William Mirelez, right, and Ashley Wallace relax Thursday in the window seats at the Lewiston Public Library. The couple has been homeless together for the past year, and are planning to move to Louisiana where they hope to find a place to live with relatives. Wallace says the library has been important for maintaining social connections. “It’s a place to get things charged up and see people we know,” Wallace said. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — A policy change at the Lewiston Public Library this week now prohibits visitors from bringing carts, baggage and bedding into the building.

Interim library director Katherine Webber said the policy change was needed due to space constraints, particularly as the number of visitors rebounds following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Staff have often needed to ask people to move their things in order for other visitors to be able to access shelves or seating areas, she said, adding that carts and bags blocking aisles can also be a safety hazard.

“We want to make the library a welcoming space for everyone,” she said. “It can be a little bit difficult to navigate the aisles or checkout materials if someone is taking up a particular space.”

However, some people within the homeless community say the new policy will make it far more difficult for them to use the library because they have no safe place to store their belongings.

Standing outside Trinity Jubilee Center Friday, Ian said he’s visited the library nearly every day for years to charge his phone and use the internet. Every time, he would bring with him all that he owns in a large backpack and a dolly.


Due to the policy change, Ian, who declined to share his last name, said he won’t be able to visit the library anymore. His most important items take up more space than what is now allowed.

According to the new policy, library patrons may not bring in bedding or clothing outside of a bag, more than three bags, or wheeled devices like carts or suitcases. Items brought into the library may not exceed a space of 24 inches by 16 inches by 10 inches total.

Wheeled devices for people with disabilities or baby strollers used for their intended purpose are exempt, the policy specifies.

Ian is worried that his things will get stolen if he leaves them unattended outside, especially the extra large sleeping bag he purchased. His large frame doesn’t fit in most commercially sized sleeping bags, he said, and he’s had possessions stolen in the past.

Previously, Ian would head to the library from 3-7 p.m., after Trinity Jubilee’s day shelter closed. Now that the weather is warming, the library’s policy change won’t have much impact, he said. But when the cold weather rolls around again, he’s not sure where he’ll go to stay warm in the evenings.

“They said it was because some people would make a huge mess, and they do, but I didn’t see a lot of people doing that,” he said. “Usually it was the same people every time.”


The policy change was not the result of any particular incident or in response to any one group of people, Webber said. Rather, it’s something that library staff have been considering for a long while.

The new policy wasn’t created to target homeless people, she said, noting that it will apply to everyone, including travelers coming from the bus station.

“We’re trying to be very mindful about how we’re applying it and applying it equitably,” she said. Other libraries in the state and country have a similar policy, she added.

However, homeless people like Ian say it’s yet another policy which limits where homeless people can be. On April 1, it became illegal for people to sleep overnight on public property in Lewiston.

“It seems like it’s gone along with other new rules that (the city) started,” he said. “The no sleeping on public property rule — it seems like an extension of that.”

The policy change also comes at a time when staff have discussed restructuring hours and the City Council has proposed budget cuts that would close the library an extra day each week.

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