COLUMBIA — Complaints about people smoking outside the Columbia Public Library have given rise to consideration of a smoking ban on all library grounds.
The Daniel Boone Regional Library Board will take public comment on the topic when it meets at 8 p.m. Thursday in the Columbia library. A smoking ban would cover libraries in Columbia, Ashland and Fulton that are part of the regional system.
Elinor Barrett, associate director of the Daniel Boone Regional Library, said the potential ban was initiated by the regional board in August, after several customer complaints. The Columbia Public Library adheres to a city ordinance that prohibits smoking within 20 feet of any business entrance.
Barrett said her office had received complaints about smokers at the bottom of the ramp leading to the Columbia Public Library as well as at the bottom of the stairs.
While the ramp and stairs are more than 20 feet from the library's entrance, Barrett said, library users did not like to walk past smokers near the entrance. She said there were "a few" complaints about the smokers, though fewer than 10.
In its Aug. 12 meeting, library staff were asked to report on the implications of making the Columbia Public Library property smoke-free, and those findings are expected to be presented at Thursday's meeting.
"This will be the first time we really discuss it," Barrett said Tuesday. "The board may want to consider other options, get public input or take some more time for the matter."
Daniel Boone Regional Library board member Bridget Canaday said she did not need much time to consider a ban. "I personally am very anti-smoking," she said. "I can very comfortably say I would completely support a tobacco ban on library property."
Canaday said she felt that Missouri is behind when it comes to anti-smoking legislation and that a smoking ban would present a "progressive direction" that all libraries should adopt.
"The library is supposed to be a healthy place," Canaday said. "People shouldn't have to walk through a cloud of smoke to get there."
Columbia Library District board member David McDonald also supports a smoking ban.
"The evidence is overwhelming that it produces a whole list of harmful medical effects, and there's also substantial evidence that secondhand smoke is significantly harmful," McDonald said, calling the current smoking situation outside of the Columbia Public Library, "leaving a bit to be desired."