Public libraries in the USA many times add a “Code of Conduct” to their collection of “policies.”

They typically include a provision for banning “problem patrons” from the library for as long as life. If you search “library code of conduct you will find many examples.

This can be effected without evidence or trial or a right to an appeal in front of an objective party. I think I could be on the cusp of that process, but I am not entirely sure right now. I can provide more details if it will help clarify the situation.

BTW: I am not homeless or foul smelling...but I am a very active mature adult library patron with a strong penchant for multidisciplinary intense academic research.

This strikes me as running against key US Constitution provisions, like Equal Protection, Freedom of Speech,…

Moreover it strikes me as running against the Separation of Powers Doctrine.

It comes across as imperialistic and not at all democratic.

How is this possible?

What are the legal concepts, precedents …. that define a public library's rule making processes and enforcing mechanisms and the legality of their claimed powers? I have not been able to find such in the Colorado Statutes.

Thanks for any thoughts and guidance.

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    This is going to depend very much on just what allegedly disruptive or 'problem' conduct the staff says you are engaging in. Commented Dec 18, 2018 at 4:53
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    I am truly curious what a "very active mature adult library patron with a strong penchant for multidisciplinary intense academic research" did to get himself banned from a library? Checking out hundreds of books at once? Yelling "Eureka!" every few minutes?
    – abelenky
    Commented Dec 18, 2018 at 17:26
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    @DavidSiegel administrative law is law
    – Dale M
    Commented Dec 18, 2018 at 20:26
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    What puzzles me is "It comes across as imperialistic and not at all democratic". Did they send the army to occupy the once sovereign state of the library? Maybe the expression you are looking for is "heavy handed". In any case, what is democratic is how legislative bodies and elected officers are chosen, the enforcement of laws is not democratic at all.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Dec 18, 2018 at 22:37
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    @Dale M Administrative law is law yes, with some differences. But regulations generally are not, quite. One generally can't be convicted of a crime for violating library regulations. At most one can be told to leave, and then if one does not it can be treated as trespassing. Much the same for, say, a rest stop code of conduct Commented Dec 18, 2018 at 22:56

1 Answer 1


This can be effected without evidence or trial or a right to an appeal in front of an objective party.

Not so. If a person is charged with a crime for violating such a code, (or refusing to leave when ordered under such a code) they could defend on the grounds that it is unreasonable, unauthorized, or violates that person's constitutional or statutory rights. Or, if a person has been ordered to leave, the person could comply and then seek an injunction forbidding future enforcement of the regulation. Such methods have been used in the past to challenge the lawfulness of administrative regulations.

The Colorado code CRS 24-90-109. Powers and duties of board of trustees says that:

(1) The board of trustees shall:

(a) Adopt such bylaws, rules, and regulations for its own guidance and policies for the governance of the library as it deems expedient. ...

(b) Have custody of all property of the library, including rooms or buildings constructed, leased, or set apart therefor;

(c) Employ a director and, upon the director's recommendation, employ such other employees as may be necessary. The duties of the director shall include, but not limited to:

(I) Implementing the policies adopted by the board of trustees pursuant to paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of this section;


(III) Performing all other acts necessary for the orderly and efficient management and control of the library.

This law seems to authorize libraries to adopt and enforce codes of conduct for persons using the library.

This page from the CO State library development agency gives example policies that libraries are encouraged to model their policies on. In the section under "Library Use/Behavior" there are three example policies. All of these list various prohibited acts, which seem relatively reasonable to me. Two of the three include an explicit appeals process for serious violations.

You do not indicate what sort of behavior you have encaged in for which the library may wish to ban you.

In general, government facilities are allowed to make reasonable regulations for members of the public using those facilities, and it is not a violation of people's Constitutional rights to make and enforce such regulations. However, that depends highly on what the regulations are. A regulation limiting access by race would obviously be struck down. A regulation prohibiting shouting, even though it impacts speech, would be permitted as a content-neutral regulation of "time, place and manner". In short it would depend very much on the specific regulation, and what rights it is alleged to violate.

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    Similarly, in it's capacity as an employer OR as a buisness owner (such as the Post Office and the Library, which both operate services for a "customer" or patron) the government can enact restrictions similar to a private business (for example, you cannot do a picket protest inside the post office any more than you can in a Wal Mart. You may also be asked to leave for problem behavior and if you refuse, you are now trespassing on the property and that is a crime.).
    – hszmv
    Commented Dec 18, 2018 at 15:45

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