COLUMBIA — The Daniel Boone Regional Library Board of Trustees unanimously approved a policy change Thursday that allows employees with valid concealed carry permits to bring weapons to work.
The board passed the policy after motioning to add a reference to the Missouri law that required the change, which took effect Jan. 1. The revised policy will loosen previous regulations that did not permit employees to carry firearms onto library property. Violation of the former policy may have resulted in immediate termination.
Members of the board expressed frustration at the state law that brought this policy change about.
"Reading through this, it's straight up wacko," board member Lynn Hostetler said during the board discussion. "But I'm assuming we don't have any choice in this."
Hostetler then suggested adding the Missouri statute on concealed weapons to the policy, which the board later agreed to do.
Daniel Boone Regional Library Director Melissa Carr said the employee policy change was made to reflect Missouri law and also to match a policy that applies to library patrons. She said she consulted Columbia attorney Marjorie Lewis in the process.
"The employees have the same rights when it comes to firearms as the general public does," Carr said. "We cannot make a policy on this topic. It has to be a restatement of the law."
Board member John French said he is concerned for the safety of library patrons and that the state law does not give them much leeway in their decision.
"As a board member, we're all concerned about the type of latitude that's being allowed by the law," French said. He said the board's goal is to make library patrons as comfortable as possible.
According to the policy revision, any firearm on library property must be either be carried by the employee or securely stored in a vehicle, desk drawer or staff locker. A firearm in a library vehicle must be carried in a holster or locked in the glove box.
Except for those carrying a weapon as a requirement of the job, the decision to have a gun at the library would be the employee's personal choice. In addition, only the library director could ask employees whether they are carrying a gun or to provide evidence of a permit. All information would remain confidential.
Controversy over allowing guns on Daniel Boone Regional Library property flared earlier this year when Rep. Cheri Toalson Reisch, R-Hallsville, threatened legal action if the library did not update its rules to comply with new state laws on concealed weapons.
The library consequently changed its signage in February to say firearms were not allowed inside "unless authorized by law."
The board also unanimously passed three other motions during the meeting. It voted to close all library branches for an hour on Aug. 21 so employees can watch the solar eclipse. Members of the public will be asked to leave during that time, weather permitting. In addition, the board approved a budget of up to $200,000 to repair the south stairs at the Columbia Public Library, improve its ADA parking spots and to add a wheelchair lift to the south stairs. The board also approved strategic plans presented in a committee report for 2018 to 2020.
This was the board's first meeting since the merger of the Columbia and Boone County library districts.
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