decided to make a snarky comment instead of considering that maybe you were being needlessly rude?

  10. Kerry*

    I work in public service in a two party state and unfortunately these recordings in public buildings are legal, albeit crappy. There’s been an uptick in “first amendment auditors” making these videos and they are absolutely obnoxious so my sympathies are with the OP.

    1. Mr. Shark*

      I guess I’m confused on how they are legal if it’s a two-party consent state. Wouldn’t the fact that the person getting recorded isn’t consenting negate the legality of it being a public place?

      1. Forrest Rhodes*

        That was my question too, Mr. Shark. Or is it that the law identifies the two parties as: (1) the filmer and (2) the entity—library, bookstore, etc.— that occupies the space being filmed [which would be the library] rather than the individual person being filmed.

        Either way, this sucks large. I am infuriated beyond recognition at these manipulators of unnecessary conflict, and I absolutely refuse to give up my vintage copy of McElligot’s Pool.

      2. Pescadero*

        It’s the other way around.

        You only need two party consent in a two party state if there is an expectation of privacy. In public – no one needs any consent to film you.

      3. Maggie*

        The OP and a lot of commenters have a fundamental misunderstanding of what a two party vs one party consent state are. Those laws apply to situations with some level of presumed privacy. Not places like a public library or park. There is a lot of case law that supports this and everyone seems to be missing this. No I don’t agree with what these filmers are doing, but just the act of filming in a library is legal. If they’re causing a disturbance, threatening people, etc then the focus should be on the ways those things are illegal or against policies that are supported by case law.

  11. Rara Avis*

    Last year I had a client ask to record a video conference — no nefarious reason, just to share with someone who couldn’t attend. I really didn’t want to say yes, but I did. When I ran it by my boss afterwards, his take on it was that it didn’t matter because they could have recorded without asking, so it’s out of our control. I will note that I also live in a two-party consent state, and we DO have a policy against recording employees in-person, so I pointed out that it would have been illegal for them to record without asking me. Crickets.

    1. Observer*

      When I ran it by my boss afterwards, his take on it was that it didn’t matter because they could have recorded without asking, so it’s out of our control.

      That’s actually not true. All of the major video conferencing tools let you know that the recording is happening, so you could in theory have stopped the meeting right there.

      Keep in mind that it’s not so easy for someone to use an external camera to record such a meeting without your noticing.

      1. Rara Avis*

        In the particular tool we were using, which is a small obscure one, it did not show me that he was recording. I wouldn’t have known if he hadn’t asked.

      2. jtr*

        There is software that allows you to record your screen without interfacing with the actual conferencing software, e.g., Loom.

    2. ferrina*

      This sounds like an updated version of The Customer Is Always Right.
      Boo on your boss, and good on you for pointing this out!

  12. Public Safety Executive*

    Are you a staff member at a publicly tax funded library system in the US?

    If so, the circuit courts have routinely generally recognized that citizens can film and record public employees at work in a public forum where there is no expectation of privacy. They can’t follow you into a staff or nonpublic area or try to capture patron information, but every where else is fair game.

    The reason is that any institution that receives public dollars are subject to accountability and transparency and that citizens have a right to see their monies at work.

    1. Chairman of the Bored*

      This is my understanding as well.

      Obviously it’s unfortunate that LW has to deal with bad-faith crazies in their workplace, but the fundamental idea of “people have a right to inspect/record the activities of the public services they pay for” doesn’t strike me as unreasonable or something that is likely to change.

    2. Observer*

      The reason is that any institution that receives public dollars are subject to accountability and transparency and that citizens have a right to see their monies at work.

      That, and it also provides a level of accountability beyond “money at work” that might otherwise not happen.

      To take a rather high profile case – the George Floyd protests *and prosecutions* would almost certainly not have happened without the video footage.

      It’s not for nothing that police departments try to keep people from recording.

    3. Sloanicota*

      Does this extend to posting videos of public employees and calling them “groomers” ? That seems like it’s going beyond these so-called “first amendment audits.”

      1. Pescadero*

        “Does this extend to posting videos of public employees ”


        ‘and calling them “groomers”’

        The employee can sue for defamation.

        1. Former Librarian*

          It’s hilarious that your solution is for wildly underpaid library workers to file defamation lawsuits we can’t afford against people whose first and last names we may not even know.

        2. Sal*

          I agree that this is how the law is set up. (I don’t think anyone in the comments section today outlining the law agrees that the situation is totally hunky-dory for the LW, on a normative level, for the record.)

          And for what it’s worth, I do think you could win a defamation suit for being called a “groomer.” It might even be per se damages. (Not a tort lawyer either!)

      2. Sparkle Llama*

        So the thing with first amendment audits is the people doing them try to make it seem like they are promoting accountability and free speech, but most are just in it for attention. So it is not at all surprising that this would be how it is going. If you watch any of the popular videos online they are actively trying to get a reaction out of the employees.

      3. Maggie*

        Case law on the subject pretty much does. I think the smartest thing to do would try to make it extremely boring for these people to film and to focus on other laws or policies that might be being broken. Such as harassment of patrons, disturbing the piece, threats of violence, etc. You really and truly do have a right to film in public in the US. I’m not saying anyone should do this, but you can stand outside at a public park filming people for an hour! Laws get stricter the more private the space it, so a private business that allows the public inside (say a coffee shop or a shoe store) may have more right to restrict filming. But a fully public building really does not have that right. I get that it sucks and it’s wrong what people are doing but in general filming strangers and then saying bad things about them online, just isn’t illegal. Now, if the person being filmed was a public figure, even locally, then potentially slander/defamation could come into play. But you can’t really defame someone who isn’t famous. Random people saying bad things about an average worker is unlikely to turn into much. Just like you can’t defame someone who already has a horrible reputation, you can’t really defame someone who no one knows. Although it would be very interesting to see how a lawsuit played itself out under the claim that being a librarian is in and of itself something that makes a person have a good reputation and therefore it could be slandered. Anyway, the people doing this stuff suck, but the focus should be on other behaviors to remove them and not the filming.

        1. Sal*

          Disagree–private citizens have a lower burden of proof than public figures when it comes to defamation claims. Perhaps proving damages is harder, but I think an allegation that someone is a “groomer” is likely defamatory per se (check your local law! Not legal advice!).

    4. Pippa K*

      Publicly and specifically calling an identifiable individual a “groomer” seems at least potentially defamatory, though.

    5. Awlbiste*

      Assistant Director at a public library here and this is exactly what our attorney told us. We have a policy stating they are not allowed to film patrons (due to laws in my state around library privacy specifically), but they are absolutely allowed to film in general and they are allowed to film staff while they are on the general floor. They cannot film in our office area, as that would potentially expose library/patron records which must be kept private.

      Public libraries are generally considered a “limited public forum” and we are allowed to place restrictions based on time (open hours), place (not the back office), and manner (patrons need to wear shirts).

      Admittedly I don’t know how links work here, but OP, the Office of Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association has a lot of good information about First Amendment audits.

      1. MountainAir*

        So just as a for instance, hypothetical….

        If a patron saw this happening, I am assuming it would be legally within their rights to step into frame? Perhaps to also say to the librarian that they are in need of assistance and concerned the person with the camera was obstructing their ability to access public services?

        Just as a for instance.

        1. Forrest Rhodes*

          Oh, I like this. Or maybe I can just trot back and forth directly between the filmer and their target (close to the filmer, of course, so I completely block their frame) while loudly declaiming “Oops, I left my frammis over here” … “Oh, no, I think it’s over there” … “Nope, I’m sure it was over here” … etc.

      2. Drago Cucina*

        “Limited public forum” is the key. As such the library can have a no-filming policy. If they do not comply then the police can be called.

        Filming patrons in most states would not be allowed. In my state, the statute is that any use of the public library is private. So, if they film a patron they are in violation of state law. I’ve had high school students ask to have their photo taken in the library. We’ve agreed as long as no one else is in the photo.

        1. Observer*

          “Limited public forum” is the key. As such the library can have a no-filming policy. If they do not comply then the police can be called.

          Nope, for the most part at least for the staff, that’s not the case. (As others have noted.)

          1. Drago Cucina*

            In Kreimer v. Board of Police of Morristown, NJ, the court held that because public libraries are a limited public forum, constitutional protection is afforded only to those expressive activities that are consistent with the mission and purpose of the library.

            According to the Kreimer opinion, photography and filming may be regulated by the library using reasonable, neutral rules. Meaning the library cannot let one group freely film, but not another.

            OCLC also has a First Amendment Audit Bulletin that addresses this issue.

    6. Cat's Paw for Cats*

      Retired public library director here, and this is true. People can legally film in public libraries. There are some limits. They can’t generally film in non-public areas such as break rooms, for example. And people can be removed from the library for creating a disturbance, but that’s a very high bar. If someone were filming an employee while simultaneously screaming that the employee is a groomer, then likely the filmer can be removed and temporarily banned because they are disrupting library operations. Additional disruptive behavior after the temp ban is over could result in a permanent ban. But simply standing there quietly filming would not necessarily withstand a court challenge.

      Calling a library employee a groomer might be actionable as a defamation claim, but some recent court cases call into question as well.

      By the way, this is not new behavior in public libraries. I first began dealing with these things in the early when I first became a children’s librarian. It is new to post it online, however.

      I do think library management needs to communicate clearly with staff and to advise them of their rights and responsibilities and also provide them with some counseling or other support as needed. Doesn’t sound as if that’s happening here.

      1. Cat's Paw for Cats*

        Sorry, should be:

        I first began dealing with these things in the early 1990’s when I first became a children’s librarian.

    7. MissEmily*

      I work as a manager at a public library and have watched this discussion happen in library spaces for years, but with recent escalation. We cannot forbid the public to film staff in a public area for the reasons listed above, but I can suspend people for violating our rules of conduct. Such as being verbally abusive to staff or they do not stop following a staff member when requested (not following staff directives). But we are careful to not say that we are calling because we are being filmed (it’s allowed) they should say they feel unsafe and that is enough. A security expert that spoke at a recent library conference I attended said he has advised his library staff to be as boring as possible because escalation is what they want. However, if they post something on social media calling the staff member a groomer then our city lawyers would be involved. It’s a hard issue to navigate and because it’s happening more and more it’s good to meet before it happens and have a plan.

      1. MissEmily*

        I meant to say above, the staff is absolutely allowed to call the police, but I tell them to use the language that they feel unsafe or harassed (such as they are being followed) which is the truth and not just “they are filming me” because these groups are looking for that so they can claim a first amendment violation. (In many cases they will FOIA the police call…and add that to their video) It’s exhausting.

      2. MountainAir*

        This is what I was wondering. If behavior is threatening, that should be enough to call it in, you just can’t make it about the filming – the harassment should be something you can act on though?

        Similarly, I would imagine a sympathetic patron would also be able to call something in and say that the behavior was threatening and making them feel unsafe accessing public services?

    8. Librarian*

      This is EXACTLY it. Letter writer, I’m really sorry you are dealing with this. I’m a public librarian and it’s happening where I am, too. Maybe you can suggest to your director that the library staff would benefit from First Amendment Audit training. Then you will all be more comfortable and know what to do if these nutjobs come for your library.

  13. Tedious Cat*

    Libraries will sell out their employees to the bitter end. The vocational awe is completely out of control.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      If it is a publicly-funded or public library, there may be very little that they can do other than try to provide guidance to avoid lawsuits against themselves and their employees. It’s a public space (so two-party consent likely doesn’t matter because because it’s not private in the first place), and, as someone noted above, the courts have generally sided with those recording public employees in public spaces. They can’t endorse their employees asking not to be filmed if there is settled law on the matter – that gives the filmers ammunition to use in their fight against free access to books and their histrionic conspiracy theories.

      1. Tedious Cat*

        If only this were the only issue where library employees were expected to set themselves on fire to keep the world warm. The profession does not give a shit about advocating for its people.

        1. Thistle Pie*

          That may be valid but this is constitutional issue, not an issue of libraries treating employees badly. The best thing the employer can do is offer training to all of their staff on the issue.

    2. Throwaway Account*

      This is very true, vocational awe and, quite frankly, laziness lead to libraries doing nothing.

      My old library took “First Amendment auditors” and the like very seriously (if only to protect the library, not the staff). We were given clear scripts we could follow and were told we could always go get a manager. You really can protect your staff if you want to.

    3. ferrina*

      Ideally, the boss would be able to provide some kind of media-management training. Librarians simply aren’t trained to be in front of cameras, and (I hope) aren’t trained on how to handle hostile actors!

      The boss would do well to bring in an organization that can teach the librarians how to manage this sort of situation. At the very least, most civil disobedience activist organizations have trainings for their volunteers that are likely to get arrested. It’s several hours long and it teaches you how to respond in a non-violent manner that also is clear to bystanders that you are non-violent (this is super important).

  14. Observer*

    Your management doesn’t sound great. But a couple of thoughts.

    One is that there is a difference between “You can’t call the police for legal but inappropriate behavior” (which the filming is) and “You can’t call the police ever, even when someone is threatening your safety”. It sounds like your management is saying the former. So, that’s something to keep in mind.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that walking away is generally your best bet anyway. People of the sort you describe are *not* going to stop just because you asked them to, and they are just going to film your negative reaction and try to use it against you.

    Lastly, I’m not a “never call the police, no matter what” person. But you really, really don’t want to call the police unless you absolutely have to in a public library. The police are not always the best at an handling unruly, aggressive and possibly unstable people. And even when they do everything right, there is still a risk to the bystanders – especially any kids who might be there. Sometimes you have no choice, and it’s the lesser of two evils. But if my kid were in the library when the police got called because someone was filming a library staffer who *had the option of walking away*? I would not be a happy camper.

    1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      I hope you’re exaggerating. There is no reason to be unhappy about the police entering the library while your child is there. This is victim blaming.

      If a staffer felt unsafe and called the police and they came, you would be unhappy? You seem to be implying that something bad would definitely happen to your child and that is more important than anything else. Which is an incredibly crappy response to someone being harrassed at their job.

      1. MissElizaTudor*

        They said they’d be unhappy if the police were called when the staff member could have just walked away.

        It’s not victim blaming to acknowledge that calling the police comes with risks, especially when the police are handling a complicated situation or people behaving unpredictably. They’re bad at dealing with those things, so that further increases the risk.

        It also isn’t victim blaming to say that if someone feels unsafe, and they have a simple way to stop that (walking away, going into a back office) they should take that action rather than calling the police or otherwise escalating the situation.

      2. tinyhipsterboy*

        I really don’t think that’s fair given what we know about the police in the USA, how they’re not actually obligated to protect people, and the likelihood of harming innocent people around them, especially people of color.

        It’s not victim blaming to be worried about your child’s safety around police, particularly in the context of the US. Nothing about the comment says that issues are the librarian’s fault. The implication isn’t “something bad would definitely happen to their child and that is more important than anything else”; it’s that we know calling the police can actually result in more harm, including to bystanders, and can’t do anything about someone filming in a public library as it is.

        1. Elle*

          This is simply a wise assessment, in the US. When we call the cops, we are inviting trouble and danger. Pretending otherwise is a great way to tell on oneself.

          1. I Have RBF*


            I’m white, AFAB, over 60. Should be safe, right? Nope – I’m disabled and non-binary.

            Even middle-aged white men can be treated poorly by cops these days, but anyone who is not a straight, white, middle-aged male will get treated worse.

            Our police system needs a massive overhaul in the US, but it’s going to have to come from the Federal level, with uniform psychological, training and testing standards that de-emphasize the violent fear responses (“I was in fear for my life”, says the guy with a gun) and emphasize safety and de-escalation.

      3. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

        Even if the police were good at helping people de-escalate (they are not, it isn’t their job or what they’re trained for) adding a person with a gun and a taser to a situation that previously contained zero guns and tasers is going to be a net loss for safety.

      4. Stuff*

        I mean, in my city a few years back, an unhoused person was masturbating in the library, and the police were called. Reasonable, right? Well, the cop was so pissed at the guy that he gave him a beating right there in the library, and got away with it despite being caught on camera and it being very clear it wasn’t a necessary use of force.

        At a community meeting about police use of force, I directly brought this incident up in response to a cop saying these things don’t happen in our community. That cop (not the cop who delivered the beating) looked me in the eye and just went “Oh, so people should be allowed to just masturbate in the library, then?” Like the cop couldn’t even conceive of any options beside “Let the guy masturbate” and “publicly beat the guy as summary punishment for his offense”.

        When library staff decides to call the cops in response to a situation, yes, thet do need to be aware that this is the sort of reponse that is likely to occur.

    2. Lily Potter*

      I live in a city that is having trouble attracting and retaining its police force. I have confidence in their abilities and would not have an issue with officers entering a public library to deal with an issue. To say that the police are “not the best at handling unruly/aggressive/unstable people” has not been my experience here – the police are EXACTLY who I’d want dealing with such types. However, given their thin ranks, I don’t want the called police to deal with people who are simply being annoying, as opposed to overtly threatening. There’s a difference.

      The role of the library has changed a lot in recent years. If a person went into the profession because they’re introverted and like a quiet workspace where they don’t have to interact with people, that person isn’t going to enjoy their work much these days. Some of our libraries have become as much a social services center as a place where little kids attend storytime. Library workers are now dealing with what workers at City Hall have had to deal with for many years. I’m sorry that the LW is having to deal with a bunch of PITA patrons, but I wouldn’t expect things to change much, if at all, going forward.

      1. tinyhipsterboy*

        In fairness, though, we know the police as a whole are bad at handling unruly/aggressive/unstable people. They might be better in certain areas (like yours!), but it’s pretty well-documented that police as a whole in the US are bad at deescalation and can be dangerous to bystanders, let alone the people they’re called on. I agree that they shouldn’t be called on someone who’s just being annoying, even if it’s undue harassment, but I do think we need to recognize that the police have a lot of baggage that comes along with them, regardless of what our specific local police forces may be like.

      2. Observer*

        To say that the police are “not the best at handling unruly/aggressive/unstable people” has not been my experience here – the police are EXACTLY who I’d want dealing with such types.

        The reality is that statistics and nation-wide experience shows otherwise, when talking about situations where there are mental health issues at play / there is a priority on minimizing *all* violence / there are a lot of bystanders who could be hurt in the process. Not because they are terrible people, but because their training and tool sets don’t really apply to many of these situations.

        If a person went into the profession because they’re introverted and like a quiet workspace where they don’t have to interact with people, that person isn’t going to enjoy their work much these days.

        As many librarians have pointed out, public libraries have *never* been places for people like this. Libraries may have been quiet, but the librarian has *always* had to interact with lots of people – some of the highly obnoxious.

        1. UKDancer*

          Indeed. My mother was a librarian for a while in the 1970s and she had to deal with difficult people (men exposing themselves and approaching children being a particular issue). My godmother was a librarian in the 1950s and she had to deal with a similar sort of issue (and gave me much useful advice on how to deal with men misbehaving which came in useful on night buses in London a few times).

          Librarians have always had to deal with misbehaviour and while the type of it has changed (obviously my godmother never had to deal with inappropriate IT content) many things, sadly, have not.

    3. Laser99*

      I have to disagree. Calling the police is the only thing that works sometimes. Any crank who thinks, “I’m not listening to these women, they can’t stop me anyway” will not feel the same about police officers and the attendant bad publicity, possible job loss, and so forth. (Yes, I know all genders work in libraries but it is still dominated women/female-presenting.)

      1. Observer*

        I have to disagree

        What exactly are you disagreeing with?

        Calling the police is the only thing that works sometimes

        True. Which is why I said that you should not call the police *unless you have to.* But if there are other options, you do *not* “have to” – that’s what the other options are for.

        Any crank who thinks, “I’m not listening to these women, they can’t stop me anyway”

        Sure, if the crank tries to follow someone into an employee space, because they think that they “don’t have to listen to these women” (or whatever their reason is), that’s a different story. But we’re not talking about that. We’re talking about a situation where the librarians are not being followed.

  15. NotAManager*

    I’m so sorry this is happening, but because the library is a public space during open hours, there’s nothing that can be done. You can verbally *request* that they please not film you, but it’s perfectly legal; when we were briefed on a similar situation in my workplace, we were essentially told that, in the United States, once you venture outside your home, there is no expectation that you will be exempt from being filmed or recorded. Essentially being out in public is the implied consent to being filmed. It’s tricky with libraries because we’re being paid to be there and can’t just leave work without facing consequences, but I’ve been informed that apart from hiding out in a staff-only area (which not everyone can do because we still need staff to provide service to the public), there’s no legal recourse.

    As I understand it, other patrons don’t have recourse either – they can choose to leave the building, but I’ve never been advised to have patrons call the police because they’re being filmed. And any insults and accusations made, unless they involve physical threats we were advised to ignore – that’s all covered under the filmmaker’s free speech rights.

    Again, I’m really sorry; these folks can feel really threatening even if they don’t fit the legal definition of being a threat.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Like the open carry people, I assume the point is to be deliberately provacative and then thumb their noses at people who are upset.

      1. NotAManager*

        It is – they’re looking for a negative reaction and *especially* any forcible attempt to make them stop filming because then their First Amendment rights *are* being infringed upon *by* a government institution. In the short term it’s for clicks and online clout; in the long-term it’s an attempt to get libraries closed.

  16. Just My 2 cents*

    Also a librarian here, at least in my home state, it has been decided because we are a public building that telling someone to not film infringes on a person’s 1st amendment right. So, it is illegal to tell them to stop filming. at least according to my library’s lawyers. I know it sucks, but legally, you are in the wrong to tell them to stop filming.
    My state has also been dealing with the bomb threats, so I would think we are in the same state.

    1. Ms. Elaneous*

      Well, I get filming public employees in the name of transparency, but what if someone films a patron and what they are reading/ viewing?

      I can’t wait for tiktok etc to go the way of myspace.

      1. Antilles*

        I would assume it’s then up to that individual patron to tell them to stop filming.
        Which seems unlikely since a patron is just sitting quietly in a chair or walking the aisles looking for a book probably doesn’t even realize they’re being filmed in the background of the video.

      2. Pescadero*

        In general – it’s the same as someone filming you reading a book on a bench in a public park… perfectly legal.

    2. quetzal*

      I dealt with this years ago as a library assistant. The best technique I found is just to completely not react. If they ask for something a normal patron would, just act totally normal and ignore the camera. If they get belligerent, completely ignore them and go walk into a non public area.

  17. Another Librarian*

    Please have your library review the ALA guidelines regarding this. As a public employee funded by tax payers they are allowed to film you but they still need to abide by any patron code of conduct, shouldn’t infringe on other patrons right to privacy, shouldn’t escalate to harassment, and like you’ve pointed out can’t follow into designated staff spaces.

    ALA guidance here:,their%20duties%20in%20public%20spaces.

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      Yeah, this. Also, reach out to your state library association. When we thought this might happen in our state, the library association helped out. There is support out there. Librarian solidarity. You don’t deserve this and you don’t have to be alone.

      1. Nessie*

        I was looking through the comments for this! Yes, reach out to your state library association – they helped when we were facing this issue at the public library I work at. Our code of conduct was expressly updated with wording saying you could be asked to leave if you are photographing or filming staff or patrons without their permission thanks to guidance from our state library association. If your leadership won’t contact them, I’m sure if you or a group of co-workers did you could get some better guidance than what you are getting now.

  18. Ms. Elaneous*

    Practical help:
    1. wear a mask at work. and sunglasses. they can go on your head when no one is filming
    2. ( not my original idea) Have Disney music ready to play. If the video has sound, and those idiots post it, Disney will stop them. I don’t know how much royalties are to have Disney music playing in a library, but probably well worth it.
    3. (scorched earth) Figure out the filmer’s most insecure spot ( Bald, fat, bad hair, no girlfriend) Refer to it while being filmed.
    Not sure? Try them all.
    4. Agree with AAM .. that you have the use of your own image.
    5. Definitely ask your government for a no filming in the library without rule, since your boss is a wimp.

    1. Observer*

      (scorched earth) Figure out the filmer’s most insecure spot ( Bald, fat, bad hair, no girlfriend) Refer to it while being filmed.

      That plays right into their narrative. This *will* get posted with scathing commentary about how these librarians are such awful people.

      1. Nia*

        People who make and view these videos are already lost causes. Their opinions are worthless. There’s no need to be polite to such trash.

        1. Starbuck*

          No but the more you do to give them interesting/enraging content for their audiences, the more engagement and validation and sometimes money they get, which leads them to continue and escalate.

        2. New Jack Karyn*

          It’s not about being polite. It’s about giving them what they want, which is conflict. Conflict ignites their persecution complexes, drives engagement on their channels, and fills their pockets.

      2. metadata minion*

        And will piss off anyone else with those completely innocuous characteristics who is sick of them being used for laughs and insults. It also assumes the librarian is not themselves fat, bald, or single.

      3. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

        Have you ever seen any of these videos? This will get posted with scathing commentary about how awful librarians are no matter what actually happens. That’s the entire point of making them.

    2. NotAManager*

      I don’t know if you intended for this to be tongue-in-cheek, but aside from wearing a mask, most of these suggestions will get LW fired. This isn’t a matter of library administration being “wimps.” Legally, their hands are tied.

    3. Observer*

      Definitely ask your government for a no filming in the library without rule

      As others have noted, their government *cannot* deploy such a rule.

    4. MissElizaTudor*

      A lot of these are bad advice, both practically, and, for the last one, legally. People generally have a first amendment right to film in public and to film government employees doing their jobs (some exceptions apply). Wearing a mask is a good idea, though! It’s smart to do at a job interacting with people anyway, and will make you harder to identify. Plus they might get distracted and focus in on their anti-mask agenda instead of their even scarier “librarians are groomers” agenda.

    5. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      You definitely do not want to do number 3. Do not escalate. That’s when people get hurt. Also, it’s gross to go after someone’s looks. Don’t do it. Ever.

      1. Observer*

        Do not escalate. That’s when people get hurt. Also, it’s gross to go after someone’s looks. Don’t do it. Ever.

        Yeah. There is an old saying “Don’t try to wrestle with a pig. You’ll both get dirty, but the pig will enjoy it.”

    6. Fiona*

      “3. (scorched earth) Figure out the filmer’s most insecure spot ( Bald, fat, bad hair, no girlfriend)”

      Definitely *DO NOT* do this.

    7. SB*

      I do wonder if the Disney music would work or if these “people” are smart enough to strip background sounds from footage while retaining the speech track.

    8. NothingIsLittle*

      100% do not do any of this (except possibly the mask)! 2 and 3 will cause them to escalate; these people are lunatics and know the “Disney Trick” and will use that to say you are trying to limit their free speech, 3 is only proving that libraries and dangerous and make you look bad to the very few reasonable people who see the video. 4 probably will not help you; my area has long legally defended these people. 5 is not legal.

  19. Ex-prof*

    IANAL, but my understanding was that federal law contradicts state law in two-party consent states… which to my non-lawyerly ears suggest only SCOTUS can decide? …

    BUT that’s not even the point here. The point is you have people coming into the libary for the sole purpose of HARASSING YOU (scuse my shouty caps) and the library patrons.

    They’re not coming in to use the library, correct?

    Let’s imagine instead they were coming in to look for romance, and were approaching every worker and visitor of their preferred gender to ask them out.

    My guess is that your boss wouldn’t have any problem saying, or allowing you, to ask that person to leave, even though asking people out is probably legal in your state.

    How is this different

    1. Beka Cooper*

      Thank you, I was thinking this as well. They’re harassing them, and happen to be filming. I definitely agree with comments above about grey-rocking them and being as boring as possible, but surely they should be protected from harassment while doing their job?

    2. I'm just here for the cats!*

      You are so right. Also, they are not doing this quietly, so they are also disturbing other patrons and using up resources (i.e. the librarians time) that could be used for others.

  20. Jay_Ess*

    I don’t have any recommendations, just loving solidarity as a fellow librarian who was also recently filmed and called horrible names for daring to think trans kids deserve protection.

    in Canada most library staff are unionized, and let me tell you what a boon that is. it’s not a short term fix, but I truly wish union protection on all my American colleagues.

    1. Observer*

      in Canada most library staff are unionized, and let me tell you what a boon that is. it’s not a short term fix, but I truly wish union protection on all my American colleagues.

      Even unions are not going to be able to fix this – there are good reasons for the rule that people are allowed to film “public servants” who are in public / on government property *doing their job*. So, if the OP were in the grocery, the fact that they also happen to be an employee of a government funded agency would not be relevant, but since they are actually doing library work in the library, they cannot keep people from filming them.

      I get it – most of the folks doing the filming are *not* acting in good faith, and that’s truly unfair to the OP.

      1. Elle*

        Um, exactly none of the people coming into libraries and filming/calling anyone a groomer is operating in good faith.

        1. Bibliothecarial*

          First amendment auditing videos, from what I understand, did start in good faith as simply forcing government entities to abide by the first amendment. The harassment regarding lgbtqia books is a separate and serious issue.

    2. slashgirl*

      Unionization is a good thing (I’m unionized), but in this case, it isn’t likely to help. Unions cannot break the law to protect their employees. As several people have said, this is in the US and in the US people have a first amendment right to film in public spaces. A public library, paid for by taxes, is a public space. So, not sure what a union could even do.

      1. Boof*

        Might be better able to sue for libel/slander – i’m sure there’s more ways to handle bullies than just let it happen. It’s illegal to lie, etc

  21. Panhandlerann*

    What librarians and libraries are going through these days is simply disgusting. I am so, so sorry, OP.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Librarians and teachers are two groups that have unexpectedly become hot-button targets. Poll workers are another category that presumably didn’t expect to wade into a war zone when they agreed to perform a public service.

      1. Laser99*

        Every profession that is dominated by women is under constant attack; nursing, receptionists, librarians, teachers, and so on. And those are “white collar” professions. The things that servers, house cleaners, and so on experience are even worse.

  22. Librarians are amazing*

    I’m so sorry. I would see what your city/county policy is for filming employees. Sounds like library leadership may be setting their own policies that may or may not align with other policies. Also, setting up tripods goes well beyond just filming someone from their phone. I would wonder if that’s one way to set more limits. It’s not about the filming, you can’t set up a tripod that someone could trip over.

  23. saskia*

    Yikes. I’d be wearing a face mask if this was happening at my job… and practicing my non-reaction technique.

    Side question about patrons being told they can call the police — in a two-party consent state, do the patrons have a reasonable expectation of privacy inside the library, or are they in ‘public’? If they do need to consent, could a patron just walk up to the circulation desk, begin speaking with the employee, and say to the cameraperson “I do not consent to be recorded”?

    I wonder if recording laws will evolve over the next few decades due to the rapid advancement in video technology too. Either way, this is a stressful mess. Good luck, OP.

    1. Anna K*

      This is what I was thinking, too: from a practical level, really try to up a stonewall/blank slate reaction. I’m personally a slow talker, so I usually take a few beats to respond to any question while I think it out and then answer relatively slowly compared to other people. I have noticed a side benefit is that it drives aggressive people absolutely bonkers and makes for very boring recordings.

      I also wonder if you aren’t allowed to say that you don’t consent to a recording, you can say that the recording makes you uncomfortable, just to make it absolutely clear that the recorder is being a dick

    2. Nocturna*

      Most US states have library patron privacy laws. While these will obviously vary from state to state, many of them will create an expectation of privacy around patrons’ use of the library. (Them simply being in the library may not be protected, but any indication of what they are in the library *for* likely would be.) Since two-party consent applies in situations where there’s an expectation of privacy, filming other patrons’ without their consent in ways that show what they’re doing or accessing (e.g., what books they have in hand, that they’re on the computer, etc.) would likely be a legal violation of privacy/consent. (I am not a lawyer, but am a librarian.)

    1. Dark Macadamia*

      I always do a Banned Books Week display in my classroom and the data for this year is SHOCKING. For the past 20 years or so book challenges in the US have stayed around 300 per year. In 2021 there were 1,858 and last year there were 2,571.

  24. Alex*

    This is such a tough situation, because the purpose of this filming is to intimidate you and make you feel unsafe. It’s working! However, I agree that a) your library probably can’t forbid first ammendment rights in this public space and b) calling the police and being allowed to cite policy probably won’t actually help the problem–it might actually make it worse.

    Can you approach your management in the spirit of collaboration and ask for training/resources to deal with this kind of conflict? Being a librarian *shouldn’t* have to include conflict de-escalation training, but sadly here we are. It isn’t unreasonable that you should want tools and skills you help you manage what is the reality for your profession in this moment. Maybe having some kind of plan would help you feel safer.

    1. OP Librarian*

      We actually have given ALICE, de-escalation, and bomb threat training in previous years, but not all of the staff have been working here long enough to have received all of them.

      We try to never involve the police. Back when masking was required we had a large group come in unmasked and stage sit-ins, and the local police were no help. We ended up having to shut down briefly. The last time we had a bomb threat, years and years ago, it took police almost an hour to respond. They are not a resource we can use.

  25. Watry*

    Having been through something similar, adding to the chorus that while you probably can’t do anything, it sucks and you’re not being unreasonable for not liking it. They are 1000% trying to intimidate you, so it’s no wonder if you’re intimidated.

  26. KH.*

    These are frequently called “First Amendment audits” – if you Google that you’ll get a good overview. Assuming this is a public library, Allison is right that it largely depends on the specific circumstances.

    I work at an organization that has resources and legal experts that can speak to this question, if OP needs more information.

    1. Sloanicota*

      People keep saying this, but OP states that the filmers post the videos of librarians calling them “groomers.” Is that part of a first amendment audit? If the idea is to sic mobs on them and get death threats / bomb threats towards the library in an effort to make them remove certain books?

      1. tinyhipsterboy*

        I’m not super well-versed in the concept of these audits, but I’d assume that’s a feature, not a bug. These aren’t actual official audits from anyone; it’s right-wingers looking to pick a fight about anything they can, which goes hand-in-hand with the “groomer” rhetoric they’ve stepped up in recent months. The people filming are going to do whatever they can to get a reaction and to aim bad-faith accusations at librarians until they get exactly what they want.

      2. Elle*

        The death and bomb threats and mobs are 100% part of it. There are a lot of commenters acting as if these “audits” are real and it’s seriously concerning. The point of these actions is to intimidate and silence queer and trans people and the people who support us. There are absolutely no good intentions here.

        1. Chairman of the Bored*

          I don’t think it’s so much a matter of the audits being real as much as people’s right to do them being real – regardless of their intentions or motivations.

          Rights still exist even when being exercised by a bigoted crackpot, and library employees can’t just pretend that this is not the case. “Just throw them out” or “just call the cops” is very likely to be bad advice in this case.

          For example, Westboro Baptist Church is explicitly motivated by hatred and operating with bad intentions. They still have broad rights to freedom of speech/assembly/etc.

          1. UKDancer*

            Yes. I mean obviously the “audits” are real in that they’re happening even if they’re not what one might consider an audit.

            Nobody is saying they’re right to be going around filming people and it strikes me as the behaviour of a complete jerk. What people are saying is that in the US what they’re doing is not illegal and something the courts have ruled is allowed (as I understand it).

            If a right to something exists, then it exists for everyone, not just people you agree with or like. Obviously if they start damaging books or harassing patrons then that’s something the librarians can deal with, but as it stands they’re allowed to do what they’re doing. I think the best thing to do is be as uninterested, calm and non-responsive as possible.

          2. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

            And harassment of public employees, preventing them from doing their work, is illegal and doesn’t become legal just because you’re recording yourself doing something illegal.

        2. tinyhipsterboy*

          When it comes to libraries, yeah, absolutely. When I was searching for info about these “audits” after seeing people comment about ’em, it seems like some of these “auditors” lean more left than right, but it was almost exclusively in the context of filming police officers. That at least makes sense, given what we know about police brutality and overreach. Pulling this crap at a library, though? Absolutely meant to intimidate and silence us.

          Regardless of if the people OP is having to deal with are these bad-faith auditors or just your garden-variety right-wing grifters, as a queer guy, it’s pretty clear to me that it’s all about silencing us. In this context, “First Amendment auditing” is not a good-faith practice, and I hope other commenters can understand that.

        3. Maggie*

          No one’s saying they have good intentions, only that the filming in and of itself is not illegal.

        4. RagingADHD*

          The audits are “real” in the sense that this was a practice that predates the current issue, has been exercised for a number of years in other contexts, and has a somewhat standardized playbook for those who wish to stage them, so they can prove their actions were technically legal.

  27. Formerlibrarian*

    You may not have any standing to push back too hard on the filming, but the harassment of staff is a separate issue and may be covered under your library’s code of conduct. I’d check to see if you can have people removed and trespasses issued for harassment and verbal abuse of either staff or other patrons.

    1. Observer*

      <i.You may not have any standing to push back too hard on the filming, but the harassment of staff is a separate issue

      Yes, I think this is a good point. OP, when you go back to your management (as a group) focus on the harassment, NOT the filming.

      Even the First Amendment does not protect making threats that people could consider real. And quite probably the first amendment would also not protect behavior that is genuinely disruptive to the working of the library. So if they are yelling such that people can’t use the library, for example, that’s probably something you can require them to stop. (And if they film you saying “Please stop yelling so loud. You are scaring the children and keeping people from using the library.” That’s not going to have the effect they are looking for….)

    2. Punk Book Jockey*

      Yup, this is what I came looking for. Obviously the filming isn’t desirable, but the harassment of staff is the larger issue and can result in trespass or other consequences. Staff deserve to feel safe at work. Your patron conduct policy should hopefully spell out that harassment of staff is not tolerated. Our library system recently posted signage similar to what has popped up in private businesses during the last few years—it spells out that harassment of staff is not tolerated and gives examples of what is not okay.

  28. Thistle Pie*

    Public employee in Massachusetts USA, here. These are called being called First Amendments Audits by the folks who do them and your municipality’s insurance likely offers training on this and all of your municipality’s employees should request training on this. They often try to make government employees mess up and kick them out illegally, and then sue the municipality. It’s most often done with police officers, but I work in a Town Hall and it happens to us a few times per year. As a government employee there are many privacy elements you aren’t afforded that private sector employees have. The most common one is that your salary is public knowledge, but this is another one that prior to a few years ago wasn’t much of an issue but is rapidly becoming more common.

    Things you and your employer can and should do:
    -Train all staff on what they are legally allowed to do in these situations
    -Mark any and all staff only spaces with signage and DO NOT invite any members of the public into that space, even if people are not filming
    -Talk to your coworkers about how they feel about this and what their level of comfort is in front of a camera and in stressful situations. I’m on camera a lot for my job and deal with people yelling at me on a daily basis. If we have someone come into Town Hall to film, I try to be the first one they talk to. The first person they interact with sets the tone for the whole experience. I usually say “Hi is there anything I can do to help you?” they say no and I go back to my work and immediately instant message or email department heads that we are getting “audited”. This lets my colleagues prepare themselves for someone potentially showing up.

    It’s super uncomfortable but the best way to deal with it is by being polite and essentially “grey rocking” them. If they ask your opinion about something “I don’t know” or “I actually don’t have an opinion on that but if you’d like help finding a book I’m happy to help” is the easiest answer. Redirect to what services you would generally offer anyone from the public. They usually don’t post videos that are boring, they post videos that have people screaming at them to leave.

    1. Thistle Pie*

      Just adding that this usually (I’m sure there are exceptions) this has nothing to do with banned books or libraries “grooming” people like some commenters have assumed. People doing this are of the mindset that they should be able to exercise their first amendment right to record in any and all government buildings or situations involving government employees. So they “test” municipalities and then they make money off of lawsuits and YouTube ad revenue. One of the other things you’ll learn in training is to that anything on your desk is fair game so you may want to remove family pictures from your desk area and if you have sensitive documents those need to be hidden from plain sight at all times. Screen obscurers can also help for computers.

      1. Chairman of the Bored*

        “People doing this are of the mindset that they should be able to exercise their first amendment right to record in any and all government buildings or situations involving government employees. ”

        Generally speaking they are correct about this, hence the money they derive from successful lawsuits.

        1. Thistle Pie*

          Yes, they are legally able to but my point that I didn’t effectively make is that just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you SHOULD do something. You can legally be in the clear but still be a total jerk. I fully support the right that people should be able to record their public officials to hold them accountable, but it absolutely sucks to have someone approach your desk and film you sending emails for 20 minutes.

        2. I Have RBF*

          Gee, I wonder if this is a lucrative side hustle. Could I make money by going to a public facility staffed by anti-gay folks and film them?

          No, I wouldn’t really do it, but it’s fun to think about turning the tables on these types.

          1. OyHiOh*

            That’s what the letter immediately reminded me of. My late spouse had a run in with that crew, towards the end of their reign when most people were getting wise to the game.

            The event my spouse was a part of was covered pretty heavily but Westboro basically got no coverage except as a very brief mention at the end that they had attended in protest. The LEOs in that incident were given additional training ahead of time on exactly what to expect and exactly how to react, and the officers put on the line were officers who had reputations for remaining calm and cool headed. They didn’t make the news and we all breathed a sigh of relief when Westboro went home.

            Westboro utilized a different clause of the first amendment but yes, it’s the same playbook all over again.

        1. Thistle Pie*

          Yeah I realized this after I posted and read through again. In my area, I haven’t heard of people focusing on the “grooming” aspect of this, but apparently in other places this is more common.

      2. KatCardigans*

        You’re right that many first amendment audits are not explicitly related to banned books/”grooming” accusations, but in this case the OP mentions the people filming her are calling her a groomer when they post their content online. It’s not just the commenters assuming.

        1. I Have RBF*

          Can they say “I do not consent to my likeness being used in any monetized capacity.” to these people? Sure, they can film, but you don’t have to consent to it being used to make them money from clicks. Now, if they don’t monetize? That might be a very grey area.

          1. RagingADHD*

            You are not going to get anywhere trying to pull a “One Weird Trick” on these people. That just invites them to rules-lawyer on whether you have any right to control your image as a public employee at work.

            They want opposition on any grounds. They want an argument. And after all, what are you going to do to enforce it – monitor their channel forever to try to put a takedown notice on it?

            Boring, polite, helpful is the way to go.

      3. FrivYeti*

        Thistle Pie, when you say that it’s “not about grooming” or “not about banned books”, you’re missing the part where the OP explicitly said that people are posting the videos online and calling them a groomer.

        So yes, it absolutely is about that.

        1. Thistle Pie*

          Yeah, I addressed in an above comment that I missed that part. Clearly this is more common in areas that I don’t work in.

      4. tinyhipsterboy*

        I mean, besides OP mentioning the “groomer” comments, I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to assume that people doing this are likely looking for literally any potential reason to target the facility (library, in this case). Not everyone who tries to do these “audits” are right-wing, but to my understanding, it’s quite common for them to be. And given the MO of hostility and aggressive filming, along with it being them going after public library employees rather than, say, police officers, I think it’s fair to relate the bad-faith book-banning/groomer controversies to first amendment audits in this context.

        It’s helpful context to have, though. It’s not limited to queer content in libraries, and even if that’s specifically what OP is having to deal with, hopefully finding out about these “audits” can help them prepare for the BS.

        1. Thistle Pie*

          I replied in above comments that in my area it isn’t common for the focus to be solely on libraries or about “grooming”, and I missed that part in LW’s letter.

    2. Annie Oakley*

      Fellow public employee in MA – this advice is solid and tracks with the guidance we’ve been given on how to de-escalate these situations.

    3. MuseumChick*

      This. Especially the training of staff to know what they legally can and cannot do and how to respond when these FAA are trying to goad them. I also agree the best way to handle is the the grey rock method. Be total calm and repeat the same answers over and over when they are trying to get a reaction.

    4. NothingIsLittle*

      Public employee in Florida, this is great advice! It was a little hard to come into this comment section and see everyone say, “Just have a no filming policy!” My county has lost multiple lawsuits related to these losers.

  29. Texas Librarian*

    I’m in a Texas public library and we are considered a public space so the public is allowed to take pictures/film in the building without permission. We do have staff only areas well marked and staff could certainly move to a staff only area, but it’s a public building. patrons can certainly tell the person not to film/photograph them.

  30. Lurking librarian*

    Ah, the First Amendment Auditors. They came through our area about a year and a half ago, and we received training on how to respond. We’re a large multi-branch county system in a midsize city, so have some really good access to legal advice and training. We were told that we couldn’t ask them to stop because they did indeed have a right to film in a public place and were, shall we say, looking for opportunities to educate librarians on that right and then put the recordings up on YouTube. We could, however, mark appropriate doors as “employees only,” and were also allowed to remove or hide our name tags. They did get some film at one of our branches, but actually commented favorably about how THESE librarians properly understood the First Amendment, so I guess we passed.

    It seems like the First Amendment Auditors wouldn’t be the same people who are trying to get books banned/accusing librarians of being groomers (and if anyone reading this wasn’t aware of the current challenges libraries and librarians are facing, please check in with your local library to see what they might be experiencing and if anyone in your community is trying to remove or limit access to materials.) But anything is possible in this political climate.

  31. A Librarian*

    These First Amendment audits have been happening for some time, and target libraries and other public, government facilities. Things have escalated recently in the rapid increase in book challenges instituted by right wing terrorist groups like Moms for Liberty. If you want to support libraries and librarians where you live, call your elected officials and voice your SUPPORT of libraries and the freedom to read. Many municipalities are only hearing from those who want to ban material. Also join Unite Against Book Bans This is a really scary time for library staff across the country. We can use all the support we can get.

    1. Csethiro Ceredin*

      Thanks, that is helpful! I love my local library and was seething with impotent rage reading this, to the point that I just emailed my branch asking if there is anything a citizen can do to support them (beyond voting judiciously).

      I don’t know if it’s an issue where I live (a progressive part of Canada) but I suspect it’s everywhere these days.

      Thank you to library staff, teachers, poll workers, and anyone else performing a valuable public service and being targeted for it. You don’t deserve this.

  32. EdgarAllenCat*

    Yes, people in these groups are deliberately provoking library staff to claim infringement on their 1st amendment rights.

    Yes, they will absolutely post to social media to inflame others.

    Yes, it goes hand in hand with the bomb threats that we’re getting. If they can’t shut us down with the filming, they’ll shut us down with bomb threats.

    V. similar to those who protested wearing masks in public spaces.

  33. Never Surrender*

    I believeit is likely that OP resides in Florida (as do I) which has laws that prohibit one-sided recording of both audio & video. Also, “groomers” is another tell. I think the issue here would be that you cannot use the audio/video in a court of law, but I am not sure there is a civil penalty attached.

    I am so very sorry this is happening to you – the library was my refuge/happy place as a child and I became quite the prolifigate reader which has served me well my entire life. I hate that people are making it political without thought to the costs to the children and the staff. Hang in there OP, hopefully the crazy will end soon.

    1. JaneDough(not)*

      With respect, *none* of us can simply “hang in there” and simply hope that the crazy will end. We — every one of us — have to ACT and show that we, the rational people, oppose and always will oppose crazy viewpoints that marginalize others, take away rights from others, and assault democracy.

      We have fight just as hard as they fight — but we’re fighting to maintain, or try to restore, a civil society

    2. Seahorse*

      The people clamoring for book bans and harassing librarians have giving a great deal of thought to the effects on the children and the staff. They *want* the libraries closed or at least limited. Anything that gives them more control over the flow and access of knowledge in society is a net gain to people who are fighting against evidence-based facts.

      Knowing that these people are acting in bad faith is part of what makes it so difficult to respond well. There is no constructive conversation to be had, no compromise they’ll accept, and no explanation that will clear everything up.

  34. starsaphire*

    If it wasn’t a library, I’d suggest doing something to make it worthy of being filmed – like starting to sing (badly and off key) or tap dancing or something, and then act confused if anyone says anything – like, you’re filming me, isn’t this the Tik Tok Library Danceoff Challenge?

    But that’s hard to do when you’re trying to run a quiet space.

    Grey rocking, I suppose, is the best response – ask them if you can help them find something, act as if they weren’t filming you, and go about your business? Maybe Tik Tok people will get bored watching librarians help people find the section on the history of elephants?

    I wish this wasn’t happening, and I wish there were good solutions. I’m so sorry, OP.

    1. Thistle Pie*

      Grey rocking is the appropriate response. Anything out of the ordinary will be more likely to be posted and they will accuse you of spending tax dollars on tap dancing. The best avenue is to be polite and keep doing one’s job in the most mundane way possible.

    2. Applesauced*

      ooo, what if you start singing Taylor Swift songs? they won’t pay for the music rights so if you find the video you could tag it to be taken down due to copyright

    3. Blinded By the Gaslight*

      So . . . you want library/government employees to start singing and tap dancing in front of people filming them? While they’re trying to just do their jobs? You know that’s going to get immediately posted on social media as “LOOK AT THESE PSYCHO LIBRARIANS!” and used to earn these jerks more clicks/money, right? Library employees or anyone else being filmed without permission should not become performing monkeys for these creeps – that’s exactly what they want!

      Best response is no response, just business as usual, in as civil/boring a manner as possible to make any footage totally uninteresting and useless.

      1. UKDancer*

        This so much. It’s much better to be as bland as possible. You don’t want to do anything that will get these people more clicks on social media or make for interesting footage. So be as helpful and polite as possible. If they try and go into staff only areas then politely ask them not to and answer all their questions with your best smile.

        The less of a story there is, the faster they should go away.

  35. DollarCounter*

    This. I work for a City where this is legal and it is illegal to stop them. They try to get you upset so the best thing to do is keep calm and don’t give them anything worthwhile to post. This library should look into training if they are in a state where it is illegal to stop them. They also need to have employee only areas labeled or they can enter those areas.

  36. TX_Trucker*

    Are you a member of the American Library Association? They have some resources on navigating hateful conduct in public libraries. Unfortunately, filming in the “public” area of library is legal in most (if not all) jurisdictions, even in a two party consent state. Libraries have been hit hard in Texas by this crap and several now have armed security.

  37. MeridethLibrarian*

    If you have a City or County Attorney, check with them.
    The way they’ve interpreted this policy is that the library is a public place and there is no expectation of privacy. HOWEVER, if someone is posting a video that features an employee, and it isn’t my city filming/posting, the person filming would need to get a signed release from the person doing the posting.

    Also, I second the comment above to check your code of conduct. Ours has “not following verbal instructions from staff” as a bullet point. So, if you were to say “Please stop filming me” and the patron doesn’t comply, they are in violation of the code of conduct, and we can start our progressive discipline policy (It’s a three strikes, kind of thing, verbal warning, written warning, then expulsion from the premises for a period of time). Also, if the patron is disturbing other staff or library visitors, that is against the code of conduct

    1. Observer*

      Also, I second the comment above to check your code of conduct. Ours has “not following verbal instructions from staff” as a bullet point. So, if you were to say “Please stop filming me” and the patron doesn’t comply, they are in violation of the code of conduct, and we can start our progressive discipline policy

      If your library gets sued over this one, in most jurisdictions you would lose. Sure, you can be removed for not listening to staff, but for the most part that’s only the case where those instructions don’t interfere with someone’s rights. Instructions to not record in public spaces generally *do* interfere with those rights. Of course, if you can show that the recording was an objective problem or connected with some illegal behavior on the part of the filmer, that would be different. (eg someone is apparently taking creep shots. That’s not covered by the first amendment.)

    2. This could end in a **** show*

      Auditors answer to libraries trying to enforce policy is, “My constitutional rights trump your policies.” And, “I don’t work here so I don’t comply with your policies.” I’m not a lawyer, but that’s just what I’ve heard

    3. NothingIsLittle*

      I’m not sure where in the country you are, but none of that is true in my county (Florida) and the county has lost several lawsuits over it.

  38. Lobsterman*

    Y’all mfs need a union.

    Long term, people need to just leave places like this. Doctors move when towns are lousy places to live, because they can. Medical care stops being good. Don’t roll the dice on being healthy forever.

    1. Yes Anastasia*

      “Places like this” is every state in the country. There is no place in the US that isn’t being affected by anti-library far right politics. Nor can people “just leave” their homes. This kind of victim-blaming is unconstructive and out of touch with reality.

    2. datamuse*

      I live in a blue city in a blue state and it happens here too. It’s dangerous to assume that just moving away will solve anything, even if it were feasible for everyone who wanted to to do so.

      1. Elsewise*

        Yeah, I live in a place so blue it was declared an “anarchist jurisdiction” by a former president. (Guess who.) We still get bomb threats at our libraries and schools and anywhere that’s perceived as allowing trans people to exist. A lot of people come in to astroturf (pretend to be a grassroots movement by importing protesters from out of state), too. I’m a queer person, my partner is trans, so even if we moved somewhere else, we’d still be targets. Running away isn’t a solution.

      2. I Have RBF*

        Yeah, same here. The nutcases travel specifically to blue cities in blue states to embarrass, harass, and threaten the “libruls” that work in these places. They are usually wealthy, retired, or “sponsored” by right wing rabble rousing organizations to do this.

        If I could come up with a foolproof way to stop this I could probably make a mint in consulting to public agencies.

    3. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      Librarians leaving isn’t a tactic, it’s surrender: the right-wing terrorists want to close down libraries in small towns.

      I’m not going to tell a doctor they have to practice somewhere hostile, but when doctors leave, that hurts poor people more than rich people (who can afford to travel for health care). It hurts teenagers who don’t get to decide where their families live, especially if they want health care that their parents disapprove of (like birth control pills). “Parents’ rights” means “nobody under 18 has any rights.”

    1. RagingADHD*

      Those work by reflecting a flash to throw off the camera’s exposure. No effect on a video in natural light or with a steady light source.

  39. JaneDough(not)*

    LW, I have no practical advice but want to express support, bc I’m enraged on your behalf. Public libraries (and every employee therein) provide a crucial service in every *civilized* nation, and this nation is in danger of falling out of that category. I hope this problem gets resolved in a way that protects all of you, and SOON.

  40. Local Garbage Committee*

    We dealt with this a while back at my (public) library – the legality I think will depend on how your jurisdiction interprets the public forum parts of the first amendment (assuming US here based on context). Our city attorney decided our buildings were a limited public forum, so not all areas could be filmed.

    I think your next best step would be to push back on actually getting legal guidance from your organization’s attorney, either through admin or if you are part of a collective bargaining unit, just to be sure that they’ve actually sought guidance.

    Sorry you are going through this! Our strategy of trying to make these videos as boring as possible seemed to have worked for us at the time.

  41. Applesauced*

    2 things came to mind, in a kind of reated day – celebrities who don’t want to be bothered by paparazzi:
    1) get an “anti-paparazzi” scarf like Paris Hilton, if anyone used flash the photo is ruined.
    2) like Daniel Radcliff at the stage door, wear the same thing everyday so the footage all looks like the same video over and over again.

    Otherwise, this sucks and I’m sorry you’re dealing with it

  42. tinyhipsterboy*

    UGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH I’m so, so sorry you have to deal with this. I grew up involved with my public library and even helped facilitate events sometimes up until COVID hit, so I know how important they are. I can’t imagine how fraught it’s gotta be nowadays with the shit that right-wingers are pulling. Hang in there!

    I might have to write my local library an email just to encourage them about LGBTQIA+ content and programming. Libraries need our support now more than ever.

    1. Yes Anastasia*

      Please do this (and send a note to your local elected officials as well). This kind of support is impactful!

  43. Keymaster of Gozer*

    I’m not in the US, but one of my online friends is and is also a librarian – she’s had plenty of hair raising stories of people coming in, filming her and other staff while screaming (literally!) that they’re all exposing kids to ‘gross sexual content’ and must be shut down. Some of the names they call the staff are truly revolting.

    The ones who go over and start pulling books they object to off the shelves are dealt with by telling the people to get out because that’s destruction of property. But screaming offensive names, outright hate speech and disturbing other patrons is ‘not worth bothering over’. She just turns her back on them the instant they start up with their insults.

    It seems like a horrible way to live, but that’s what she has to do.

  44. Buzz's Mom*

    Disney, and other companies, take copyright very seriously. Play their music when these whackadoodles start filming. Mickey and his lawyers will be right on it. Play “You got a friend in me” from Toy Story and have a singalong! Invite other patrons to join.

    You can also pull out your phone and film them film you.

    1. Ferret*

      A few people have said something like this but it seems way more likely to escalate things and open LW up to significant risk

      1. Sleepy in the stacks*

        Yeah, to deal with 1st amendment auditors you just don’t give them what they want.

        They start up with their BS and you hit them with the “Can I help you with anything library related? I see you’re filming, would you like a tour of the library? We have a beautiful building. No? Well, I have to get back to my work, but if I can help you with anything library related please let me know!”

        Do not pull out your phone. Do not say snarky things. They want a reaction, do not give them said reaction.

    2. Pointy's in the North Tower*

      That’s a copyright violation. Libraries cannot play music where it can be heard by the general public unless they have the appropriate public performance license (which is not free).

      Basic US copyright and public performance is Librarian 101, and ignoring it places the library at risk of being sued.

      1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

        Surely, though, running the copier/paper shredder/coffee pot/white noise machine would be okay though? To ruin the sound? It’d be a shame there was a “to be shredded” box under the desk and it just happened to be “shred time” every time someone started filming…

        1. RagingADHD*

          I think you are grossly underestimating both the threshold of acceptable sound quality for these folks, and the volume at which they are willing to shout.

        2. NothingIsLittle*

          As someone who has had training to deal with these people… that would be an escalation to them.

  45. thelettermegan*

    Could you try to robotically telling them the location of the books to check out on whatever subject they bring up? “Legal references are on floor 3” would probably get old really fast. Or maybe even opening up a legal reference book and reading it out loud, while calmly stating that the answer to their question will be explained soon every time they interrupt.

    1. thelettermegan*

      Or have a long document that is the ‘library code of conduct,’ which will also ‘answer their questions’. A long slow read is going to make for boring content and your rabble-rousy film-maker will undoubtedly lose patience after a few pages.

    2. MuseumChick*

      This could be a good way to grey rock.

      If the person accuses the library of “grooming” you say something like, “I’m not sure what you mean by that. If you are asking about our public programming here is a flyer that list all our upcoming events.”

      If they start going on about “first amendments rights!!!” you say “We have a number of legal books you might be interested in they can be found in [location].”

      Repeat the same answers over and over and over in calm voice.

  46. Trans Library Leader*

    Most public jobs and buildings allow filming and even banding together as coworkers is not going to eliminate this from happening, as it is not illegal to film in a public location – though yes, it’s very rude and sometimes dangerous. Dual-party consent does not apply when public/government workers are at play.

    Your goal should not be to get rid of all filming because that’s a lesson in futility and in all likelihood will lead to more harassment and violence towards librarians and public workers; your goal should be to establish a strict framework of when it’s appropriate to film and what behavior will lead to you being removed from the building – whether a camera is involved or not.

    I come from a library that had a lot of trouble from our community in regards to “First Amendment Audits”, which sounds a bit like what’s going on in your letter. A couple of thoughts/suggestions:

    1a) Get your leadership to instate a real filming policy. Use the ALA recommended filming policy as a starting template. Like I said, it’s unlikely to eliminate all filming, especially in a public service job, where a lot of state courts have ruled in the past 10 years that it is legal to record public workers doing their job if it is in a public place. However, having strict limitations means that you can feel comfortable removing the worst offenders; and gives you a ready made policy document to hand to anyone pulling out a camera – “Hi sir, glad to see you filming the library! Just wanted to give you our rules – if a patron violates any of these policies, they will have to leave for the day.” Here’s what’s in my library’s filming policy:
    – No filming in staff-only areas (which means if a staff member is uncomfortable, they can take a step back into the private workroom. This also gets around the state supreme court ruling about it being legal to film public service workers in a “public” space)
    – No filming other patrons without their consent (which means you can call the police if they’re harassing other customers)
    – No filming children no matter what (which lets you flip the groomer script on them)
    – It doesn’t matter if you’re filming or not – if you break the conduct policy, you get kicked out for the day

    1b) Get a real conduct policy and enforce it to the letter of the law. I adore San Fransisco Public Library’s conduct policy (you can find it through a Google search) and how each violation is broken down into severity and consequences. Yes, if you’ve never enforced a conduct policy before, it can be scary. I highly recommend searching for Library De-Escalation training, there are various webinars through Niche Academy, Library Journal, PLA, Ryan Dowd, and WebJunction. I highly suggest reaching out to your state library association as well to see what they offer and if they can recommend a library system in your state that does de-escalation and conduct policy enforcement well. This is a huge help in the long run, not just in regards to filming – having de-escalation strategies makes it easier to deal with the day-to-day problems that arise in being a public space open to everyone without having to rely on the cops for everything, as generally, police are barely effective at best. I also recommend taking bystander training, which dovetails nicely into de-escalation strategies.

    1c) Document everything when handling difficult customers. Keep it to the facts – “This man made me feel unsafe” is not documentation and is highly subjective. “This man followed me into a staff-only area and when I asked him to leave, he started throwing books at my face.” While it is legal to film public employees, it is not legal to allow staff to face harassment from customers; clear documentation of harassment could give you a legal avenue down the road.

    2) You’ll have better luck trying to get videos taken down by gathering coworkers and mass reporting, flagging, copyright striking, etc. the videos on the platform that they’re posted. Your managers are operating under the realm of what is legal. Youtube/Facebook/Twitter have algorithms that can be manipulated and have far more interest in PR and appearances than any local government office does.

    3) Final note is just that even with the most supportive management, perfect security policies, and a utopian approach to all things Library, our society is in a flashpoint moment around public service institutions and their interconnectedness with supposed “wokeness”, and it’s not likely to go away or improve in the next few years. As a trans person in library management, I go home most evenings and wonder if I need to move on to a different industry. I always decide against it, but also, it’s not wrong in any way to move on to something else if the challenges of your current industry are not being solved effectively.

    1. Pivot Time*

      All of these are such good advice. I work in a private academic library so we don’t have to worry about being filmed by the public, but the landscape today for public librarians is HARD. The library field sure doesn’t pay enough to be harassed every day or to feel unsafe going to work.

    2. Sleepy in the stacks*


      This is the best advice in this thread. Only thing is that a filming policy requiring consent may not stop someone from filming other patrons unless they are purposely following them around and harassing them which is when you can enact patron behavior policy.

    3. NothingIsLittle*

      Most of the 1 category wouldn’t work in my county (Florida. Believe me, we’ve tried), but 2 is the best advice I’ve never seen before! Definitely will keep that in my back pocket if people start getting rowdy again.

  47. Mary Ellen*

    Heeeey, this could have been written by me! We just had these folks hit my library, too. The best option is to be polite and courteous to them, and NOT to call the police or threaten to do so, or ask them to leave. That playr right into what they want and they’ll paint you as a fascist, etc., and make the situation SO much worse.

  48. Marna Nightingale*

    “Some other libraries in the area have been receiving bomb threats and having to shut down so it feels a bit silly to be complaining about middle-aged men with tripods”

    They are — and your library board very much needs to understand this and consider it in working out policies — the same people. Not the exact same, but the same group.

    You are not being silly. You are being proactive. The time to plan a response, make sure you understand clearly when you ARE allowed to call the police — and also work out what kind of response the police are likely to give you — is now.

    1. Observer*

      The time to plan a response, make sure you understand clearly when you ARE allowed to call the police — and also work out what kind of response the police are likely to give you — is now.

      That’s a very good point. Some solid planning and safety training is very much in order.

      1. Marna Nightingale*

        I’ll say upfront that I’m neither a librarian nor in the US, so I don’t want to get into the weeds on specific responses.

        But while the director may well be right that they can’t be stopped from filming, I hope that doesn’t mean they’re assuming that this is going to go away on its own, or that there’s some kind of “right response” staff can make to avoid trouble or bad publicity, or that this isn’t a real threat.

        Your director and board — and the city/county/district, as appropriate — need to be taking this seriously and looking at what options they have to protect staff, patrons, and library materials and then doing that stuff.

        The magic words might be “the library could be liable if” or they might be something else, but whatever it takes for the director and/or board to start treating this as a serious problem that requires a thought-out, cohesive, serious institutional response, it’s time for staff, ideally in the shape of the union, to say them. A lot.

        If you know any local teachers, or school board members, quietly reaching out to them to swap information and brainstorm may be in order, also. They’re probably getting it too.

  49. Bookworm*

    I don’t have any advice for you but wanted to also express my sympathy and solidarity. I’m sorry you’re going through that.

  50. Mimmy*

    It’s one thing to allow patrons to film, but I think harassing employees and posting the videos on social media crosses a line. If it’s not illegal, it’s downright crappy to subject employees to these conditions without stronger policies that protect them. Sure, the employees could retreat to staff-only areas, but in seeing some of these videos on YouTube, the filmers can get pretty aggressive in an effort to get the reaction that their followers enjoy seeing.

  51. JonBob*

    “Oh sure, let me get my phone recording as well, so I’ll have a record of our conversation.” Some people will get mad at anything you do, so might as well have it on tape. If they clip the conversation too badly, then your recording will make them look bad.

    1. Observer*

      “Oh sure, let me get my phone recording as well, so I’ll have a record of our conversation.”

      I love the idea. The issue of edited clips is real.

  52. Cat's Paw for Cats*

    As a retired public library director, I appreciate all of the concern expressed here for library workers. I would like to ask that you stop by your local public library and tell them how much you appreciate them and how sorry you are for what they’re going through. I think it would mean a lot to them. Feel free to bring donuts!

    It really is going to take good people standing up for libraries to fight this off. There is a concerted and coordinated effort under way to pack library boards, to fire and intimidate library staff and destroy libraries. Please stand up for them. Letters to the editor in your local newspaper, calls to your elected officials, and tea and sympathy for beleaguered library workers can go a long way toward righting this wrong.

  53. jane's nemesis*

    I’m so sorry. I would absolutely come down with the sniffles and wear a mask “as a precaution” if this were happening in my workplace – just to add a little layer of anonymity for myself.

  54. OP Librarian*

    Hello! OP here! I’ve seen a lot of First Amendment Rights audit comments and while we have had that group come in before the current people are not affiliated with that group. Some of them come in and ask increasingly uncomfortable questions at the desk while a second person hangs back, filming. Sometimes you don’t even realize what’s happening until the questions have taken a turn for the explicit, or another staff members alerts you to the filming.

    One person came in and started shouting at staff while filming and then when he as asked to leave for being disruptive, wouldn’t leave until we threatened to close the entire building. (We don’t call the police, they do not have our backs, and will either refuse to send someone or will come and not help). This person posted the video on TikTok and it was just bad luck that the public saw that he was an idiot and it went viral for that reason, launching one of librarians into a bit of very unwanted fame.

    Others come in and film our displays, and occasionally hide titles they find objectionable. A large number of them come to our board meetings and film (which is obviously fine and perfectly legal) but also heckle the board members, are loud and disruptive and aren’t even local. This seems to be a hobby for them, traveling from library to library making complaints and generally trying to make staff uncomfortable.

    I suppose I was just hopeful there was some sort of legal recourse for our staff. Thank you for answering, and support your local library!

    1. Just Thinkin' Here*

      OP, I responded below regarding the harassment portion of this situation. You have a right not to be harassed in your workplace. Same if you were a nurse or teacher and a patient or student was threatening you. You should not be barred from calling police if people are threatening, screaming, and otherwise causing a potentially dangerous or hostile situation. If someone came in and had a weapon on them and a camera, all of of a sudden it would be OK because they were filming? Where does your own safety begin? Force management to put their decisions in written policy and if the policies don’t make sense, appeal to the City Council. Or start discussing a union to protect your safety in the workplace (coming from someone who is generally not a union support, but safety is one reason to have them!). Filming may be allowed but harassing employees on purpose should not be tolerated.

    2. Typing All The Time*

      Is there maybe a way you can film them in return? I guess I’m being cheeky in my response.

      1. Sleepy in the stacks*

        This would add fuel to the fire and would never be a response a librarian should do. I know you’re joking a bit, but I just wanted to put it out there that this would not get a good reaction.

        1. Marna Nightingale*

          I wouldn’t recommend filming them overtly, but a reasonably inconspicuous security camera or two that staff can turn on unobtrusively if required wouldn’t be the worst plan.

          1. I Have RBF*

            “These premises are monitored by CCTV for the safety of our employees and patrons.”

            Filming isn’t illegal in public spaces, after all.

            1. Marna Nightingale*

              That could potentially catch a lot of unintended people in its net, specifically library staff and patrons worried about their privacy.

              The effects can be mitigated—you don’t have to keep the footage if no incidents occur, you can be clear that the cameras are pointing at the desks employees use, various things. But the mitigations should ideally be thought through and put in place ahead of time.

      2. nnn*

        Silly idea: get big TV-style cameras and claim that someone is making a documentary about America’s Worst Library Patrons

  55. MMCloudy*

    These people call themselves First Amendment Auditors and they frequent government buildings and harass them so they can catch government employees violating their First Amendment rights. My husband is in law enforcement, and these auditors visit the police department on a regular basis. They have found that the best thing to do is to ignore them so that there is no reason for them to catch anything remotely amiss and make a huge deal of it.

    I am so sorry you’re having to deal with this. You should be able to do your job peacefully, and to not have to deal with this type of aggression.

  56. HonorBox*

    As a child of a former librarian, I want to say thank you, OP, for doing what you do. And I want to express my sympathy for what you and your colleagues are having to deal with.

    It is very likely that because the library is a public place, your management is correct that they can’t stop people filming. But they can and should absolutely step in when things escalate because you have a right to not be harassed in your workplace and/or accused of grooming or worse. Pass the buck and let them step in, especially if someone starts filming. If it happens often, that might change their approach to the rules.

  57. Just Thinkin' Here*

    I think something was missed in the response. What about the harassment? Harassment of staff and allowing it to continue makes for a hostile workplace. Management needs to intervene to stop the harassment of employees while they are on their work site.

    If the policy to allow taping is not in writing, I would appeal. A group appeal at the next city council meeting is in order. Go together and be ready to make clear the harassment is not to be tolerated.

    1. Hedgehog O'Brien*

      I have a question and a comment about this:

      1) The question – can someone explain how it’s legal to film someone without their consent in a two-party consent state, regardless of what the library’s policy is? It also sounds like they are doing more than just filming – they’re potentially harassing staff members.

      2) If I were you (and/or the library) I would be concerned about this escalating beyond just ridiculous trolling. My employer is a tenant in a public building, and a few years ago a guy came in and started following our staff around and filming. He was also streaming the whole thing on Twitch, and his followers could pay money to broadcast their comments through his handheld speaker, most of which were sexually explicit comments about our female staff members. We ended up contacting building security and the police, and the police were very hesitant to do anything because this guy’s whole MO was to film in public buildings, make people uncomfortable, and them cause a ruckus when he was asked to leave because he “wasn’t doing anything illegal.” I pointed out that the comments that were being broadcast were very much sexual harassment, and the police officer was like well, we don’t want to rile him up, he’s just a troll but we think he’s harmless.

      Well, guess what, friends. He was not harmless because he was later arrested for trying to kidnap a woman and force her into his car. I’m not trying to freak anyone out but people are genuinely scary, and sometimes there’s more going on than just trolling and this kind of harassment can turn into an actual safety issue.

      1. Marna Nightingale*

        1) Typically those laws apply to things like phone calls/Zoom calls/ private meetings.

        Public spaces are different.

  58. Coverage Associate*

    My husband and I have library cards for several public library systems. My husband is single handedly keeping the adult circulation numbers up for one system, with the maximum 50 books checked out. We belong to a handful of the nonprofits supporting those systems.

    With that introduction, the “friends” nonprofits around here have annual budgets around $100,000, not enough to influence library policy. The real money and influence is with the “foundation” nonprofits, and they have corresponding dues. And I just got the notice for the annual meeting of one of the “friends” organizations: 10:30am on a Wednesday. Obviously, I think all this work is important, but be aware of what it will take to make a difference through the independent nonprofits.

  59. Coverage Associate*

    For everyone suggesting singing, copyrighted songs or otherwise, know that visually, singing looks almost exactly the same as shouting, even if it’s fun singing. I have definitely seen photos of people singing presented as photos of out of control protesters. I wouldn’t put it past these people harassing librarians to edit videos similarly.

  60. Bob-White of the Glen*

    Hi OP – I am so sorry you are going through this (and all public libraries!) It’s so much easier being an academic librarian, because we just tend to get a lot less of this.

    So filming in a public space is legal. I don’t know if this will help you, but filming publicly and public officials is important to maintaining individual rights and liberties. Imagine the horrors that would not be seen if the police could not be filmed, and those bad actors (hopefully) removed, jailed, punished, etc. because of it. The discomfort you have in being filmed is part of being a free nation.

    That does not mean you have to like it. It’s horrible and rude and a pathetic attempt at radical zealots trying to hold on to a world that no longer (and honestly never) exists. So you see these sad sacks all over the Internet abusing a variety of people.

    But it is interesting to watch the videos. If you see the ones where the police are targeted (and if you think you have it bad you should watch some of these videos.) The cops that are reactive and authoritarian get burned in the comments and in the public arena. Sometimes they are so power hungry and abusive and anti-Constitutional they deserve it, but sometimes the “auditors” just press the right button. Imagine being in job where you have to allow people to curse at you and flick you off. At least with library policies that kind of abuse can get people removed.

    But the cops that just continue to behave professionally, allow the insults to roll of their backs, do their jobs effectively and quickly, those videos have comment sections that attack the filmers, not the police.

    And this is what you will have to do until this behavior is no longer accepted by decent society. Just play nice librarian, don’t react to names, and don’t be reactive at all. They are not looking for boring videos where a nice librarian is just doing their job, they are looking to make you lose your poop. If you can keep that in mind, realize they are following a playbook and not really looking at you as a groomer, and just stay emotionally level, the video will be too boring for them to post. It’s legal, just ignore it. (So much easier to say than do, I know. Please believe me I know.) I’d just do a quiet “no” to them saying your a groomer, but otherwise just do your job and walk away if they get abusive. I’m sorry there’s not a better answer, and it’s so unfair. But if they aren’t asking for library services, you need to go find someone who is looking for the skills you were hired for.

    I’d definitely practice with coworkers grey rocking, and try to “attack” and be “attacked” at unexpected times, so your mind is ready for it. But seriously, you are pissing them off mightily to not be playing into agenda, nor giving them videos to monetize. Keeping that in mind hopefully the mindset of ignoring their game will work. If it escalates to threats, home visits, etc., yes get the police involved, but hopefully it won’t. Mostly, be the sweetest, most stereotypical librarian possible and get the public on your side.

    I do feel this is a cycle and we are back in McCarthyism. And it will be rough, as it is always rough when the zealots on the far, un-American right get together to destroy the lives of anyone they disagree with. But when this ends the new sexual revolution will begin, whatever that looks like. For now, support libraries, librarians and staff, good cops, your “alphabet” friends, and let people who do slurs against of this it is not welcome or appreciated.

    1. Marna Nightingale*

      “So filming in a public space is legal. I don’t know if this will help you, but filming publicly and public officials is important to maintaining individual rights and liberties.”

      I don’t think you need to tell librarians that, to be honest.

      So, here’s the thing. What we have here is a category error, and I’m not calling you out specifically, because everyone has been doing it, including to a degree OP.

      Filming is not the problem. Filming is fine. If someone wants to come sit quietly in a library and film, I think they should be allowed to do this.

      I’ve been going to drag defences and similar things and believe me I have gotten very used to having cameras in my face. And it is, again, fine, if that’s all they’re doing. It never is, though.

      These guys are always pulling out that old classic “I’m being persecuted for exercising my right to free speech (and some other stuff I was doing while I was talking)”.

      The problem is the stuff which, if they weren’t holding cameras, would still be problems. The harassment, the abuse, the creepy intrusive questioning, the disruption, the attempts to incite something that looks bad on film, and the overall strategy of intimidation.

      We have GOT to get our collective heads right about this.

      1. Bob-White of the Glen*

        And that is why I recommend the walk away. Because they want a reaction, and they want to sue if you do anything that infringes on their “rights.” All we can do (at the present moment) is change how we react to it. But if nobody does, they will get bored with it and move on.

        And lots of people do not understand that case law has leaned towards legality in public filming, they honestly think they can stop someone from filming them in a public place. But it’s not that simple.

        You can tell someone “That question is inappropriate” and walk away. You can leave if they are creepy and intimidating. It’s not illegal to be creepy, and they know. But stop playing their game. Yes, the library can set up behavior policy and should. Libraries should support their employees, and give them freedom to walk away. But that’s not always happening, and being boring means less clicks. Right now it is one of the few things we can do about it.

        If you have real solutions/suggestions please offer them.

  61. Bob-White of the Glen*

    If you wish to support libraries 1.) Spend more time there and take your kids so they love it to. and 2.) Follow websites like “Moms for Liberty” (how being a book burner makes you for liberty is beyond me) and just be in the building when they target your local library. As a public member you can laugh at them when they call librarians groomers, and you can defend the staff in a way they cannot do themselves. Or you can just (loudly) support the staff and say you’re sorry they have to deal with these idiots and thank you for doing an important job with so little pay. Mostly, let these zealots know they are not the moral majority and they do not get to decide what the rest of America gets to read. And that the 1st Amendment allows people a voice that they disagree with too, and tough on that.

  62. Librarian Here*

    Sharing my library’s policy regarding filming (also with the caveat that I am not a manager/director, nor do I have any legal background):

    – Filming is allowed as long as 1) the filmer is not being disruptive and 2) no one, staff or patrons, is being filmed without their consent
    – If someone is being filmed without their consent, we can ask the filmer to stop recording, as this is considered being disruptive. If the filming continues, it falls under “Interferring with other patrons’ use of the library and/or library staff’s ability to do their jobs” and will result in the filmer being asked to leave for the day. If they continue to film and/or refuse to leave, police may be called.

    tl; dr: Not consenting to being filmed is enough reason to ask someone to stop.

    1. Sleepy in the stacks*

      Are you in a public library (in the US)? I can see the disruptive part holding up as a part of a patron behavior policy, but as a public space, filming in it is protected by federal law. By entering a public space, patrons are consenting to being filmed.

      It sucks, but it is what it is.

      1. I'm just here for the cats!*

        This is something I don’t quite understand about the public space = can be filmed.
        If a person were to come up to you and be inches from your body it would not be ok and you would be in the right to tell the librarian and they could intervene. If a person was following you around the library you could do the same (actually happened to me as a teenager). But because someone has a phone and recording it it makes it ok? What if someone was utilizing a private study space. In my library we have rooms we can “check out”. Some are very small with just a desk and a couple of chairs, where others are a bit bigger with up to like5-6 people in the room. These are private areas people can use for taking tests or meetings. Does that mean that someone could go in there and record them?

        1. Sleepy in the stacks*

          Well, if someone was following you around and genuinely harassing you, yes you could approach the librarian because the person filming would be impeding your right to use the library in peace. But, that is not what I was talking about since it is disruptive behavior. My comment was more aimed at people who happen to be captured on camera as a fluke, not those who are being chased down by 1st amendment auditors.

          As for the study rooms, the ones at my job lock (I think most do). You could keep them out by locking the door, but since they are a public space, if you kept it unlocked or open, yes they would have every right to enter. The library is a public space, and all of our training tells us that the only place these people aren’t allowed is areas marked staff only. It would suck if they entered the room like that, but unfortunately they’d have the right to if the door was able to be opened and it is not a staff area.

    2. Observer*

      tl; dr: Not consenting to being filmed is enough reason to ask someone to stop.

      In most jurisdictions that’s almost certainly not the case. That may be the policy, but if it gets challenged in court, the library would lose.

      That’s in the public areas. Staff only is a different story.

  63. Pyanfar*

    I’ve been waiting for a good forum to say this…I grew up reading anything and everything. Libraries were my portal to books we didn’t own and couldn’t afford. My mom drove us to the next largest town so we had a bigger selection. I even checked out books that I tried and didn’t finish.

    And one thing I know for sure: nothing I read affected my sexuality as an adult. I read romances, mysteries, westerns, procedurals and almost all the sci-fi available. I am not straight, although almost everyone in everything I read was. I am also not a princess, cowboy, detective, lawyer, talking animal, talking train, architect, judge, criminal, astronaut or alien (not that any of those things are bad, just examples of how no matter what I read, it didn’t pre-determine my life choices because I read a book). What I am is well-read! And queer!

  64. GreenDoor*

    If you haven’t already, this may be something to take to your Library Board of Truestees (or whatever board/commission has legal oversight of your library). I’m on my town’s library board and one of our primary charges is to set policy for the library. If you don’t already have policies that speak to employee safety and to patron conduct, it might be worth approaching them. Especially if it’s a group of you doing it. BTW, your managers suck here. Public servants shouldn’t have to be deal with this kind of thing just to do their jobs.

  65. Such as it is*

    Sounds like you’re being visited by First Amendment Auditors. The issue is the more you challenge them, the more likely you are to be visited by them. The calmer and less dramatic these filmed visits are, the less likely you are to encounter them.

    The issue here is that it doesn’t appear as though your management is providing staff with any guidance and leaving it to you all to resolve a situation that is bigger than you and your team should be responsible for. I would try to gather your colleagues together and request a formal procedure for how your leadership would like you to handle these situations, as well as give you a point of contact should difficulties arise.

  66. JSPA*

    How is “groomer” not slander, if it’s meant to be taken literally (and apparently it is!) and also incitement to violence (as apparently, that too!)

    1. RagingADHD*

      General insults are not slander because they are opinion. They are characterizing legal behavior (curating library books and checking them out for children to use) in a morally negative light, which is inherently subjective.

      If they knowingly, falsely accused someone of committing a specific crime or damaging action in a way that purported to be fact, that would potentially be defamatory.

      “Bob sucks eggs” is not slander. “Bob stole my car” could be.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        “Grooming” is a damaging action, in this context stated in a way purported to be fact. It would be grounds for a civil suit–but it might not be worth it to any individual thus libeled.

        1. RagingADHD*

          You think so? Please point to the quantifiable damages to the employee’s income, employment, or other opportunities? The evidence that law enforcement or future employers took this insult as a substantive and credible accusation and acted on it?

          Now, if the employee were being personally targeted and harassed outside the workplace, for example if there were a mob of loonies chanting “Groomer” outside their house, or if someone named the OP individually in a published op-ed and accused them personally of actually behaving inappropriately with children, and they got fired over it, then we’re looking at possible action.

          Feeling insulted or offended is not a tort.

  67. JoAnna*

    Start filming them back. Start your own social media channel called “miscreants in the library.”

  68. masterlibrarian*

    we had training for such “first amendment audits” and in our public library they are allowed to film staff in public areas, at the circ or reference desk, etc. but not our screens which may have patron information. likewise they are not able to film in offices or other private areas

  69. Library Lady*

    (This is going to be a long comment.) I’m a public librarian in Illinois, and in this state, members of the public are allowed to film library staff and patrons, with some caveats. The filmer cannot film inside bathrooms or spaces marked “Staff Only,” they cannot violate patron privacy laws (more on that in a bit), they cannot interfere with normal library activities or usage such as preventing a staff member from going about their business, or blocking access to a walkway or collection, and they cannot harass, follow, or otherwise disrupt library users by shouting or causing a disturbance.

    My biggest question after attending a couple trainings has been in terms of patron privacy laws. It’s accepted that a filmer cannot document a patron’s computer screen, borrowed materials, or other sensitive information, but one of the libraries who did a training said that if a patron complained to a staff member that someone was filming them, the staff member was supposed to inform them that the person was within their rights to film, and that they (the uncomfortable patron) could relocate to a different area or come back later. However in this example, the filmer was specifically documenting that patron and commenting on the items that they had checked out which to me is a clear violation of patron privacy, and I was upset that the library’s position was to say there wasn’t anything they could do. More input is needed.

    Overall in these trainings, staff are told to stay calm, answer their questions, pretend that the patron isn’t filming them, and address any problematic behavior that comes up apart from the filming (eg. “You are allowed to film in the library, but you can’t block access to this hallway. I’ll need you to relocate to a different place.” or “You are allowed to film in the library, but your shouting is creating a disturbance. I’ll need you to take a step back and lower your voice.”) If a patron asks a staff member their name and position, we are expected to provide it. If they ask to submit a Freedom of Information Act request, we are to give them the paperwork without question.

    We have also told our staff that they are not required to remain on camera – if a patron is filming desk staff and they’re not comfortable with that, they’re welcome to step away from the desk and find a manager to fill in for them until the person leaves. The idea is for staff to make the person’s video as boring and uneventful as possible. We can’t control other people’s behavior, so if a patron wants to call the police about someone filming, they’re allowed to do that of their own accord, but staff aren’t supposed to escalate the situation.

    If you do a search for “First Amendment Audit trainings,” you will probably find helpful strategies for staff if they find themselves in this situation, regardless of what the legal situation is for your state.

    In short, this really, really sucks and to me this is all part of the larger harassment campaign against libraries. If you know a librarian (or a teacher!), send them a virtual hug because they probably need it.

    1. Librarian here*

      “If a patron asks a staff member their name and position, we are expected to provide it.”

      Interesting. My supervisors/managers always said the opposite, that for safety and privacy reasons we are NOT required to give our name when someone asks for it unless we feel comfortable doing so.

      We’ve also been explicitly told not to answer any questions regarding staff members’ schedules for the same reason.

      1. PlainJane*

        (Another librarian)

        Back east, our names did not appear on our IDs and we did not give them when answering the phone, but moving to a western state, my name appears prominently on my ID, and the standard phone greeting involves giving our names. I imagine it depends on where you are.

      2. Former Librarian*

        My last library director told us we were required to provide both our first and last names to anyone filming who asked.

  70. I am a government employee (but not a librarian)*

    This isn’t a full solution, but as a starting point for brainstorming, I’m wondering if a useful approach might be through your library’s media policy.

    As a government employee (but not a librarian), I am specifically not authorized to speak to the media in my professional capacity or in any context where my words could be interpreted as representing my organization.

    If your library has a similar policy, look into the specific wording to see how it could be interpreted as applying to situations where your conversations are filmed and posted online.

    If you can’t leverage this to get out of the situation, maybe you could leverage it to get media training? Then at least you’d be able to get better at dealing with a camera in your face.

  71. Zarniwoop*

    COVID’s coming back. Time to mask up.

    Yeah the filmers are probably also anti maskers, but they’re going to be unpredictably nutso no matter what you do.

    1. Bob-White of the Glen*

      I do miss being able to stick my tongue out at annoying people behind my mask.

  72. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    This is horrific; I’d no idea US librarians had to suffer this.
    So far, I’ve not heard of such harassment happening in the W European countries I’ve lived in, but with the fascists gaining ground here and copying US fascist culture wars I fear this could be in our future too.

    Maybe the generally stronger laws on privacy laws and worker protection the EU/EEA have would help protect librarians our side of the pond against this particular aspect of fascism.
    However, where fascists gain sufficient power to become the government, they can probably directly ban the books they dislike.

  73. RagingADHD*

    In addition to the points raised by others about filming on public property, in many 2-party consent states, the standard is met by making you aware that the other person intends to record. By continuing the conversation, you are consenting to be recorded. This is why you often hear “this call may be monitored or recorded for training purposes” on a customer service call that goes across state lines. The notification meets the standard of consent, because if you didn’t consent you could hang up.

    Since you can see the phone/camera, and your director has given you permission to walk away from the conversation, that is mostly likely enough to account for consent. If these patrons were attempting to record you secretly, that would be a different matter. (And unlikely in these cases, as the intimidation factor of waving the phone in your face is part and parcel of these staged confrontations).

  74. SusieQQ*

    I wonder if you would have better luck approaching this from a harassment angle. From what I understand of watching videos of first amendment auditors (I am not a lawyer!), if the library is public then people have a right to record there.

    But it’d be nice if the library policy was that patrons cannot harass employees. Just as if someone may be asked to leave a library for being excessively loud or otherwise breaking library rules, “don’t call our librarians groomers” seems like a reasonable rule.

    Also, I’m so sorry. I love my local library, and the work you do is so important. I’m sorry you have to deal with this.

  75. SB*

    It sounds like the library needs to put some cameras of their own in place that film near the desk for the protection of staff. As long as they put a sign near the entry this is fine as people who enter are agreeing to this happening. This would give you the peace of mind knowing that there is an alternate version of anything that ends up online & potentially deter these imbeciles from recording in the first place.

  76. All Outrage, All The Time*

    If someone is posting your image on line and accusing you of being grooming children (which is what I assume they are doing) get legal advice RIGHT NOW. Talk to HR. Tell them staff images are posted online with accusations of child grooming. Don’t muck around with this. Do it immediately.

  77. Abogado Avocado.*

    Like you, OP, I’m a public servant and do I know where you’re coming from. The attorney for our local branch of government has reviewed the law on this issue and told us that the public is allowed to film us when we are working and we can’t ask them to stop or to leave for doing so. If the member of the public is making an unreasonable amount of noise, causing a disturbance, etc. while filming, we can ask them to leave, but we can’t ask them to leave merely for filming. And, if we do ask them to leave for making a disturbance, etc., and they don’t leave, then we can ask security to remove them and ask that they be charged with trespass.

    I fully recognize that the burden of such a policy falls on those whose jobs are public-facing (and those often are the lowest paid among us). Higher-ups (including the attorney who wrote the legal memo) get to hide in their offices from these folks who film, sometimes with the intent of causing a ruckus. I am so, so sorry you’re dealing with this.

  78. Clerking in California*

    I work in a public (county) library in California and my library system would consider this patron behavior a potential violation of our behavior standards in the vein of harassment of a staff or any patrons who requested they not be filmed. While your employer may be legally allowed to claim that as a public employee in a public space you don’t have an expectation of privacy, you do have a right to work free of harassment like this. I would go straight to the union if you have one or band together with your coworkers if you don’t. Because this *is* harassment, and in a form that could lead to violence being directed towards you or your coworkers. This is about SAFETY. Not privacy.

  79. TwentyFishes*

    I, too, work in a public library and have dealt with my fair share of first amendment auditors the last few years (and have ended up on published YouTube videos several times, so I’ve learned to keep my cool and be as professional and boring as possible). I love this page from the American Library Association which has some tips on it, and I hope they help!

    The main idea when being filmed is to do your job and be as boring as possible while doing so. It is aggravating and freaky, but in most cases it’s legal and allowed in the library (depending on policy)

    Keep doing library stuff and don’t let your few horrible patrons get you down! Your work is important.

  80. Just...*

    You say that middle aged men are bringing in tripods? Ew, that is creepy.

    It’s cold and flu season again. Consider wearing a big face mask.

    I am sorry you have to deal with this.

  81. T'Cael Zaanidor Kilyle*

    This sounds like those “First Amendment Auditor” dipsticks. They barge into public buildings and generally act obnoxious and creepy in the hopes that somebody will object to their presence and they can record the reaction.

    However, many states have very strong laws protecting the privacy of library PATRONS. And in many cases it would be hard to record employees without also recording patrons and potentially violating those laws. It might be a good idea for the library to develop a list of rules to hand these people the next time they show up to ensure that patron privacy isn’t violated, in accordance with the law.

  82. MD Library Worker*

    Somehow, my government-run, tax-funded library system went from allowing filming because it was a public space to banning it almost overnight. I wish I could give you a full answer as to how that happened, but I do know that there was an incident like what you described and also there was a very long conversation with the government attorney. I don’t know much more than that.

    Our policy is that if you feel unsafe, you should call a manager or the police. Personally, if someone got in my face with a camera to that point, I would get a Manager or call the police.

    Also if anyone wants to understand more about the reality of what is happening in libraries right now, the posts on BookRiot on censorship have been very well done.

  83. Also a librarian..*

    Groomer as in we disapprove of the materials you are sharing with the children?
    I’m a collection development librarian at a college town library in a red state.

    1. OP Librarian*

      Yes, groomer as in why would a book with a rainbow on it be on display. We’re a small, conservative town, but the people saying and doing these things are not our patrons, they come from other areas. Some of them have started to challenge the books on our shelves, as well, but that goes through the director and not me.

  84. Jaybeetee*

    Holy crap, I didn’t know about the filming or bomb threats (I’m not American). I’m so sorry OP, people are nuts.

  85. AcademicLibrarian*

    Due to some of the details the LW includes, I’m kind of assuming this is a public library in Illinois. Recording is legal in public. Just recording is no reason for police to be involved.

    Now, are the recorders doing OTHER things, along with recording, that are disturbing the peace or are in some other way illegal? That’s another issue.

    I still need to review other comments, so maybe I’m being redundant. All I can see that solely on how the situation has been presented this is annoying, but not a real problem.

    1. Dahlia*

      It’s a real problem that librarians are being doxxed and harrassed and accused of grooming children for having queer books in the library, in fact, not just annoying.

  86. Librarian in the attic*

    First of all, I’m so sorry you and your coworkers are going through this! While the public library where I work hasn’t had issues to this extent, we’ve definitely seen a dramatic uptick in book challenges in the past year (as well as a handful of 1st amendment auditors, though they’re their own can of unpleasantness.)
    One thing we’ve found effective is to have a form for book challenges at the circulation desk. When someone comes in angry about a book they probably haven’t read, all we do is pleasantly tell them that all book challenges are reviewed by the Board of Trustees and hand them the form. It’s only a page long, but you would be amazed by how quickly paperwork takes the wind out of a lot of people’s sails. It asks them to give page numbers that contain the content they object to and provide their contact information so the Board can get in touch with questions, and most of them haven’t actually read the book they’re challenging and/or don’t want to give their contact information and admit they live three towns over and have no business telling our taxpayers how their money should be spent. Very few of our challenges actually make it to the Board, as most leave with the paperwork and don’t come back.
    We’ve been lucky that none of our book challengers have had cameras, but I imagine it would be difficult to hold a camera or phone, film you or one of your coworkers, and fill out a form at the same time. Also, filling out paperwork doesn’t really make for interesting viewership. It won’t deter the ones really determined to cause a fuss, but it will hopefully make for such a boring viewing experience that they’ll move on to more interesting targets.
    On a side note, make sure your staff only areas have clear signage that says “Employees Only.” One of our 1st amendment auditors tried to argue that he should be able to follow one of my coworkers into our break room because there was no clear sign stating it was only for staff.

    1. Emmy-*

      This is how ours is. Our board has been completely cut out of the process to start with. Two librarians review it and if there is a disagreement then it goes to the director, then it goes to the board if absolutely necessary.

  87. Ashley*

    It’s possible that the reason filming is allowed is that most libraries are taxpayer funded. I’m not an expert on the legalities, but I believe this gives the public additional rights within the public spaces of the building.

  88. Tiger Lily*

    The LW is referring to what is called a First Amendment Audits ( there is a lot of legal advice on this) which is the recording of going on in a government building. it is a protected activity. As a library director in IL we train our staff to treat the person recording no different from any other type of patron unless other behaviors they exhibit warrants it. It happens in all types of government entities and are popular videos on social media and something that people should take into account when becoming a government worker.

  89. hansje54*

    My library is also dealing with this and we have been told numerous times by the city attorney that as a government building we can’t ask people to stop filming (see the comment about first amendment audits) BUT we can rely on our behavior policy and point out that their actions have nothing to do with library business so they have to leave. We’ve found that when they come up and bother us, we ignore the camera and tell them that unless they have a library related question we can’t help them and they should leave. If they don’t leave, the staff has been told to say “I have work to do.” and either ignore them or walk away from the desk. Check to see if your library has a behavior policy or code of conduct and if there is something in that policy that can be used to get them to stop bothering the staff and patrons.

  90. I was eating popcorn!!*

    Ooooh this reminds me of my worst-ever work day! During COVID times when our school was masking, a parent who was vehemently anti-mask sent the parent listserv a picture of me not wearing a mask at a school event as “proof” that I didn’t support masking (along with a 4 paragraph message about how masking is the root of all evil, and pictures of other staff not wearing masks at random times). But the context lacking was that I was sitting only next to someone else in my household and I was eating popcorn that I purchased from the concession stand. I felt very powerless to do anything in that situation.

  91. rebelwithmouseyhair*

    OP the fact that it’s worse elsewhere (other libraries facing bomb threats WTF!!!) does not invalidate what you’re going through. There is always worse elsewhere (like the employees whose boss told them he had worse working conditions when deployed in Afghanistan the other day), the fact that something is worse doesn’t make what you’re going through good. If the bar is simply “not worse than elsewhere” it’s going so low it’ll find petrol one day.

  92. Emmy-*

    When I started working at my library, I signed a paper consenting to this policy (though I am a 1 party state).It sucks, but the best bet for this freedom audits is to make it as absolutely boring as possible. Our library didn’t even end up on YouTube, it was so uneventful.

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