Monthly Archives: August 2017

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Libraries and the Concept of Safe Spaces

The term ‘safe space’ means different things to different people, to those that have an interest in online privacy Libraries may not be considered safe spaces due to local authority filters that block certain sites and key words and also have the ability to monitor what people get up to online; the security and privacy of Library patrons borrowing records is also not secure.

Libraries that host police services can feel unsafe to communities and individuals that have experienced police brutality. Unstaffed/self-service libraries can be unsafe if staff are not on hand to moderate what can be threatening behaviour to other library patrons. Sometimes library staff behaviour can make patrons feel uncomfortable due to prejudices and preconceptions that exist within all individuals.

On the flip side, for parents with young children the library can be a safe place to go for story times and contact with other parents & families who have children of a similar age. For latchkey kids the library can be a safe place to wait if their parents/carers are working late; libraries that offer homework clubs can also provide assistance for them while they do their homework. For people at risk of bullying and abuse the Library can be a safe haven.

There is no one size fits all descriptor for safe spaces, and while it is true that Libraries cannot be said to be ‘safe spaces’ they can be made safer fo rall users. To achieve this, Library staff need to work with the community to identify what practices within the service that make them feel unsafe and change or eliminate them as much as possible while amplifying those practices that provide safety and security for patrons.

#DadLife: Visiting the Library

It is one of life’s ironies that although I am a librarian I do not take my little ginger snap to the library that often. That joy falls to my lovely wife who treks her up to the library several times a week for toddler time, baby rhyme time and sundry craft activities. To be completely honest – this makes me a bit jealous as once upon a time I was a Children’s Librarian in my first Library job (Fish Hoek Public Library) and I have seen how much fun these activities can be!

My daughter loves the library, each time we walk past she points and starts shouting at me at this time it is still hard to understand what she is saying but I imagine it is something along the lines of “No you fool I want to go in *there*” and then she bursts into tears as we carry on walking. This is not, you understand, a form of mental torture I subject my child to, rather it is because that whenever we go past, the library is already closed.

However on Saturday morning while waiting for the car to be washed we had a bit of time so we popped in to our local library (Chislehurst), The moment we went through the doors she started fighting to get out of the pram and made excited noises, the moment her feet hit the floor she ran straight for the Children’s Library.

She grabbed a book off the parenting shelf and brought it proudly to me, it was a book on potty-training which made me wonder if she was trying to tell me something. She then started running round the shelves grabbing books, seemingly at random then plonked herself down and started looking at them. I am always amazed at how carefully she turns the pages – until she gets excited, then I have to step in to make sure that she does not accidentally pull pages out. So far the worst she has done is remove a date-stamp label but I live in fear of having to take a toddlerised book to the library desk.

I love the Library – when I was small my mother took my brothers and I for a visit to our local library every week. It gives me a sense of enormous well-being that we are continuing this tradition with our daughter.