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Queens Librarians Balk at Dress Code

August 2, 2002

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NEW YORK (AP) _ Still available at libraries in Queens: ``The Catcher in the Rye″ and ``Huckleberry Finn.″ Banned by local officials: nose rings, miniskirts and sandals on employees.

A dress code for workers in the borough’s public libraries had the librarians raising their voices this week, though library officials insisted they are only enforcing a policy that is nearly a decade old.

``I agree with the library’s general goal of having an attractive and well-groomed work force, but this onerous and draconian policy is not the answer,″ union head John Socha complained in a letter to library officials.

Members of Queens Library Guild Local 1321 demonstrated outside one branch.

The union’s mostly female members _ about 700 of 900 are women _ complained the policy would reinforce the stereotype of prim, prudish librarians.

``It’s like they want to turn back the clock,″ said library worker Jane Jacobs, 43.

Men are not exempt from the code. They are required to wear shirts and ties.

Joanne King, spokeswoman for the borough’s 63 public libraries, said the dress code was instituted in 1993. Last month, the library officials released a ``clarification and restatement″ of the policy, she said.

The clarification specifically mentioned visible body piercings and tattoos, she said. It was not prompted by customer complaints, but rather ``an overall attempt to create a more businesslike atmosphere,″ King said.

T-shirts and blue denim are also banned.

``Each library makes its own decisions about a dress code and what it should be,″ said Maurice J. Freedman, president of the American Library Association. ``Where there’s contact with the public, I tend to think it’s common for a dress code.″

In Hennepin County, Minn., the dress code bans such things as halter tops, tube tops, tank tops, sweatsuits, certain sandals, and shirts with slogans or advertising.

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