LAKELAND | Patrons at the Lakeland Public Library are again reading the unabridged version of “No Smoking.”
The dark-brown signs with white lettering, posted on each side of the library’s entrance, had been defaced recently to read “Smokin.”
The library paid a sign company to replace the vandalized signs.
It was the latest episode in the library staff’s efforts to spare patrons from walking through cigarette smoke on their way in and out of the main library at 100 Lake Morton Drive.
City librarian Lisa Lilyquist said the staff established a smoking area more than a year ago in response to complaints from patrons about smokers standing near the entrance.
The library installed two benches on the north end of the front sidewalk, painted the sidewalk in that area dark brown and added a sign about 20 feet from the entrance reading, “No smoking beyond this point.”
The two “No Smoking” signs were also placed beside the automatic doors at the entrance.
Lilyquist said she and her staff fielded regular complaints from patrons about smokers before that change. She said such complaints have dropped dramatically since the library defined the smoking area.
“We have a place for people to go that doesn’t affect those coming in and out of the doors, but sometimes (smokers) don’t adhere to our requests or signage so we go out there if we see it and address them personally,” Lilyquist said. “We let them know we do have a location now and that if they want to continue smoking they can head down that way.
“Most people are really happy we made that change,” she said.
As for the signs, Lilyquist said they have been vandalized two or three times since they were posted. She said the cost for replacement comes out of the library’s general budget.
She said one incident was caught on the library’s security cameras, but the vandal couldn’t be identified.
The changes come too late for Robin Robinson of Lakeland.
Robinson, who is allergic to cigarette smoke, said she became so bothered by smoke in her visits to the library that she switched to using the Larry R. Jackson Branch Library on North Florida Avenue about two years ago. Robinson said she only uses the main library to return books into a drop box.
Robinson wondered whether any city ordinance covers smoking outside of designated areas. Smoking inside public buildings and workplaces has been banned in Florida since 2003.
Lakeland Police Department spokesman Jack Gillen said people who smoke outside the designated area at the library could be cited for trespassing.
On a recent Wednesday morning, a few smokers sat on benches in the designated area outside the library. When asked about the restriction, one of them, Jason Lowry, muttered, “More rules, more boundaries.”
Lowry, 36, said he didn’t really mind being barred from smoking near the entrance but thinks smokers receive greater scrutiny than others.
“When we smoke here we get pinned,” Lowry said. “If an officer comes along, he tells you to get back over there but meanwhile there’s a hate crowd over here.”
As Lowry spoke, another man crouched just beyond the designated smoking area, puffing on a cigarette.
Lilyquist said some of the smokers are homeless people who use the library as a daytime shelter but most are patrons.
She said her staff monitors people outside the library’s entrance and when necessary reminds them of both the smoking restrictions and the library’s no-loitering policy.
“When we see somebody spending an inordinate amount of time there, we go and address them individually,” she said. “You have enough time to smoke a cigarette, and when you start lingering too long, the library staff will go out and ask them to come in and use facilities or go on their way. We’ve been a lot more vigilant on that in the last year.
“We’ve had to call the police on occasion,” Lilyquist said. “If they don’t comply with the library staff, we’re not going to stand and argue. We’re calling LPD’s number.”
© Copyright: Theledger