Amicus Brief

Goldstone v Bloomfield Township Public Library

Case Year: 2007
Case Forum: Michigan Supreme Court
Keywords: Michigan Constitution, public library, contract, policy, nonresident
Amicus Counsel:

Stephen Schultz | Stephen Rhodes | Foster, Swift, Collins & Smith | 313 South Washington Square | Lansing MI 48933 | 517-371-8100

CoAmicus Parties:

1. Michigan Library Association (MLA)
2. Michigan Townships Association (MTA)


Const 1963, art 8, § 9 provides that libraries shall be “available” to Michigan residents. Const 1963, art 8, § 9 further provides that the “legislature shall provide for the establishment
and support of public libraries”. Const 1963, art 8, § 9 also provides that the availability of libraries shall be “under regulations adopted by the governing bodies thereof.” This provision specifically authorizes Bloomfield Township Public Library’s policy of allowing non-Township residents to use the
Library, but borrow books only if they live in a supporting community, either the Township or a community that has a contractual relationship with the Library. The Library’s policy is consistent with the Constitution, as well as similar policies of libraries across Michigan. Plaintiff has access to any library in the State of Michigan, but that access is subject to the library’s
regulations. There is no merit in Plaintiffs assertion of a constitutional right to borrow books, since the Constitution plainly states that libraries shall be available “under regulations adopted by the governing bodies thereof.” The Oakland Circuit Court and Court of Appeals correctly held that the Library’s policy is in accord with Const 1963, mi 8, §9’s plain language, as well as the intent of people who ratified it. The delegates to the Constitutional Convention specifically considered the
possibility of Plaintiff’s misinterpretation, and revised the Constitutional language to expressly preclude the position that Plaintiff asserts. Plaintiffs proposal to change the law is also contrary to well-established and essential public policy. Libraries need the ability to enter into contracts with municipalities in order to obtain funding that is necessary to make library services “available” to Michigan residents. If local funding for libraries is undermined, as Plaintiff essentially proposes, then availability would be reduced due to the resulting revenue shortfall. Significant additional state funding or other mechanism(s) would be required to replace the lost revenue and maintain the current level of availability.


Michigan Supreme Court:
We granted leave to appeal to consider whether Const 1963, art 8, §9, which states that public libraries “shall be available to all residents of the state,” requires each individual public library facility in Michigan to offer nonresident book-borrowing privileges. The lower courts answered this question in the negative, and we agree, although for different reasons. Therefore, we affirm.

MSC requested LDF amicus brief? Yes

Plaintiff is a resident of the city of Bloomfield Hills. The city does not have its own public library, but from 1964 to November 12, 2003, had entered into a “library service agreement” with defendant Bloomfield Township Public Library that, for a fee, permitted city residents full access to the library and to other area libraries that were also signatories to the agreement. When the agreement expired in 2003, the city and the township library did not renew it. As a result, city residents, including plaintiff, were allowed by the township only to visit the library and to use its materials on site. They were not allowed to borrow library materials or to fully access online databases and other programs, services, and activities that were regularly available to township residents. Plaintiff believed that, notwithstanding the lack of a service agreement between the township library and the city, the Michigan Constitution guaranteed availability to him and to all other state residents. Thus, he felt he had the right to full use of the library and its collections, including borrowing privileges. Plaintiff sought a nonresident library card and offered to pay a borrowing fee. Pursuant to its local policies, the township library refused and asserted that the access it allowed was sufficient to meet the requirements of Const 1963, art 8, §9.

Case Number: 2005-12
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