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Library director calls for fursuit-related policy review

Edited as of Mon 17 Sep 2012 - 03:19
Your rating: None Average: 3.9 (7 votes)

Library director Janet Nocek of Portland, Connecticut had her work cut out explaining furries to board members tonight after calling a meeting to review the library's behaviour policy, reportedly after fursuited visits to other local libraries raised fears of child enticement.

The piece in the Hartford Courant highlighted concerns about those visiting in disguise, and in particular non-religious use of hoods or masks (forbidden by the library's rules of conduct), which in this case might cause families to mistake fursuiters as official mascot characters.

Update (14 Sep): The issue was raised in a discussion thread started late last month by Henry Dutcher of Enfield. Initial replies were humorous, but the talk got more serious when he mentioned a child took a fursuiter's paw and was "led away by them" (within the library).

Update 2 (17 Sep): Television stations WFSB and NECN have also covered this story.

When contacted before the meeting, Ms. Nocek expressed no ire towards the fandom's "many creative and playful people", but emphasized a need to "balance everyone's freedom" with the "safety and comfort of our users" — especially young children:

I don't expect that furries are any more of a threat than any other folks.

But it might be possible for someone - whether they be a furry or not - to don a costume and convey the impression that the library has a character visiting.

We need to show that we are prepared to handle such an occurrence.

The library lies just six miles from FurFright, likely to draw around 1500 furries this October.


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For the record, the only furry that anybody need to have worried about is already imprisoned - Alan The Panda Berlin. As far as policy makers, it should be remembered that Berlin served under a Republican state senator in Pennsylvania. Furry has a good record of policing within itself, so they should know or at least be informed about that with a PR representative of the fandom.

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Certainly an understandable concern, however now that she has given that idea to child predators she's probably ensure that something like this will probably happen somewhere in the future. Obviously done by a non-furry, since they wouldn't have to worry about any repercussions and instead would cause them to a fandom they don't belong to.

Oh false flags, have you no end?

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Um, I'm not sure being caught as a child predator would have no repercussions for the individual.

Also, @ozzythefox, just speaking on a purely statistical level, I really doubt a group as large as furry fandom only has one bad apple. I mean, this is the Internet. We're all pedophiles here.

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I'm just waiting for Lapism to become a real-life religion so that we can wear fursuits everywhere. (Well, except France. ;-)

I have to think the enticing power of a fursuit is nullified by automatically being the center of attention everywhere you go. I doubt most child molesters are particularly interested in drawing attention to their activities.

Worth noting: Ms. Nocek was one of those who fought against secret government library record demands back in 2006.

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Good on her.

That being said, if there was a stereotypical picture of a librarian in my head (fourth from left), it would be Ms. Nocek.

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I was going to make a crack about "hot librarian" fantasies, but was so shocked by how she does look exactly like the stereotypical picture of librarian in my head, too.

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I was going to engage in a lengthy rant regarding the abandonment of logic by these parents, but it's making me so angry that I need to go hit something, so I think I'll just stop now.

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Speaking as a librarian, I wouldn't get too worked up about this. First put yourself in the frame of mind of a public librarian, especially one who's in charge of the children's area. Anyone who's worked in a public library has horror stories galore about the things some patrons do, anywhere from harassing other patrons, to doing terrible things in the washrooms, to jerking off in the aisles, viewing pornography on the computers, etc. Any of which can result in unusually specific signage. Actually most of the patrons are pretty good people, but when you get a bad one... hoo boy.

Basically what you've got here is a case of a librarian saying, "We don't seem to have a policy in place for people coming in who are dressed in a manner that conceals their identity. With the occasional creep we get in here, we should have a policy in place. Let's work on one." Unfortunately, the mental image she's seized upon to represent that valid concern... are fursuiters, even though none have ever come into the library. Her concerns for patron safety are good, but she's fixed on us as a way to explain the type of identity-concealing costume she doesn't want around. (I assume that if a costumer wanted to parade around and got permission in advance, a lot of librarians would be ok with that. Asking ahead is simply common sense for any kind of fursuiting event if you're going to wander onto people's property, be it private or public.)

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Frankly, I'm on her side. For a lot of furries, their passion to express themselves leads them to have blinders on as to when and where certain practices and behavior are inappropriate, and I don't believe that such behavior does the fandom any favors.

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Most furries are actually well behaved. The few that don't make the news because they're the exception to the rule.

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Yes, umm ... "Voice of Reason" (real subtle, there), but they are wearing a mask. And masks tend to make people act out.

I know this from the bazillion and a half interviews with fursuiters saying their fursuits make them do things they wouldn't normally do.

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I'm not generalizing fursuiters as poorly-behaved. I'm saying that the practice of suiting *in itself* is sometimes not appropriate in certian public settings. Some furries (but by no means all of them) don't want to recognize that.

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'certain', rather.

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I can see a group of Fursuiters visiting a children's hospital on an approved activity with hospital staff present. I cannot see a lone Fursuiter visiting a public library without advance notice.

Fred Patten

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I'm surprised this is apparently upsetting some people. That sort of rule isn't new. Covering your face in public is illegal in a number of areas and for good reasons. It's not at all unreasonable to ask people doing so to first obtain permission. When I went with a group fursuiting in public the first thing we did was stop at the shopping centre's information desk, announce ourselves and make sure they were okay with it. On a side-note I detest how they make an exception for religion.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

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Unlike other countries, in the US you may cover your face in public. There are laws regarding committing a crime while masked, other laws or policies which dictate such on public property are not lawful. Of course there are exceptions, like how one may be forced to take their mask or costume head off at a place like a airline security checkpoint, but are always allowed to put it back on once they're past security.

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Wait, is she implying it would be impossible for someone out of costume to entice a child away... say with candy or promises of something a child might want? I gotta be honest, quite a lot of kids would be more terrified of someone in a fursuit than someone holding a lollipop - especially if they don't have their guardian standing by to assure them the giant animal is nothing to worry about. And... where are the parents in all this, it may be a library but they let their small children wander around unsupervised?

And I may be alone in thinking that it's a lot more noticeable for a fursuiter walked out of the library with a kid than some strange adult.

The whole story may have its valid points but I can't help but notice the not-valid parts.

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There are certain rulings in the district courts, specifically the 2nd which cover NY, RI, VT and CT. You may want to sit down and google the following terms and lookup the cases regarding: mask kkk ruling ny

While the topic of the KKK is uncomfortable, I'm very much serious since the relating cases cover terms of the first amendment. Though the intent of wearing a mask is a factor, and I can tell you almost all suiters have the intent of expressing their creativity in suit. There are still laws on the books in states which prohibit the covering of the face regardless of intent, which are also null and void just as there are laws prohibiting same sex intercourse.

Basically, any policies public libraries in CT, 100% owned by the public, create regarding masks are by de facto null and void.

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Yes, lets go around bullying public libraries, that would certainly do well for our image...

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Apparently this story isn't quite ready to lay down and die yet. NBC Connecticut decided it was worth a minute of news airtime.

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Making this about furries is missing the point. As a few posts above point out:

- Anyone concealing their identity will cause other patrons concern. This is true if you're in a fursuit, or if you're in a Halloween mask, or if you're wearing a ski mask, or anything else. Most people who wear ski masks are not bank robbers. That doesn't mean you should be offended about taking of your ski mask before entering a bank. The same principle applies here.

- There is a legitimate concern that a fursuiter will be mistaken for a mascot character hired by the library. That is, in fact, the first assumption that most people will make, as they know what mascots are but not what fursuiters are. This is a liability nightmare for the library, because - just by being in costume - you are assumed to be operating on _their_behalf_. It's understandable that they'll get twitchyh about this.

In a perfect world, you'd have a magical trustworthiness-ometer and let in anyone in costume it gave an "ok" reading for. This is not a perfect world. The path of least hassle for the overworked, underpaid people whose job it is to keep the library running, is to ask people not to wear costumes in the library. This is by far the option with fewest headaches for them. If you ask ahead ahead of time, you might get permission to do a tour in costume, but please don't be offended if they say "no" (or offended if they ask to have a staff member with you at all times). Anything else puts the entire library staff in a very stressful position (having to worry that there might be a creep in your group, having to deal with complaints from patrons even if you're all angels, etc).

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They had a discussion about this at

What strikes me is the disregard for professionalism, at least as librarians they could do a better job of research and stop acting like a bunch of middle school students.

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People will be people. People always hear stories of individuals walking away with a child. Though it's really the responsibility of the parent to be watching their kid. Unfortunately fear mongers will always exist, then there will be people like Alan Panda who enforce said fear monger's beliefs.

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It is common courtesy and practice for any fursuiter to ask ahead of time to enter certain premises, I don't see libraries any different than a bank, theme park, or a state regulated building. Fursuiters need to respect public areas and even though it may feel unfair to some, respect for your community should come first and foremost. With respect comes respect and I completely agree if a library considers a fursuit head as a mask. They are trying to run a county-level business for the state, with as little causes for alarm possible.

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GreenReaper (Laurence Parry)read storiescontact (login required)

a developer, editor and Kai Norn from London, United Kingdom, interested in wikis and computers

Small fuzzy creature who likes cheese & carrots. Founder of WikiFur, lead admin of Inkbunny, and Editor-in-Chief of Flayrah.