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December 11, 2017

About the Library

Leaders & Organizations : Chief Librarian

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Message to our public

In a recent incident, we failed in our efforts to support a patron's successful use of the Library.


An adult patron was denied use of the Central Library's Family Restroom, which by policy, is for use by children with caregivers.


I know that the incident caused harm. To our transgender community, for whom our current practices are less than supportive in your most personal expression, we extend our apologies. One of our main goals is to create safe experiences for our public and sometimes our practices and procedures rub up against that. That happened this time and for that, we are sorry. Please know that we are working to correct that.


To our staff, our apologies as well. As we create policies and procedures, we need to continually review them with an eye to our changing demographics and the changing way our patrons use our spaces so that you are in the best position to serve and meet our patrons' needs.


This matter is serious and important to us. We do not want the harm that happened last week to occur again.


As a result, I'd like to share with you our next steps as we move forward:


  • We've immediately instituted measures to provide single-use restrooms to those users who declare a need
  • We will engage with the transgender community members as advisers to better understand how we can support their use of our Library facilities
  • We are building a single-user restroom at the Central Library with completion before year's end
  • We will update our practices to be more sensitive and responsive to the needs of our transgender community
  • We will continue to receive comments about how we can better serve you
  • We will look for options in our neighborhood libraries as feasible, where our challenges are greater
  • We will improve our staff training programs to ensure that we are prepared to serve our trans community


Some of these actions will take time and we appreciate your patience as we set about the work at hand.


One of our goals is to create safe experiences for everyone, particularly for our most vulnerable populations. We understand now how our response last week negatively affected someone who is transgender and disabled.


I want to thank all of you -- the community, staff, board of trustees, public, city officials and community agencies -- as you've written to us and checked in with us offering your thoughts and insight, but more importantly, your assistance to help us find acceptable solutions. We know that this takes time and can be a long process and we are appreciative that you are willing to help us.


Finally, thank you to the patron who helped us understand the impact of our practices on your personal use of the Library. I know that it was difficult for you and for that I am very sorry.


As your Executive Director and Chief Librarian of The Seattle Public Library, I am committed to ensuring that every member of our public has a safe experience when visiting our libraries. I am also committed to ensuring that every member of our staff is supported with training, procedures and practices that allow them to do their job, ensure a safe user experience in the Library and the independence to make the best decision with the information at hand.


The Seattle Public Library is a learning institution and we will learn from this and do better. Thank you for allowing us to acknowledge what happened and do better in the future.


Marcellus Turner

Marcellus Turner, Executive Director and Chief Librarian

Marcellus Turner, Executive Director and Chief Librarian

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Seattle, WA