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.

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