Library no-smoking area now includes north, west sides

At first, Library Director Beth Scarth thought the city’s resolution in 2009 banning smoking on the sidewalk in front of the library would solve the problem.

But now that the library has been remodeled, there are additional problems with second-hand smoke. She is hearing complaints from library patrons — even from library staff in their work areas.

Scarth asked the council at a recent meeting for a ban on smoking in an expanded area on the front and west side of the library, and the council granted the request.

The reason staff workers are complaining about inhaling second-hand smoke while doing their work is because smoke is coming through the drop-boxes that are accessible from both sides of the exterior wall.

People are smoking outside the library, and the smoke is being sucked inside the library through the drop-boxes — into the area where library staff are working.

Patrons’ complaints are centered on their walk “through a cloud of smoke,” Scarth said, as they walk from their vehicle to the library’s front door and return.

Councilor Jeremy Pietzold spoke in favor of stopping the smoking on all sides of the library, calling the library an extension of school campuses where no smoking is allowed.

“There are a lot of kids that come to the library,” he said. “Parents bring their (young) kids throughout the day, and they have to walk through the smoke and the litter (from smokers).”

Scarth mentioned that the no-smoking rule is difficult to enforce, and that the complaints are only about the front and west sides of the building.

Councilor Lois Coleman said the same problem wouldn’t occur on the east and south sides of the building because there are no drop-boxes in the wall.

Councilor Carl Exner doesn’t smoke, he said, but added that smokers should have some rights — some freedoms.

“I think there ought to be some places for people to smoke,” Exner said. “If you take (all smoking areas) away, there is an issue with the freedom to do anything you want to do with your body that doesn’t affect other people. Smoking is still legal.”

But Mayor Bill King said non-smoking adults have the right to not be forced to breathe second-hand smoke.

“If a smoker has a right to smoke,” King said, “a non-smoker has a right to clean air and to not breathe that smoke. I don’t think it’s on us to provide a smoking area for smokers.”

Councilor Olga Gerberg agreed with King and Pietzold, saying people should have the right to go into or be inside the library without having to breathe other people’s smoke.

The resolution to expand the non-smoking area around the library was approved 5-1, with Exner voting no and one councilor absent.

In addition, city staff was asked to return to a future meeting, likely April 1, with suggestions for a penalty for violations of the no-smoking rule.

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