Use of Meeting Rooms Outside Library Hours

Submission Date:


We are revising our Meeting Room Policy. Currently we have a group of seniors who meet at our library for [really healthy] exercise in the morning before the library is open. They have been doing this for about [many] years. As we know the participants very well and they want to meet before the library is open, we have allowed them to come into the building when it is not officially open.

There is no staff on duty. They open and lock up when finished. This has been a wonderful service we can provide our seniors in a rural community where there are very few options for group gatherings. We would like to keep this practice in place.

However, as we discuss the meeting room policy, we realize that we would not be comfortable with having other groups be in the library when we were not open to the public with staff present.

Can we write our policy to allow this group to continue with the current practice, yet limit other groups to only use the meeting room when the library is open.


There are three things that are potential obstacles to this request:

1.  Safety (and its flip side: Liability)

2.  Security (and its flip side: Loss)

3.  Charitable Status (and its obscure tax-concept flip side: "Inurements")

Put in one sentence, these three obstacles would be phrased as this: "This exercise group wants to be in the library after hours, but someone could get hurt, or forget to lock the door, and anyway I thought we weren't supposed to let private groups benefit from not-for-profit resources?"

All three of these concerns are valid, but with proper planning, they can be eliminated.  The solution, however, is not found in a Meeting Room Policy, but in a programming arrangement.

What do I mean by "programming arrangement?"

The member is 100% right to suspect that a public library can't create special rights for certain people under its Meeting Room Policy (even if the special rights are for a good cause).  But if a library wants, as part of its mission, to facilitate a particular program, that library can make that program a library program...even if it is led by a volunteer.

When a volunteer-led initiative (like an exercise program, or a story hour, or a garden workshop) becomes a program of the library, all three obstacles are eliminated.

There is no longer the risk of it not being covered by insurance (so long as the insurance covers that type of activity).

There is no risk of a security threat (well… none more so than if it were being run by an employee).

And there is no risk of it being considered an "inurement" or improper benefit (since the use is a library program and not an unfair exclusive benefit to a private person or group).

Of course, there are some catches.  If the program will be a library program, it will need to be open to all, without a fee (just like any other library program).  In addition, the person leading the program needs to be designated as a volunteer with a formal letter.  And most critically, the library should confirm with its insurance carrier that the library's policy covers this type of volunteer work and physical activity on site (NOTE: any library using volunteers, for any reason, should confirm those volunteers are covered by the library's insurance).

Here is a sample letter for confirming the role of a volunteer exercise program leader (or leaders):

RE:       Confirmation of volunteer leadership of the Library's NAME program

Dear NAME:

Thank you for volunteering to lead the Friday Night Exercise program at the library!

As a volunteer, you are helping the library provide an additional added service for the community.

The program will be conducted on DAY/TIME until DATE in the ROOM NAME.

The capacity of the program is #.  Participant numbers should not exceed this, due the capacity of the room.  As the program is open to all in the community, participation is first-come, first-serve.

You are being issued [a key/a security code].  Please alert the library immediately if the key is misplaced.  The key must be returned when the program is ended or whenever the Director requests that it be returned.

All attendees must follow the rules of the library.  If you have any concerns about rules, behavior, or the conduct of a participant, please notify the Director as soon as possible.

In the event any person is injured during the program, or any Library property is damaged, please alert the Director immediately, as we must generate a report.

Please notify the Library as soon as possible if a session must be canceled, so we can alert attendees.

[INSERT any other details].

Thank you,



I realize this solution might not be ideal (a pre-existing group might not want to be open to just anyone being able to attend), but making the program a library program is the only way to achieve the goal in the question (to keep the program going as is and without offering the same terms to other groups).

Further, it is important to remember that mitigating these risks doesn't mean the library has mitigated all the risks (the key could still get lost, and any exercise class brings with it the risk of injury).  But this solution does mean that 1) if there is an issue, damages should be covered; and 2) no one can accuse the library of playing favorites/improperly allowing access to charitable resources. 

So, with insurance coverage verified, a formal program in place, and a volunteer letter confirming who is leading the program, let exercise commence!

Thank you for thinking about compliance while also prioritizing the needs of your library's community.  With enough foresight and insurance, almost anything is possible.


Meeting Room Policy, Policy, Templates, Liability, Safety