Salem Public Library (Caleb Wolf/Special to Salem Reporter)
After facing backlash over the Salem Public Library’s temporary location and who owns it, the city is taking steps to reaffirm its welcoming to LGBTQ patrons.
In July, the city approved a plan to lease the former Capital Press building owned by Salem Alliance Church. At the time, a citizen advisory group said it was “deeply concerned” people would spurn the library because of rumors that the church discriminates against the LGBTQ community.
“The intention was really we had heard the concerns about who our landlord is and some of those concerns seems to be around any restrictions that might be placed on us as a library,” said librarian Sarah Strahl. “It is a library space for the community of Salem. Therefore, we want to respond to those concerns by making sure that we’re going and showing those inclusive values that have as a library.”
Strahl said a joint task force of the library and Salem’s Human Rights Commission explored how to send an inclusive message to the community.
Some of the efforts include signage, expanding LGBTQ booklists and an opening ceremony held on Pi Day “designed specifically to highlight the inclusivity of the library,” according to city documents.
Strahl said the library is talking about having button makers at the March 14 event as well as multicolored pinwheels.
The city is still creating signs that will go on the outside of the building and the inside vestibule.
Above the inside entrance will read: “Salem Public Library serves its community by promoting and providing opportunities for full and equal access to information and ideas, the love of reading, the joy of learning, and engagement with the arts, sciences and humanities in a safe and comfortable environment.”
On the exterior windows and door, Strahl said “all are welcome” would be written in different languages.
In a statement, the Human Rights Commission said: “In the event that the city must use this location, the commission recommends that the city council publicly proclaim the city’s support and adherence to the purpose and intent of the City’s Human Rights Code, particularly as applied to the LGBTQ community, and urge all of the city’s residents to support and encourage a city free of discriminatory barriers.”
Strahl hopes library users would feel that everyone in the community is welcome to come in.
“I do want people to feel that they can have a constructive dialogue with us and that we are open to taking suggestions. I welcome those conversations,” Strahl said.
The downtown Salem library is closing Feb. 2 for seismic upgrades and will re-open in its temporary location at 1400 Broadway St. N.E. on Feb. 18.
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