Long Beach

New law in Long Beach gives public libraries power to ban disruptive visitors 

Repeat offenders can be fined up to $1000 and six months in jail.

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After several incidents of visitors half-naked, sleeping on library furniture and igniting fights inside libraries across Long Beach, the city council has approved a new law that gives librarians the power to suspend or ban chronically disruptive visitors.

“We need to protect our patrons and our staff,” said Cathy De Leon, Long Beach director of library services.

The new law could mean criminal charges if those banned return to a library and refuse to leave. Disruptive visitors could be charged with a misdemeanor which is punishable with a fine of up to $1,000 and six months in jail.

Currently, visitors who engage in fighting, lewd conduct and theft could earn a one-year ban.

“Sleeping on library furniture, not wearing sufficient clothing, or not “reasonably” managing personal hygiene/order” could lead to a 3-month suspension.

De Leon said the existing code of conduct has already resulted in 131 bans last year. The 12 library branches welcomed 650,000 people in 2023.

“This is not about limiting anyone from going to our libraries,” said Long Beach Mayor Rex Richardson. “It’s about anyone having free access to our libraries in a way that is safe.”

“I believe it makes it easier to criminalize homelessness,” said Long Beach resident Alana Enriquez.

“I think it’s discrimination. It’s a billion-dollar library. It’s open to everybody, I thought?” said Rolly De La Cruz, a homeless man who uses the library often for the bathroom and to charge his devices.

De Leon says suspensions and bans only will happen after staff are fully trained, incidents are well documented and go through multiple levels of reviews.

The new law also allows for an appeal process for banned or suspended visitors.

De Leon believes most often librarians will be able to resolve issues quickly without bans. She gave an example of a visitor violently waving around a broom at the main library recently, which would have led to a ban, but a conversation changed the outcome.

“We talked to him, had a great conversation and we ended up reinstating his privileges that day. He was banned all of two hours,” said De Leon.

The ordinance could go into effect as soon as May.

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