Library Rules: No Loud Yells, No Bad Smells

Homeless advocates get into lather over hygiene policies

By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 13, 2009 9:31 AM CDT

(Newser) – Even if you haven’t been to a public library in a while you probably know the major rules: no shouting, no running, no food or drink near the books. But a rash of complaints from patrons have driven some Chicago-area libraries to institute a new prohibition: no offensive body odors. Predictably, some people are indignant, the Tribune reports.

Although the rule applies just as much to over-perfumed patrons as to those with a more natural pungency, some say the rules unfairly single out homeless people. But librarians say they would only kick someone out if other patrons are bothered by the smell—in Joliet, for example, an especially powerful body odor caused someone to vomit.

At the Chicago Public Library, patrons have never been allowed to run, talk loudly, or have open drink containers. Now, they also can't exude powerful aromas.
At the Chicago Public Library, patrons have never been allowed to run, talk loudly, or have open drink containers. Now, they also can't exude powerful aromas.   (©Serge Melki)
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When one or more library users complain that another person's hygiene is of such poor quality that it is prohibiting them from pursuing what they want to do, their problem becomes our problem. - Library director Stephanie Sarnoff

I really can't think of any cases where I've met someone who says, 'I like the fact that I smell.' It really is a fact of not enough money and not enough places willing to help them stay clean.
- Todd Stull, director of a homeless advocacy group

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