Leander City Council approved a new policy to allow public use Oct. 21 in a 6-1 vote with Council Member Jason Shaw voting against the change.
The policy was revised in August 2019 to limit room use for only city meetings, events or functions such as library programs, parks and recreation programs, and commission meetings. A background check requirement was also added. In May 2019, the city canceled a Drag Queen Story Hour event at the library, which drew state and national criticism and sparked a review of library policies.
Parks and Recreation Director Mark Tummons said council members asked to explore ways to expand the use of the library annex at their summer retreat. The new policy says the use of the room does not mean the city endorses the use or the viewpoints expressed, Tummons said. The city, library, and parks and recreation department will have the first priority for room use. The city will also not be responsible for providing security for the applicant or its attendees, according to the policy.
Two residents spoke at the Oct. 21 meeting with reservations against the changes and library content.
"I'm kind of on the fence with it because it's good to offer public access to the library, but there is a history that we are all aware of with this library," Leander resident Gerald Prater said. "I'm a firm believer that we learn from history."
Council Member Kathryn Pantalion-Parker said the library is now managed by city staff and not a third party, so the city has a more hands-on approach with events and approval. The city transitioned to operating the library earlier in 2021. Pantalion-Parker said she wants to make sure that what happened before does not happen again.
“I do have reservations about reopening the meeting rooms, as we’ve discussed," Pantalion-Parker said. "Simply because it has the potential to open us up for some liabilities, and I guess that goes along with anything."