Forsyth County Public Library employees may soon be given new dress code guidelines, based on a discussion by the library board at its regular meeting Monday evening.
On July 17, the board broached the subject of employee dress, based on feedback Library Director Anna Lyle said she has received from a number of staff members.
“From my observations in the community, we are more restricted in our dress code than most others,” she said. “It does vary by person, but the ones I think are [important to address] are we don’t currently allow any visible tattoos – we haven’t had a situation yet where the most fabulous, qualified candidate that we want to hire has visible tattoos, but that day is going to come – piercings – we have more than one employee who has to remove piercings to come to work – and skirt length is a constant issue.
“A lot of it, unfortunately, comes down to women’s clothing because it changes so much constantly. I’m of the firm belief that leggings are not pants, but if they’re worn with a tunic versus a shorter dress, it may [be OK].”
The board also discussed when jeans might be appropriate, though members largely seemed hesitant about adopting a “casual Friday” policy, in part because libraries are open seven days a week and it might make it difficult and unfair to some.
Still, the consensus was a dress code, inevitably, is going to be subjective.
“We draw the line with students, and this changes with time, on when it becomes a distraction,” said Kristin Morrissey, library board member and Board of Education chairwoman. “It used to be you couldn’t have orange hair because you’d walk in and go ‘Oh my gosh,’ and the class wouldn’t pay attention. Now, kids have blue hair, so it does evolve.
“You can still have the it’s-not-a-distraction-[policy], but we should go with the times. It flows over time.”
Board member Tim Plotner said content is just as important as quantity when it comes to tattoos, which Lyle said is similar to certain T-shirt content restrictions the current dress code addresses.
Bob Keller, vice chairman of the board, said perception matters.
“We’re going to naturally gravitate towards someone that we associate with first,” he said. “Young people [may] go to someone wearing a batman or superman T-shirt, sure, but they’re also already taught to go and talk to their teachers, who are pretty much dressing conservatively to begin with.”
Morrissey said younger children might feel more comfortable with someone wearing a superhero shirt.
“If I was a 7-year-old child, would I not want to go to a librarian who was dressed a little more kooky?” she said.
Despite some disagreements between board members, Plotner said the dress code discussion is not a new one, though it should be had.
“People have been challenging dress codes forever,” he said. “This is not a new conversation, and I still come back to this is a professional organization, and we need to be professional. I know the standards of what appears professional changes over time, but it doesn’t change dramatically, so reasonable expectations, I think, are fine.”