Diversity Member Initiative Group

Is "Safe Spaces" the right frame?

  • 1.  Is "Safe Spaces" the right frame?

    Posted Nov 16, 2016 09:41 AM

    I know that I have seen some discussion about how a library cannot and is not "neutral," and we should be trying to reframe that conversation. With the state of the things right now, I have seen quite a bit of talk about libraries as "safe spaces." I am uncomfortable with that phrasing, because I find it to be a problemic. We cannot truly offer a "safe space" if we welcome everyone. I know that in the social justice work I have done in the past, there was a shift to using "brave spaces." I wonder how others feel? I also found this article that I thought gave a good overview of save vs. brave spaces. 


    What are your thoughts? 


  • 2.  RE: Is "Safe Spaces" the right frame?

    Posted Nov 20, 2016 11:57 PM

    I'm so glad you posted this! I have also been uncomfortable with claiming libraries to be 'safe spaces.' It seems folks are using this term without knowing much about the history and context for creating safe spaces, and I agree that we cannot really truly offer them in libraries. Looking forward to digging into the article you posted. Thanks!

  • 3.  RE: Is "Safe Spaces" the right frame?

    Posted Dec 05, 2016 10:31 PM

    I didn't read the article, mainly because it seemed to focus on academic libraries and I work in public libraries.  It made me think of a public library who took down their 'Safe Space' sign which was meant to let children know that the library was safe space, because the library could not, in fact, guarantee the safety of unattended children.

    I am searching my brain for a term that works for both public and academic libraries and I'm coming up with a blank.

  • 4.  RE: Is "Safe Spaces" the right frame?

    Posted Dec 06, 2016 09:21 AM

    "Safe Space?" Why don't we call it a civilized place--That is what we are really talking about--aren't we?


     I"m talking about the classical definition of the word--which connotates the ability or different people to live with one another without killing one another. This word comes from the word for City.

  • 5.  RE: Is "Safe Spaces" the right frame?

    Posted Dec 07, 2016 07:46 AM

    I fully support the concept of brave spaces but it comes across to me as a loaded term that could be claimed and interpreted quite differently by various groups.

    Can we simply label our libraries as welcoming spaces that are open to all? And also highlight the expectation that we will treat each other and our ideas with respect? I know that doesn't fit on a bumper sticker but life is more complex and nuanced than platforms like Twitter would have us believe. And libraries have been portraying themselves as welcoming for years. Sometimes it pays to simply reaffirm and emphasize our core mission so that patrons will feel that they can safely and bravely claim a shared space.

  • 6.  RE: Is "Safe Spaces" the right frame?

    Posted Dec 09, 2016 06:00 PM

    I like Lars Klint's term above: "welcoming spaces."

    "Safe space" does provide an opportunity to check our privilege. "Safe" for whom and from whose perspective?

    Is this a safe space for the person who is afraid of all the homeless people using the library?

    Is this a safe space for the homeless person who is afraid of being stabbed on the street and therefore seeks refuge in the library?

    I am proud of my local public library, the SFPL (San Francisco Public Library), for its forward thinking and social service orientation.