or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Reference Question of the Week – 10/18/09

   October 24th, 2009 Brian Herzog

flagpoleOn my drive in to work this past Thursday, I noticed the Fire Stations in town had the American Flag flying at half-mast. I wondered why, but forgot about it by the time I got to the library.

Shortly after we opened, someone walked up to the desk said he saw some Flags at half-mast, and asked why the Library's Flag wasn't. No one on staff knew, so I went online looking for some kind of government Flag-flying website. I found all kinds of useful resources.

I didn't find any government proclamation lowering the Flag that day, but I did find a few half-mast calendars, as well as many flag companies that offer email notification reminders of when to lower the Flag:

Flag Flying Calendars & Notifications

It was also interesting (to me) to read about when the Flag could be flown at half-mast. Lots of pages offered general information, including the Flag Code:

General Flag Information

However, none of this answered my question about why some Flags in town had been lowered and some hadn't. I called the Town Manager's office, to see if they knew of (or had issued) a proclamation, but they were as puzzled as I.

So I called the Fire Department, since it was Fire Station Flags I had seen lowered. The person I spoke with there said the Stations lowered their Flags because a former Fire Chief had died, and they were honoring him.

Okay, so that answers that question. I'm not sure this is permitted under the Flag Code, but I wasn't going to push it. In researching this, I did learn that it was okay to put a black ribbon on a Flag to mourn someone's death (or when a fixed Flag can't be lowered), which I hadn't known.

And being the person I am, my favorite finds of the day were Flag Code Violations in the News and American Flag Wall of Shame, which detail prominent gaffs of people who really should have known better.

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