Librarians return amid scent dispute

March 16, 2012
By

HYDE SQ.—Two librarians are returning to the Connolly Branch Library after a fragrance worn by patrons reportedly caused health issues for them, forcing their temporary transfers.

It is unclear how the issue was resolved. And there is still a disagreement between the Connolly’s Friends group and the Boston Public Library (BPL) about establishing a fragrance-free policy and why an existing ban on patrons with “offensive body odor” did not apply in this case.

Jane Bickford and Amy Manson, longtime librarians at the 433 Centre St. library, were transferred in January, as the Gazette previously reported. Officials have declined to describe the exact nature of the fragrance on the record, and BPL librarians are banned by the administration from speaking to the media. The BPL brought in other librarians to keep the branch fully staffed.

Bickford is now back on the job, and Manson was slated to return this week, according to the BPL and the Friends of the Connolly Branch Library. But the BPL did not explain how their return was negotiated.

“I don’t think the problem is solved,” said Friends group co-chair Fran Streeter in an email to the Gazette.

The Friends group has called for the BPL to remove patrons who have problem-causing fragrances. But Christine Schonhart, the BPL’s director of branch libraries and a Connolly Branch patron herself, previously told the Gazette that the BPL has no fragrance-free policy and will not so it can remain welcoming to everyone.

But, Streeter noted, the BPL’s “Appropriate Use Policy” already allows for the removal of patrons “with offensive body odor or personal hygiene.”

“When a person has a negative reaction to certain fragrances, it certainly qualifies as an offensive body odor,” Streeter said. “We want to keep the library open to all, even those with chemical sensitivities.”

“This policy [about offensive body odor] does not apply to the situation at the Connolly Branch,” said BPL spokesperson Gina Perille without elaborating.

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