Posted Jan. 10, 2020 

Jay Reich, president
Jay Reich, president, Board of Trustees

The Library board of trustees would like to thank the patrons and community members who have visited, called and emailed us as we have been considering concerns raised regarding the Feb. 1 meeting room booking made by the Women’s Liberation Front.

We have heard from many people – both in favor of and opposed to the Library allowing this group to privately use the Library’s meeting room spaces.

We have sought legal counsel, discussed this booking with Library leadership, and have considered the Library’s policies around Intellectual Freedom and Meeting Room Use.

After much careful listening and serious deliberation regarding this event, the board believes The Seattle Public Library’s responsibility in this situation is two-fold:

  1. The Library must maintain its role as a stalwart protector of intellectual freedom for all, ensuring that all voices – even unpopular or offensive voices – are able to be heard in a public forum by those who wish to hear them.
    • The principle of intellectual freedom lies at the heart of a public library’s purpose. Libraries provide public space, information and ideas and we trust the public to inform themselves. Public libraries are one of the only public institutions that guarantee this right to access information free from censorship or judgment. As such, this is not a responsibility to take lightly.
    • The Library’s Intellectual Freedom Policy states that “Libraries which make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.”
    • The Library’s Meeting Room Use Policy states that “The Library does not discriminate based on age, race, color, religion, sex, national origin, marital status, parental status, sexual orientation, gender identity, political ideology, creed, ancestry, or the presence of any sensory, mental or physical disability.”
    • These policies are in compliance with city, state and federal law, as well as Constitutional case law decisions. But they are also time-tested approaches to library service that have served library systems well for over 100 years.
    • We believe these are sound policies, and today we are reaffirming our support of these policies.
  2. But the Library must also take seriously its role as a trusted community convener for our public, ensuring that all people – regardless of their life situations or beliefs – feel safe and welcome in our spaces.
    • In this moment, this means listening to and working with the transgender community to ensure the Library is responsive in providing support and representation in public spaces, collections, programming and services.
    • The board has directed Chief Librarian Turner to convene meetings with organizations that support the transgender community to learn what those supports and needs may be and how the Library can develop a stronger and more supportive relationship with this community moving forward. We thank him for getting started on this work right away.

We believe that the honesty and passion we have heard on this topic speaks to the sacred nature of Library spaces.

The board thanks the community for its patience as we have worked through these conversations, and we thank Library leadership for working through this with us.