[view the letter with signatories and links at https://tinyurl.com/LOTY2020
To the editors of Library Journal,
On June 3rd, Seattle Public Library was announced as the winner of the 2020 Gale/LJ Library of the Year award. This is incredibly disappointing, considering that just four months ago, on February 1st, Seattle Public Library hosted a group which denies the rights of transgender, nonbinary, and gender variant people to have autonomy over their gender identity. While SPL is being given an award that centers “service to the community” and being lauded in a feature article for “listening to community needs,” the library has not listened to its own staff or to Seattle’s LGBTQ community.
The administration of Seattle Public Library claimed that hosting this event was consistent with their values, but the platform that SPL provided for this group gave them an opportunity to advance bigotry. Hate groups have used library rooms to try to persuade and recruit for decades (2001 in Chicago, 2018 in Vancouver, and 2019 in Toronto); while libraries like NYPL have refused to take this group’s booking deposit, SPL chose not to revise its room rental policy, instead deciding that a dogmatic view of intellectual freedom was the higher principle they would stand for. Transgender and nonbinary people and their allies urged the library to cancel the event from the time it was announced in December 2019; the library leadership and the Library Board of Trustees chose to disregard those requests.
The fact that this February 2020 event was not even mentioned within the feature article announcing the 2020 Library of the Year award is damning. Particularly difficult to understand is the section labeled “Hard Conversations,” where Executive Director Marcellus Turner mentions the “misstep” made when a transgender patron was denied access to a family restroom in 2017. To choose to not acknowledge the more recent issue of hosting a group which denies the rights of transgender, nonbinary, and gender variant people is bewildering and hypocritical.
We want to be clear that we support the workers of Seattle Public Library, especially those who were put in danger by the choices of the SPL administration. We know that many employees of SPL were made to feel unsafe by the administration’s decision to allow this group to speak, and that SPL employees were among those who protested during the event. SPL increased security during this event, putting LGBTQ and other marginalized people in conflict with the Seattle Police Department, and two protestors were arrested. These actions directly contradict SPL’s “commitment to building an equitable and inclusive public library,” and certainly should not be rewarded with the prestige of being named Library of the Year.
The following signatories demand that the 2020 Gale/LJ Library of the Year award be revoked, and the $10,000 prize be donated to Gender Justice League, a Seattle-based organization working to support civil and human rights for trans and gender diverse people.
Those of us who are Library Journal award winners have noted our awards in parentheses beside our names. If the Library of the Year award is not revoked by June 30, we ask Library Journal to remove each of our profiles from libraryjournal.com
, effectively revoking our own awards. We will also publicly discourage applications to all LJ award programs until this award is revoked.