The Falmouth Library Board of Trustees voted at its Tuesday, June 9, meeting to allow the town to place up to six picnic tables on the library lawn near the Main Street sidewalks. The picnic tables can remain through Columbus Day, at which point the trustees will reassess the matter.
The approval comes with several conditions. The trustees expect the town administration to monitor and clean the tables, repair any damage to the library lawn caused by the picnic tables and install signage on the use of the tables.
Noting the trustees are responsible for maintaining the lawn, board chairwoman Sylvia L. Szulkin said the group should do everything in its power to make sure both the lawn and tables are cared for during the summer.
“We’ll keep watching to make sure [the town] is carrying out its responsibility because you don’t just fling the tables down and wait until Columbus Day to start talking about it. You have to be watching it,” she said.
Signs will note the rules and regulations of the library lawn. Though the tables are being installed with the intent of supporting restaurants as they reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic, not everything purchased at a restaurant can be consumed on the library lawn. Alcoholic beverages are prohibited.
Trustee Lindsay M. Hopewood added that alcohol is prohibited in all public spaces, not only on library property.
“Alcohol is not allowed off the premises of a restaurant. It doesn’t have anything to do with the library. You can’t walk down Main Street with an open bottle of beer. It’s not allowed,” she said.
Trustee Judith L. Fenwick said the signs still need to note the prohibition of alcohol.
“People who don’t live here, people from out of town, they don’t know the rules. You need to post a sign,” she said.
Citing her experience running an Airbnb rental, Ms. Hopewood said people do not read signs.
“They just don’t,” she said. “We have an Airbnb and we list what the rules are, and we’ll get more questions as to ‘can we,’ when it’s right on the refrigerator saying you can’t do it. People just don’t read signs, and the longer you get, the worse it will be. If you want to say something, say very little and get to the point. You can’t list 15 things and expect people to read it.”
Given the tables’ use for takeout, trustee Kathleen C. Mount said a sign is needed.
“Quite naturally, people will feel they can bring a bottle of wine or beer if there is no sign near the table,” she said.
The language of the sign will be developed by town administration, Library Director Linda Collins and Ms. Szulkin.
Trustees had several other questions about the placement of the tables, including who will clean them. Ms. Collins said the department of public works would clean the tables, with the parks department prepared to fix any damage caused to the lawn.
Ms. Mount asked who would be responsible if an outbreak occurred after the installation of the picnic tables. Trustee Margaret Finnell said it is the responsibility of the applicant, not the library board of trustees.
“If the town is the applicant, then the town would be responsible for any insurance that we needed and to make sure that all of the regulations are complied with,” Ms. Finnell said.
Ms. Szulkin said the library has an obligation to make sure the terms of its agreement with the town will safeguard the public and library property.
“You can’t just close your eyes for the term of the contract,” she said, adding that if an applicant deviates from the terms of the contract, the trustees need to go to the applicant and address the issue as it arises.
Ms. Finnell asked if the Friends of the Falmouth Public Library might hold a book sale this summer. Though the summer sale is canceled, she asked if the picnic tables would interfere with a sale should the Friends opt to hold one later in the year. Ms. Collins said they would not.
“They would not interfere with the current placement of the tents for the book sale, even if the friends were to have a full-blown book sale,” Ms. Collins said.
Friends vice president Leonard Miele said the group is considering hosting a book sale later this year.
“We had to cancel the annual book sale, which hurt all of us,” Mr. Miele said. “It was something we didn’t want to do, but it had to be done. We are really hoping to have another sale, maybe Christmas, a huge Christmas sale. That’s a possibility.”
Board member Kathryn L. Elder asked if additional trash cans would be needed.
“There are trash receptacles there already, and they feel like they would need to add one or two supplemental trash cans,” Ms. Collins said.
Ms. Fenwick said it would be important to monitor the trash cans, as they can fill up quickly.
“Hopefully, the trash will be emptied more than once per day, instead of letting it build up,” she said.
While the tables will be available for takeout use, the picnic tables are not exclusively for restaurant customer use.
“I think that we have to have a statement in here that acknowledges these are for the public,” Ms. Szulkin said. “These are public grounds. If somebody wants to come by and people watch at the table, we can’t stop them.”
In addition, Ms. Mount said, members of the public can bring their own food from home for a picnic on the library lawn.
The approval allows the town to install the picnic tables as soon as possible. While the approval allows up to six picnic tables, Ms. Collins said the town will start with four.
“[Assistant Town Manager] Peter [Johnson-Staub] feels they would begin with just four tables and monitor the usage to see if there is a need for more,” she said.