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Monday, November 7, 2011

Library Historical Time Line. Part 4. 2007 Goldstone V. Bloomfield Township Library

Goldstone versus Bloomfield Township Library was the not first suit filed by City residents against the Bloomfield Township Public Library.

Robert Toohey the attorney for City resident George Goldstone wrote the following in the  January 2011 edition of the Hills Highlight, the official newsletter of the City of Bloomfield Hills.

Incidentally, the Goldstone case was not the first one filed against the township library for refusing to let us have library cards. In 1996 six residents of Bloomfield Hills filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of all city residents to protest the library’s warning if the city didn’t pay the lump sum library service contract fee it demanded it would end "borrowing privileges to Bloomfield Hills residents after June 30, 1996".
Mr. William Hampton, our current city attorney, filed the lawsuit. He argued, "Under Michigan law, public library facilities shall be available to all residents of the state. The right of all state residents to the full use of the facilities of any public library include not only the right to enter the library and read books and use library facilities, but also the same right to borrow books and other materials that is offered to residents of the community in which the public library is located, subject to reasonable regulation"

The reader, especially the many new readers we have picked up from the City of Birmingham who have an interest in this issue, may wonder why we are sourcing Mr. Toohey who is not a supporter of the current millage issue. There are many reasons that pertain to the 2007  section of the time line. Mr. Toohey is an attorney. Mr Toohey as an attorney argued the plaintiff's case and Mr. Toohey remembers (a most unusual attribute for a City of Bloomfield Hills official ) . For those who desire more balance we have also included the the Complete Opinions (unabridged) all seven justices in the the the case. We have also included a facts in five summary review from Michigan State University and comments from the Impromptu Librarian on the Court case circa 2007.

 Robert Toohey on  Goldstone V Bloomfield Township Library
(From the July/August 2010 Hills Highlights)
Why don’t we have an agreement with the Bloomfield Township Public Library to borrow its books? Didn’t all seven members of the Michigan Supreme Court rule July 2007 in George H. Goldstone v Bloomfield Township Public Library that people have a constitutional right to borrow books even if they pay no local taxes to support the library?
The answer is, yes, that is the ruling of all seven members. But then four members said no particular public library is required to recognize our constitutional right.
I was the attorney for Mr. Goldstone. This article will give you my view of the case and its consequences. It also provides an opportunity to tell you no money was spent on the Goldstone case by our city taxpayers. George paid all the court costs and I did not ask for or receive payment from any source for my legal services.
Obviously Michigan residents who have a public library in their community have no problem borrowing books. Goldstone basically applies to nonresidents, people like us who have no public library of their own. In library language we’re nonresidents.
Although all seven members ruled that nonresidents have a constitutional right to borrow books, four of the seven crippled that right by letting each public library decide if it will recognize it. The four reasoned if any particular library decides not to lend its books that is not a denial of constitutional rights because nonresidents can always find a public library somewhere in Michigan where they can borrow books.
The three dissenting members said this ruling was “inexplicable”. Nonresidents should not have to shop for a public library willing to recognize their constitutional rights.
Another ruling by the four has made library negotiations between communities and libraries needlessly difficult. When the Goldstone decision was released July 2007 it was clear two issues had not been resolved: [1] can a public library charge a borrowing fee that exceeds what it actually costs the library to lend books to nonresidents and [2] can a group of libraries jointly refuse to lend their books to nonresidents because their community will not agree to pay what a member of the library group demands?
I filed a motion with the Supreme Court to ask for a hearing and a ruling to resolve these issues. The four summarily denied the motion. The other three voted to grant it. That denial probably accounts more than anything else for the existing impasse to restore book borrowing. Negotiators have struggled for years over what a library can charge, each side understandably determined in the absence of legal direction to negotiate the best outcome for their respective taxpayers. City negotiators are rightly concerned about the fiduciary obligation of elected officials to use tax dollars prudently, not pay for library services that are free or demonstrably overpriced. By analogy, to pay $300,000 for an ordinary police car would be an obvious imprudent use of tax dollars. Hopefully the court will not become the default forum in another effort to resolve these and other issues.
Another problem is that book borrowing negotiations are usually described as efforts to continue or restore “library services” for nonresidents. As a result, nonresident taxpayers could mistakenly believe that to borrow books they must pay for a whole range of nebulous “library services”. Why is this important? Because, except for book borrowing, the law requires public libraries to provide almost all “library services” free, even though the nonresident user pays no local taxes to support the library. And to insure public libraries suffer no financial loss in lending their books, the state legislature adopted a law in 1985 to give public libraries the right to set and collect a book borrowing fee from nonresidents, the fee limited to recovery of all actual costs incurred in the borrowing.
Township taxpayers could have saved the thousands of dollars their library claims it spent in legal fees if the library had not terminated the library contract with our city, effective 2003. As a result, the library and its township taxpayers have also lost at least $1,500,000 in book borrowing fees from us since 2003. There are some who say the Goldstone case was baseless, without merit. To the contrary, Goldstone had broad support including [1] the Michigan State Board of Education, the state agency created to protect and advance the educational needs of our children and students [2] the Michigan Department of History, Arts and Libraries, a former State of Michigan agency created to protect and advance the financial and other needs of our public libraries, and [3] the Attorney General for the State of Michigan, Mike Cox, who filed a supporting brief with the Supreme Court in our case.

 Further Reading
 Click on underlined title (in red) to read.
MSU Summary of the Ruling

 The Opinion of the Court (The unabridged opinions of each of the seven (four for the defendant, three for the plaintiff).

Impromptu Librarian  ( This link is sometimes slow load. Her blog is worth the wait,)

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