A Space for Civic Dialogue

By Administrator RSS Fri, September 3, 2021

In order to boldly move forward our mission to advance literacy, guide learning, and inspire curiosity the Free Library must hold with great fidelity a space for dialogue, a space for nuance, and a space free of hate.

The Free Library recently received concerns over a blog post on freelibrary.org alongside three storytime videos on one of our branch’s social media pages featuring books about the Palestinian people. We took immediate action in reviewing the content in question, removing two storytimes that used language that the Free Library did not endorse and which was inconsistent with our values. We have strengthened our content guidelines, and met with local Jewish organizations and shared remedial measures to mitigate future occurrence. Yet the calls from critics to change our practices have continued and broadened.

The Free Library will always be a safe space for programs, dialogues, and books that lift up all voices—including those that have been historically marginalized. That is why you will see Author Events featuring prominent Israeli and Jewish authors; Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ+ resources, among others, on our website; and yes, books written by Palestinian and Palestinian-American writers. This may make some people uncomfortable; but it is what makes us the Free Library.

We reject anti-Semitism. We reject racism. We reject calls for censorship. And we reject any attempt to hinder our staff’s ability to share with the public our deep and rich collections. To do anything less is to do great disservice to all that a library can and should be.

The Free Library will work relentlessly to uphold these tenets for our staff and for our public. We stand by the actions that were taken in removing some of the content in question just as firmly as we stand by the actions that were taken to let some content remain.

Those who love and value the Free Library do so because of the fact that we cultivate these conversations; not in spite of it. And in that spirit, we thank you for your ongoing support.

Have a question for Free Library staff? Please submit it to our Ask a Librarian page and receive a response within two business days.

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This statement drips with hypocrisy. The fact that staff is being censored on our internal forum whilst this statement mentions censorship feels disingenuous at best. If you don't honor the opinion and viewpoint of the staff that keeps this organization running then a public post declaring respect overall further demonstrates the divide amongst staff and administration. Staff should not and cannot be silenced but should be free to express themselves without fear of discipline and/or having their posts removed that do not violate any policy just because it doesn't paint administration in a positive light.
Michele Teague - Philadelphia
Saturday, September 4, 2021

This statement should concern all library users. Today, the focus is on censoring content about Palestine. If this is allowed to stand unchallenged, what will be the next topic deemed unacceptable? I deeply question the values that led the library administration to produce this statement. Were Palestinian leaders or other groups consulted that might contribute a more balanced view to this situation? By seeking out only views that affirm the initial decision to pull challenged content, the library is failing to pursue the very dialogue and nuance they claim to uphold in this post.
Ann - Philadelphia
Saturday, September 4, 2021

This statement is shameful. The tongue-in-cheek "tut-tutting" on behalf of Palestinians ("and yes, books written by Palestinian and Palestinian-American writers") belies the lack of any conviction in highlighting the Palestinian experience. Based on reporting, it seems that the FLP leadership has only met with a right-wing, anti-Black Lives Matter, pro-Muslim Ban, pro-Trump, pro-Israel organization for consultation on what constitutes "harmful" language. This should absolutely concern other communities in our city, for it shows how the FLP, in wanting to keep a public relations issue out of the public eye, will defer to racism and censor their own employees. Whats to prevent a right-wing Blue Lives Matter group from doing the same to programming on Black Lives Matter or anti-immigration groups from doing the same to library programming that centers voices of those who are undocumented? The FLP wants it both ways: they want the "social justice" credibility by motioning towards including Palestinian voices while *simultaneously censoring Palestinian narratives about their own dispossession and the ongoing occupation they are forced to live under by a settler-colonial state. This should be seen for what it is: an attempt by the administration to quickly and quietly silence Palestinian narratives by censoring and harming their own employees, while at the same time, trying to gaslight critics of their actions by saying they have engaged in no censorship. This. Is. Shameful.
Edward - Philadelphia
Saturday, September 4, 2021

When reading a statement such as this, I think it's important to examine what the statement doesn't say and what questions remain. 1-Why is there no mention of meeting with Palestinian community groups? 2-Why doesn't this statement clearly affirm that the Free Library believes it is not antisemitic to share and promote resources written by Palestinian and Palestinian American people? 3-As Free Library staff are members of the Philadelphia community, why was this message not shared directly with them? And why was the only method library staff have to communicate with each other electronically disabled specifically to prevent staff from discussing these issues? 4-Why does this statement give more details about the content that was removed than the content that was deemed "acceptable"?
Erin Hoopes - Philadelphia
Saturday, September 4, 2021

The exclusion of Palestinian voices in the library story time is an attempt to erase the humanity of the Palestinians and whitewash the trauma and death caused by war with Israel. I would expect the library to raise awareness about struggles ignored by certain media sources. I would not think the free library of Philadelphia would work to exclude Palestinian voices, of which I am one. When I came to this country from Ramallah, I wandered the halls of the center city library building in wonder and delight. Librarians were kind to me. Now the library is using veto power to silence the struggle for Palestinian liberation and its relationship to freedom movements around the world. You have shown yourselves to be disgraceful. You have rejected the possibility of an inclusive dialogue about culture and identity and discarded a peaceful way to resolve a conflict that continues to spill blood across the world.
Khaled C. - Philadelphia
Saturday, September 4, 2021

In claiming to "lift up all voices" the Library is instead siding with the retrograde myth that "libraries are neutral." Not all voices need the amplification.
Caitlin Goodman - Philadelphia
Saturday, September 4, 2021

I wish my 9/11 experience of nearly losing my father in tower 2 had not been deleted and censored twice in our staff discussion forum last week.
Sunita - Philadelphia
Sunday, September 5, 2021

As for the staff being muzzled on an internal forum, To quote Audre Lorde, The Masters Tool Will Never Dismantle the Masters House
Amy T. - Philadelphia
Sunday, September 5, 2021

" We reject calls for censorship," say the censors. Yes, different groups of people have different ideas of what is palatable. It is the role of the library to facilitate "civic dialogue" between those groups. To remove Palestinian authors from public access and conversation is a gross denial of marginalized voices. Rather than removing the content and releasing an insincere PR statement, library administrators had a great opportunity to directly address nuance and controversy in a way that is so necessary in today's complex world. Multiculturalism is one of Philadelphia's greatest gifts. It is disappointing to see Free Library administrators disrespecting that local and global reality.
Chloe Glynn - South Philly
Sunday, September 5, 2021

So many questions... Who is the intended audience for this blog post? What is the context behind this blog post? There are no links to anything being mentioned or alluded to in your statement. Who wrote this? Your Communications department? The same department that is not an actual City department but rather part of the mysterious "Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation". What is their authority and where do they get their funding? Or, did your Interim Director write this post? Maybe your DEI Chief penned this? Was anyone from the Office of Children and Families involved in drafting this public statement? Does the Mayor know about any of this? Your own staff have gone on the record saying that you disabled their access and ability to send emails to other staff? And that you also shut down their staff intranet messageboard? Does your organization even know the definition of "dialogue"? It's a conversation between two or more people. A one-sided conversation where one side makes the rules while simultaneously censoring the other side is NOT a dialogue. The level of hypocrisy and lack of transparency on display here is astounding. It's as if your organization has learned nothing since the ouster of your previous Director, as well as your previous Board of Trustees Chair. So. Many. Questions.
Sunday, September 5, 2021

So no mention of Palestinian rights, or the militant use of fascism by the Israeli government to enforce apartheid against Palestinians. This attempt to prevent any discussion of the Palestinian people in a public library is abhorrent, as is the ham-handed attempts at silence staff who raise the issue. In short, its a standard bit of double-talk that dodges the core issue, lightly insinuates anti-semitism on the part of anyone who mentions what the library won't mention in their public release (the subject of Palestinians), and in general is the definition of performative, luke-warm swill written by an authoritarian mind, but parsed through the language of a marketing department.
M. Cherniak - Philadelphia
Sunday, September 5, 2021

Why did the pro Palestinian info get pulled from the library web site? You guys already got in trouble for racist procedures and practices! What is the matter with you people? Don't you know when to stop pandering to save face?
Yazzy Aritan - North Philadelphia
Sunday, September 5, 2021

This is no public library that I recognize. You have fully devalued the experiences and expertise of your own staff members. You added to what is clearly an already severely toxic work environment, actively harming workers once again. You undermined the values of librarianship as a whole. You showed so many Black and brown communities in Philadelphia that you will abandon them, that you do not stand firm in our calls for freedom and justice. Not for a single second did you consider that Palestinians exist and are deserving of our fierce solidarity and advocacy. Instead, you allowed the weaponization of antisemitism to stand, hurting Palestinian and Jewish communities. And for what? For THIS weak statement? For this hypocrisy? For which community group, exactly? Was this worth it to you? To the authors of this statement: You chose harmful silence and censorship in the face of decades of erasure and injustice to Palestinian people. I see through you. You do not get to position yourselves as people of peace, as defenders of intellectual freedom. You do not get to speak of nuance when you have none and you cannot claim to stand against racism when you give into it. You have only ensured that Philadelphia communities know their libraries are not safe. There is no refuge in these spaces, and you caused it.
K M-T - Philadelphia
Monday, September 6, 2021

This blog post is the cherry on top of the continued abuse of power that the Free Library Administration enacts on its workers and the Philadelphia community at large. With this post, The Free Library administration is: 1. Gaslighting. The Free Library Administration unilaterally deleted librarian-curated content. This is censorship. One cannot purport to "reject calls for censorship" while censoring behind the scenes. Removing content and pointing to inexistent guidelines (why weren't they linked here?) is... still censorship. The censorship is real, not imagined. 2. Obfuscating the truth by trying to control the narrative here on this public blog with smoke and mirrors. Where is the restorative, open dialogue between all harmed parties? Where is the transparency of who penned this blog post? Where is the timeline of events that lead to this conflict? 3. Trivializing the plight of Palestinian lives by not bringing any Palestinian voices into this conflict as well as the racist quip "yes, books written by Palestinian and Palestinian-American writers" as if they were a minor afterthought. How can our community trust the Free Library when our administrators are engaged in these behaviors?
Kate Eckert - Philadelphia
Monday, September 6, 2021

This post refers to "strengthened our content guidelines." I and many others commenting regularly create content for the FLP website and the social media accounts of our respective branches and departments. None of us have heard a word about guideline changes. We can only conclude that this is a PR lie meant to save face. And to save face to whom? You're certainly not improving your imagine among the staff and members of the community commenting here. The only thing you're doing is following the orders of a far-right Zionist group that, to give a sense of their politics, submitted an amicus brief in support of Trump's Muslim ban (https://www.timesofisrael.com/jewish-group-calls-on-supreme-court-to-uphold-trump-travel-ban/). So it seems that what happened is that Palestinian voices were represented by the library, and the administration looked only to right-wing Jewish groups to determine if those voices were permitted in the realm of civil discourse. Why not also talk to Palestinian groups? Why not talk to the many Jewish groups that want to end Israeli apartheid? Why not consult the reports of the secular human rights establishment -- Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, even the Israeli human right's group B'Tselem -- all of whom use that word "aparthied" in their agree the Israeli government's treatment of Palestinians is human rights catastrophe? This is shameful and, as so many others have noted here, is textbook censorship.
Ben Remsen - Philadelphia
Monday, September 6, 2021

Are Palestinians not people according to the Free Library? Those seem to be the only voices and representation being censored. This statement just says to me that the administration at the Free Library is ok perpetuating racism and censorship depending on the population. As a patron I find this shameful and disappointing.
Nicole - Philadelphia
Monday, September 6, 2021

This is outrageous and hypocritical. If you actually rejected racism you would not censor books that dare to mention the atrocities committed and ongoing by the current government of Israel against Palestinians. You also say you've "met with local Jewish organizations and shared remedial measures to mitigate future occurrence," which is fine, but why have you not met with local Palestinians organizations or advocates if you actually care about being fair and hearing all sides? Why are you explicitly excluding Palestinians from the conversation? Why are you also explicitly excluding the voices of anti-zionist Jewish people, of which there are many in the city of Philadelphia who are both proud of their Jewish heritage and critical of the policies of the government of Israel? Cow-towing to only the whims of right wing Jewish groups like the ZOA, which racistly calls BLM a terrorist organization and supported Donald Trump's racist travel ban on people from Muslim countries, is not how you combat the very real threat of anti-semitism. It seems that not only are you excluding Palestinian voices from this decision to censor, but you are also excluding countless Jewish voices who do not wish to see their Jewishness used as a bludgeon against other oppressed peoples. Morton Klein of the ZOA, which lobbied the complaint against these Palestinian works, not only has denigrated BLM and Muslim people, he even promoted the anti-semitic conspiracy theory that George Soros is the puppet master of groups like BLM. It is absolutely important to hear concerns from Jewish members of our community, but that must not be done in a way that privileges the voices of only a few far-right wing Jewish groups at the expense of the larger Jewish diaspora and other oppressed groups like Palestinians. Your decision to censor these works flies in the face of the Library Bill of Rights and I hope that you will rectify this and stop censoring your committed and hard working librarians who believe in the dignity of all people.
Keagan - Philadelphia
Monday, September 6, 2021

I want to voice my support for the librarians speaking up for the Palestinian people. It is brave of them to do so in a climate when criticism of Israel is seen as anti Semitic. I'm saddened that the library has bowed to the pressure of those who refuse to validate Palestinian voices. I hope for a future where the Jewish and Palestinian people can live together under the same laws and protections. Until that day we must speak up and teach--especially to children who deeply understand injustice and unfairness so well. Kudos to these librarians who speak truth to power. I wouldn't want to expose my children to anything less.
Jes D - Philadelphia
Monday, September 6, 2021

Not knowing the content that was remove, I cannot make a judgment on the actions of the library. They may have been justified or not, but without knowing the content my honest judgment is impossible. This leaves me with the question: Do I trust the integrity and judgment of the library? Based on my life long experience with the library my answer is an unequivocal yes.
Tony D - Mt Airy
Tuesday, September 7, 2021

As an Indigenous Person of Color I find this statement obscene. Speaking to the rights of Palestinian people while being critical of Israel's, and by extension the United State's, actions are critical now more than ever. Even prominent Israeli advocates within the Philadelphia community understand that holding a western backed colonial state accountable for various human rights atrocities committed against Indigenous Palestinians is NOT mutually exclusive to anti-Semitic ideologies and equating them as such - the way this statement reads - only upholds the dangerous nationalistic behaviors of anti-Semitism, racism and censorship, which the Free Library claims to reject.
Jessie - West Philadelphia
Tuesday, September 7, 2021

This, coming from the library that booked anti-vaxxer RAND PAUL, until Covid cancelled last year's events...SAD
Concerned - Philadelphia
Tuesday, September 7, 2021

This is an oddly phrased statement (why are Palestinians an addendum here?). As someone who both saw the post and shared the (it's now gone?) video initially with my friend and her daughter, I'm very confused by the removal (seems like censorship) and decision to release this statement. The book and talk did not seem to include anything objectionable. Is there a reason we can no longer see it or the article ("blog post" I guess) that the library posted about the book? Please reconsider. One of the best things about the Free Library is just those sorts of talks and pieces I can share!
Andrew - Philadelphia
Thursday, September 9, 2021

This is the response of the Author of "Baba What Does My Name Mean?' Rifk Ebeid via their instagram account https://www.instagram.com/babawhatdoesmynamemean/ The Free Library of Philadelphia @freelibrary recently removed a video of a librarian's story time reading of my book from the Lillian Marrero branch's Facebook and Instagram accounts, citing that the video included language not endorsed by the library and was inconsistent with their values. They go on to say that they met with Jewish organizations to "mitigate future occurrence." The library took this hasty, ill thought out measure after being bullied by the Zionist organization of America into censoring my book and denying the right to freedom of speech and the right to hear books that express different points of view. The statement @freelibrary released is riddled with hypocrisies, and adds them to the list of people who tout certain values EXCEPT for when it comes to Palestine. A few points to comment on from my end: 1- thank you to the librarian who did the story time reading of my book and stood up for justice and equal rights 2- @freelibrary do you endorse every single book in your libraries? Is every single book you provide consistent with your individual subjective values? 3- @freelibrary the ONLY people that need to be consulted about a book about Palestine, Palestinian history, and Palestinian culture are actual Palestinians. 4- @freelibrary how can you be a "safe space for books that uplift all voices" when you quite literally silenced mine? 5- @freelibrary you need to include a rejection of anti-Palestinian bigotry in your statement. 6- Zionist attempts to erase or censor our narrative haven't worked since the inception of Zionism. Nothing will stop the will of the oppressed in fighting for their liberation through all avenues, including children's books. Hi everyone! Wow! I am overwhelmed by the amount of support this has received! I was most concerned for the safety of the librarian and other staff members who uplifted Palestinian voices at their branches. I think the library should definitely hear from us, so if you are inclined to call or send a message please do. I am also looking into seeing what the best strategy is to pursue as a collective, will keep everyone posted. In the meantime let's keep sharing, the library deleting a post is easy, but the click of a button isn't enough silence us or silence the truth.
Melissa Jones - Philadelphia
Tuesday, September 14, 2021

I echo the statements of many commenters here to say how disappointed I am in FLP. Your inability to consult Palestinian groups directly demonstrates your hypocrisy to the values you list in this statement.
Ali M - Philadelphia
Tuesday, September 14, 2021

This statement and your actions support censorship and racism. Will you be reading and then removing each book in your collection that you determined "used language that the Free Library did not endorse and which was inconsistent with our values"????? I stand in full solidarity with the librarians who are being silenced for ethically standing against censorship and racism. I stand in full solidarity with the author of this wonderful children's book and all Palestinian people whose voices are discredited and erased by racist Zionists and their false accusations of anti-semitism. The truth is, all of our public libraries need more books written by Palestinians!
Rosie - Philadelphia
Tuesday, September 14, 2021

For context: https://www.instagram.com/p/CTyKxEtg9dM/ This is totally appalling. The "local Jewish organizations" you met with do not represent me or other Jews in Philadelphia who condemn the occupation of Palestine and are capable of holding a nuanced view of what actually constitutes anti-Semitism. As so many others have pointed out here, this statement reeks of hypocrisy, saying you "reject calls for censorship" while bowing to those very same calls in removing the story time videos. The tone here is disgusting, tacking on "and yes, books written by Palestinian and Palestinian-American writers" as though it's a distasteful duty you have to perform. Where are the local Palestinian organizations in your conversations about this issue? Do you also reject the denial of Palestinian rights? Do better, you're embarrassing yourselves.
Laura - Philadelphia
Tuesday, September 14, 2021

My family is deeply disappointed with this egregious act of politically motivated censorship. As a Jew, I reject the attempt to conflate zionism with Judaism. Acknowledging Palestine is NOT antisemitic. You have sided with the right wing ruling class in perpetuating Islamaphobia and we will no longer support this institution. Shame on you.
Andrea Cohen - Philly
Tuesday, September 14, 2021

" We reject anti-Semitism. We reject racism. We reject calls for censorship. And we reject any attempt to hinder our staff's ability to share with the public our deep and rich collections." Firstly, are you going to explicitly reject anti-Palestinian sentiments? Also, in case you're that dense, by pulling a book off the shelf because it upset one organization you are literally facilitating censorship. I really expected better, I guess I shouldn't have.
Cass - Philadelphia
Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Caving into the will of a far right Zionist organization that does not reflect the views of many other Jewish folks, not including Palestinians in this "dialogue" (admit it there wasn't a dialogue you even censored your own staff) is not a good look. I've heard some pretty negative things about the FLP in the past regarding racial disparities in the workplace and this just further confirms your tone deafness. What's next you gonna allow a far right Christian group order you to delete books referencing abortion, or perhaps we shall delete your entire LGBT+ section while we're at it? This has me ACTUALLY pissed off.
Scott - Philadelphia
Wednesday, September 15, 2021

I'm really disappointed in the Free Library for this. Being Pro-Palestine and talking about the Palestinian experience is not anti-Semitic. Libraries are information centers. Libraries are not here to ban information from users. Libraries are supposed to challenge censorship, not encourage it. I'm deeply troubled by the Free Library's ability to just ban a book and say they did all the right things when in fact, they did not. Allow your staff to discuss the issues. Maybe even listen to them.
Wednesday, September 15, 2021

I am a library member and I am disappointed by this act of contrition and surrender to pressure from xenophobic Zionist organization to silence the voices in support of the plight of the Palestinian people, who are being segregated and colonized by the Israeli regime. There is no antisemitism in pointing out those facts. There are no innocents in that conflict, never have been, but the West Bank settlement and apartheid policies are atrocious. This dialogue needs support not suppression.
Bohdan - Philadelphia
Wednesday, September 15, 2021

So correct me if I am wrong. The author was supported enough to be invited to read her children's book *to children*, and a Zionist got upset at seeing the video? How, precisely, did the language not match the values of the Free Library *after* you invited the author to read it? Either she should have never been invited at all, which objectively makes no sense--she wrote a children's book... Or it is, despite the Free Library's statement, the *feelings* of some folks *within* the Free Library, that Palestine voices weigh less than Jewish voices. Surely you have tomes in your system that explain why this was a bad move? Zionism is real, and the conditions for Palestinians remain the same. They are an occupied people. It is anti-Semitic to censor Palestinian voices, too. Jewish people are not the only Semitic peoples. Please clarify specifically, what language was so egregious, from the perspective of whomever made the decision (and also, who did that?) to pull the video of the reading. The statement given thus far us rife with hypocrisy and vagueness. YOUR (the people who opted to pull the video) homework, is to read Justice, Justice Shall Your Pursue: A History of the New Jewish Agenda, by Ezra Berkley Nepon. Please do better. I am so disappointed in whomever opted for this decision. Your bias is clear.
River Whitlock - Powelton, Philadelphia, PA
Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Why is the Free Library bowing to a Zionist group that's calling for the extermination and displacement of Palestinian people? Why is the Free Library censoring the genocide and ethnic cleansing that Israel is committing against the Palestinians?
Jorge S - Philly
Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Very curious to know what language specifically was inconsistent with your values, because it certainly sounds like your values don't include the rights of Palestinian people to exist. You say that you feature books by Palestinian and Palestinian-American writers, and yet you censor a CHILDREN'S book about Palestinians because it offended some Jewish organizations? This is truly shameful. Spoiler alert: you can't censor content about Palestinian people and identity while claiming to be anti-racist!
Ali R. - West Philadelphia
Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Kudos to your librarians and staff who are standing against your censorship. You state you "reject any attempt to hinder our staff's ability to share with the public our deep and rich collections" yet you did exactly that. What exact language do you "not endorse"? If you are going to go through the effort to put out a flawed PR statement, at least be transparent. Do you endorse every statement by every speaker at your library or on your blogs? What was "inconsistent with our values"? What values are those? List your issues. What do you mean by "strengthening our content guidelines"? Based on your actions, it looks like censoring, requiring approval, auditing. Your statement indicates despite all these actions, "yet the calls from critics to change our practice have continued and broadened". So this is clear this was not based on the library's philosophy. Your own statement indicates all this was not enough to appease the organizations and individuals who have an issue with Palestinian voices and so you will continue to do even more to make them happy. Do you work for them or the general public? Explain how the library is a "safe space for programs, dialogues, and books that lift up all voices" when you quite literally made it unsafe for your librarians, staff and patrons? When you censored instead of facilitated dialogue? How did you "lift up all voices" by NOT including Palestinian voices in your reaction to non-Palestinians' issues. Why did you meet with Jewish organizations? These were Palestinian books. Did you meet with Muslim and Christian organizations since you want to conflate Palestinian narratives with religion? Did you for a second think to meet with Palestinian organizations? You stated "we reject anti-Semitism. we reject racism". Great. So does the majority of the public. Why did you find it necessary to state this now, in this statement? What exactly was anti-Semitic or racist? Do you not reject anti-Palestinian bigotry? Why not include that when issuing a statement regarding your blog post about Palestinian people? The hypocrisy is so obvious. Who approved your statement that "yes, books written by Palestinian and Palestinian-American writers? This may make some people uncomfortable". How utterly insulting. Replace the word "Palestinian" with another nationality and see the reaction you get. Awaiting your follow-up response.
FMS - Chicago
Wednesday, September 15, 2021

This Palestinian censorship taken by the library is truly unethical and racist. Stating you reject censorship WHILST executing censorship is also pure hypocrisy. You're fine with having books by Palestinian writers but stop short when it comes to actually defending the free speech and perspectives of Palestinian authors. Your actions show that you do not respect ethnic/cultural inclusion and representation.
Chris - Philadelphia
Wednesday, September 15, 2021

This post couldn't be more hypocritical if you tried. Quote: "We took immediate action in reviewing the content in question, removing two storytimes that used language that the Free Library did not endorse and which was inconsistent with our values. We have strengthened our content guidelines, and met with local Jewish organizations and shared remedial measures to mitigate future occurrence. Yet the calls from critics to change our practices have continued and broadened." What is the language in this book that the Free Library does not endorse and finds inconsistent with its values? To do something so bold as to censor a book, you better have very explicit reasoning and examples from the text in question. Furthermore, this claim suggests that the Free Library DOES endorse the language and values found within every other text within its walls. Is that the case? If so, that is a whole other conversation to be had. Why were "local Jewish organizations" consulted at all? This book is about a Palestinian child. Did you also consult local Muslim organizations? Why would you consult Jewish people - who this book is not about - and not Muslims? Is it because these "local Jewish organizations" are actually Zionist organizations who do not speak for the broader Jewish community? Quote: "We reject anti-Semitism. We reject racism. We reject calls for censorship. And we reject any attempt to hinder our staff's ability to share with the public our deep and rich collections. To do anything less is to do great disservice to all that a library can and should be." Are you kidding me? 1. What anti-Semitism are you rejecting here, exactly? 2. You are actively censoring a book in the same breath that you claim to "reject calls for censorship." 3. You are actively hindering your "staff's ability to share with the public our deep and rich collections" with this decision. This all started with a staff member sharing this book in a story time, remember? What blatant hypocrisy. Not even an attempt to make this disgusting decision seem reasonable.
Kimmy Nazaruk - Philadelphia
Thursday, September 16, 2021

As a Jewish patron and resident, this censorship of Palestinian voices and concerns is absolutely abhorrent to my beliefs. An immediate apology and retraction is necessary. This condescending response above is embarrassing and whoever is behind this awful, politically motivated censorship should face immediate disciplinary action. Censorship of oppressed minority groups should not be what the Free Library stands for.
ZH - Philadelphia
Thursday, September 16, 2021

Ashamed to hear the FLP is silencing important anti-racist dialogue on Palestine. The hypocrisy is truly next level.
Minou - Fairmount, Philadelphia
Thursday, September 16, 2021

I am very saddened to read this but not surprised. As of almost 4 weeks ago I emailed the free library asking about books about Palestine by Palestinian authors. I even provide an extensive list of novels and children's books I would love to see throughout our library to make it even easier for you to find these books. I NEVER received an email back. I'm not surprised after reading the above statement. Shame on you for trying to silence the voices of other human beings. The administration no longer represents its city, its employees, or us patrons. Shame shame shame on you! I am very saddened to have you representing our free library in the city of humanly love. Let's hope you do what's right. And after that, you should step down as you no longer represent the people of this great city and library. Wado
Jacob Nunn - Philadelphia
Thursday, September 16, 2021

How can the Free Library claim to uplift all voices and reject censorship, yet quite literally silence the voice of a Palestinian author? Why is the Free Library meeting with local Jewish organizations regarding a Palestinian book--Were local Palestinian organizations met with? I am echoing many of the sentiments made by fellow Philadelphians in this comment section who are all appalled at the actions of the Free Library. Censorship is frightening on all accounts, but even worse when perpetrated by the public library.
Vi - Philadelphia
Thursday, September 16, 2021

I am extremely disappointed by the administration's response. I feel ashamed that our city's library would behave in this way and release such a ridiculous statement. Acknowledging Palestinians and their struggle is not anti-Semitic! Who are the Jewish leaders you consulted? Certainly not the local Jewish leaders & institutions I admire: Kol Tzedek, If Not Now, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. Please apologize for censorship, alienating your patrons & community, and putting out such an insulting & hypocritical statement.
Ashley V. - Philadelphia
Thursday, September 16, 2021

Your continued censorship of Palestinian content is really disappointing. It is clear the library administration let one viewpoint railroad decision-making, which led to censorship. You have failed in your mission to advance literacy, guide learning, and inspire curiosity. I am the opposite of inspired. I now view the Free Library of Philadelphia as a biased entity that censors Palestinian and Arab viewpoints. You have not created a space for Palestinian voices and perspectives. I have no trust that the library administration understands the meaning the term nuance and certainly don't believe there's space at this library for Palestinian viewpoints, stories, books, and perspectives (like you promise to do so prominently for Israelis). I thought this was a free American library. Disappointed.
Thursday, September 16, 2021

What the Free Library of Philadelphia is reacting to is a lovely children's book that affirms Palestinian identity, history, and heritage. This, of course, is a threat to Israel and its supporters, who have sought to erase us out of history. Thousands of years of continuous Palestinian habitation of the land must be subordinate to the insecurities of her foreign colonizers, who have done everything they can (depopulate villages, raze ancient cemeteries, destroy archeological artifacts, uproot millions of trees, and so much more) to try to lay claim to all that was created, nurtured, built, written, harvested, and loved by the native Palestinian population. Imagine how tenuous their claims are that even a children's book about the origins of a name shakes them to the core. But what a shame that the Free Library would be a willing participant in this colonial racism and mendacity.
susan abulhawa - yardley
Friday, September 17, 2021

The marginalization, silencing, and oppression of Palestinians is never the right answer to any question. It is neither moral nor advances the library's mission to "advance literacy, guide learning, and inspire curiosity." The claim that the library "will always be a safe space for programs, dialogues, and books that lift up all voices" is patently false when Palestinian voices are silenced. Shame on FLP leadership. Palestinians, marginalized peoples everywhere, and indeed all Philadelphians deserve so much better than this.
Johanna R. - Germantown
Sunday, September 26, 2021