A public library

The brouhaha surrounding the Hays Public Library's rejection of a request by the Big First Tea Party to use its gallery space has been laid to rest. Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the board of directors and staff, the library now has a clear-cut policy on building use.

While too late for the local tea party, all ambiguity has been removed so that future requests can be dealt with easily. And it appears the doors will be open for a wider variety of groups. Being in the business of free expression, the library has taken an appropriate and welcome step into expanding the marketplace of ideas available at the public facility.

While two pages long, the policy boils down to this: As long as the library isn't utilizing the gallery, any library member can use the space for two hours as long as they're not engaged in a worship service, political function or commercial venture. The key change enacted with the policy is that religious groups and political organizations will not be turned down merely because of who they are.

The policy follows the American Library Association's Library Bill of Rights, which offers: "Libraries which make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use."

That is a sensible approach to take.

"I don't see anything in this policy that the general public should be upset with," said Dave Dunn, president of the library's board of directors.

We don't either, although time will tell if this holds true. Community standards are fluid by nature -- and subject to interpretation by individuals. However, the Hays Public Library has done itself a service by removing the ban on political and religious groups utilizing the space.

We congratulate the library for taking a stand that passes the logic test. We see no reason why the Big First Tea Party wouldn't share the sentiment, other than its class on the U.S. Constitution would be rejected even under the new policy. The eight-hour session is four times longer than allowed. Still, the group wouldn't be rejected because of its political nature -- and we're confident somebody could condense the program to fit time constraints.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net