Tuesday, March 11, 2014

SF Library Upset the Chronicle Ran Pix of Patrons in Restroom

The San Francisco Chronicle'e metro beat reporter Heather Knight on Sunday wrote a lengthy piece about the Library Commission tightening its rules of conduct at City libraries, especially the main branch near Civic Center.

Included in the piece were two pictures by staff photographer Lea Suzuki of a library cleaning worker and two patrons. This is in clear violation of the library's regulations against taking photos anywhere in the building without express permission.

Here are the photos by Suzuki that ran on Sunday:

I wrote to Luis Herrera the City Librarian and his spokesperson Michelle Jeffers sent this reply today, clearly spelling out their response to what appeared in the paper on Sunday, bolding emphasis in the original:

I can tell you unequivocally that the San Francisco Chronicle and its photographer Lea Suzuki did not have San Francisco Public Library’s permission to take photographs in the bathrooms at the Main Library.

Nor would we have granted this request if they had asked. While we do occasionally allow media photography in the Library, we always require the photographers to be escorted around the building and we never allow them to photograph inside the bathrooms when the public is using them.

Ironically, our Code of Conduct rules and proposed new penalties for those rules, which was the focus of the Chronicle article, specifically prohibits media filming and photography in the San Francisco Public Library without prior permission of the City Librarian. The full list of these rules is here: http://sfpl.org/index.php?pg=2000004201

It appears that Ms. Suzuki violated these rules, snuck in with a camera and surreptitiously took the photographs that appeared in the newspaper. Please let me know if you have additional questions.

Well, yes, I have questions about what actions the library will take for these apparent violations and I also pointed out that Section 647(j) sub-section (1) of the California Penal Code which prohibits the photographing or taping of individuals in spaces where privacy is expect, specifically restrooms for members of the public. Michelle Jeffers replied:

Again, thank you for the information. I am conferring with our City Attorney as well as the City Librarian to determine how best to proceed. I will respond to your query as soon as I have more information.

When I hear from Jeffers again, I'll post an update.

Seems very clear to me that the Chronicle not only broke the library's rules, rules that they want the homeless and other patrons to strictly follow, and may have also broke state law about not taking photos of people in public restrooms, something I know very much about. I will be contacting the paper about this matter.

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