Free Library Board of Trustees Public Meeting on Friday, September 17 at 8:00 a.m.

By Administrator RSS Wed, September 15, 2021

The Free Library Board of Trustees will be holding its first meeting of FY22 on Friday, September 17, 2021, from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.

View the upcoming meeting agenda »

The meeting will take place through the online meeting platform Zoom, due to continued COVID-19 precautions. 

To access the meeting:


  • Join via telephone: 312-626-6799
    Webinar ID: 874 0560 5816
    Passcode: 966963

Public Participation at Board of Trustees Meetings
Any member of the public who wishes to address the Board of Trustees during the meeting may do so by accessing the Free Library Board of Trustees Meeting Public Comment Form.

Please note the following:

  • Speakers must sign up to speak by 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, September 16, and must identify themselves.

  • Comments are limited to three minutes.

  • Comments can only be about agenda matters.

  • No responses will be given to public comments as this is a forum in which the public can communicate their ideas/concerns about matters to be taken up by the Board of Trustees. The public comments portion of the meeting will help inform Trustees’ decisions as stewards of the Free Library.

  • Requestors will be notified by 6:00 p.m. on September 16, 2021, via email.

Upcoming Free Library FY22 meeting schedule:

  • Friday, December 17, 2021 | 8:00 a.m.–10:00 a.m.
  • Friday, March 18, 2022 | 8:00 a.m.–10:00 a.m.
  • Thursday, June 16, 2022 | 4:00 p.m.–6:00 p.m.

Please refer to our Covid-19 restrictions and guidelines which may impact future meeting location details.

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Add a Comment to Free Library Board of Trustees Public Meeting on Friday, September 17 at 8:00 a.m.

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It is truly devastating, and a clear blow to the struggle for human rights that your library revoked the virtual program highlighting the beautiful book "Baba what does my name mean: a journey to Palestine." Since when did teaching the history of an indigenous people become against the library's morals?
Tasha Ileri - Florida
Thursday, September 16, 2021

Your statement regarding censoring Palestinian voices and books is absolutely hypocritical. You have met with local Jewish voices but have you met with local Palestinian community members. You statement on your website clearly shows the bias and cherry-picking you have done. You claim to "We reject anti-Semitism. We reject racism. We reject calls for censorship" yet you are clearly working to silence to voice of an entire group of people, their history and their current fight for existence. It is in the best interest of the library to include this in their narrative if in due fact you do believe you are a "free library."
Mona Khalil - Houston
Thursday, September 16, 2021

I am incredibly dismayed by the reporting I have seen on the removal of virtual library content pertaining to a beautiful Palestinian children's book. I demand an explanation of what particular content of the Palestinian narrative explored those well-done videos that were not in line with the FLP's "values." I demand an explanation for why Board chair Folasade Olanipekun-Lewis reached out to the Jewish Federation on the content of these videos and not to the Palestinian-Philadelphian community before deciding to act to remove the videos. I demand an explanation for what remedial measures the library will take to make their staff feel protected from challenges by right-wing hate organizations such as the Zionist Organization of America, who supported the Trump Muslim-ban and call Black Lives Matter a "hate group." This is a massive and disappointing failure on the part of FLP administration.
Aaron - South Philadelphia
Thursday, September 16, 2021

It's very convenient that this meeting is scheduled during a time that public facing staff are required in a different mandatory meeting.
your librarian - Philadelphia
Thursday, September 16, 2021

Do you want FLP to be compared to the racist school board of York, PA- banning books that make oppressors squirm? Is that how the FLP sees itself?
Alexis - Lancaster
Thursday, September 16, 2021

Do you want FLP to be compared to the racist school board of York, PA- banning/removing content that promotes equity? Please share the explicit reasons for removing educational content about Palestinians and thoroughly reconsider your actions in censoring it.
Alexis - Lancaster
Thursday, September 16, 2021

As a Jewish person I am dismayed to see the reaction of the Free Library towards anti-racist programing centered around Palestinian identity. You don't get to choose who or what culture deserves to be celebrated or acknowledged as disenfranchised as soon as it contradicts someone else's bigoted view. Shame.
Rachel Hunsinger - Philadelphia
Thursday, September 16, 2021

It is very unfortunate that in such a robust city filled with different demographics and cultures that you are allowing yourselves to be strong-armed into removing anti-racist work and teachings. Palestinian voices should be heard and we should encourage discussions surrounding the Palestinian struggle as it is very similar to the issues the Black/immigrant/indigenous populations face in the U.S. Censoring Palestinian voices to appease the ZOA is absolutely horrifying. Speaking against the atrocities in Palestine is not anti-Semitic and allowing the ZOA to dictate what is taught is harmful and aiding in the ethnic cleansing happening in Palestine.
Stacey Thomas - Philadelphia
Thursday, September 16, 2021

Re: Baba What Does My Name Mean: A Journey to Palestine, I am sorely disappointed in actions by the Free Library, and outraged at statement we were given in response, which was riddled with hypocrisy. I do not feel it is in the interest of community building to side with a and organization (ZOA) who advocate for the forcible removal Palestinians from their ancestral homes. Philadelphia did this already with the Lenape. The Free Library Board of Trustees ought to do a better job regarding holding a sacred & neutral space for an obviously complicated, polarizing issue. Censoring the voice of a Palestinian woman--a woman who wrote a *children's* book--is downright shameful behavior for the so-called Free Library. At the very least, the public is owed an explanation and what language, *specifically*, was deemed so unacceptable in the reading (again, of a *children's book*) as to merit such a response to remove the video altogether. Does the Free Library take it's cues from the ZOA, or the community it serves? I am not commenting to decry nor villify Zionism. I am commenting to oppose favoring the perspectives of Zionists as opposed to the perspective of an occupied people. I would advise the Board to read the following book: Justice, Justice Shall You Pursue A History of the New Jewish Agenda by Ezra Berkley Nepon Thank you. I hope you reflect on what your collective and/or pressured decision has already said to so many. As Colin Powell once said, "It is not anti-Semitic to criticize the foreign policy of Israel." The board needs to do better to educate itself on this issue, or find new board members. Lastly, for what it is worth, Palestinians are Semitic, too.
River Hupp - Powelton, Philadelphia
Thursday, September 16, 2021

The FLP has hosted many exhibits, talks and events about censorship in libraries and schools, taking a decidedly anti-censorship position. It must find itself very embarrassed to sit on the wrong side of the table this time. Truth will out, and freedom will find space.
Kate - Philadelphia
Thursday, September 16, 2021

It is really unacceptable that the "Free" Library of Philadelphia has been involved in censorship of Palestinian content. It is not antisemitic to educate people about Palestinian experiences and how those experiences may relate to experiences of people of color in the U.S. I encourage the administration of the library to listen to the voices and perspectives of its librarians and individuals who want Palestinian voices and stories heard as well. Your censorship of these stories is shameful and should be reversed immediately.
Kelsey - Texas
Thursday, September 16, 2021

Your Board of Trustees agenda includes addressing a plan for Diversity, Inclusion and Equity. 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. What part of this achieves Diversity, Inclusion and Equity?
Thursday, September 16, 2021

It is horrifying that in 2021, a public government establishment is actively silencing and attempting to remove the Palestinian truth, existence and history from the public library. An entity that is accessible by all Philadelphians. On what moral grounds? Or are there other motives that we're not made aware of? Removing Palestinian content from being publicly accessible IS active radian. It is the wrong side of history.
Lorin - Houston
Thursday, September 16, 2021

Who decided that all front facing staff had to be in a mandatory "professional development" meeting during library hours? Libraries aren't open enough hours for the general public as it is, and someone actually thought it was a good idea to close the libraries even more? If the goal of the libraries is literacy, maybe we need to work on making sure libraries are open when people can actually get to them (not just Monday-Friday during the day) and not close them at random times during the few hours they are actually open! Between this and the censorship of books, the goal of the Free Library doesn't seem to the literacy anymore, but something else that doesn't meet the needs of Philadelphia.
Leslie - Philadelphia
Friday, September 17, 2021

One member of the public was able to share a powerful statement, as a Jewish community member, condemning the actions of the Free Library administration & board. They demanded reinstatement of the removed anti-racist virtual videos and demanded that the library stand in solidarity with the Palestinian community. Sade A. Olanipekun-Lewis then read a prepared response (transcribed to the best of my ability): The Free Library stands against racism, antisemitism, anti-Palestinian bias, and any form of bigotry. We removed two story time videos that featured words that did not belong on institutional platforms. We stand by that decision. The books we carry are important. The Library offers materials by authors from many cultural backgrounds, but the Free Library and employees do not adopt any one cultural perspective on any of our platforms. This statement, as with the previous blog post titled "A Space for Civic Dialogue," is meaningless. The Free Library and its employees share positions from "one cultural perspective" all of the time. We cannot allow the Free Library to make Palestine the exception while they try to insist they stand against censorship and bigotry. The board is making it clear they don't have enough subject knowledge to even point to which exact language is unacceptable, just that they do not allow it to be used. Shameful.
K M - Philadelphia
Friday, September 17, 2021

To quote another commenter: "Does the Free Library take it's cues from the ZOA, or the community it serves?" It's so devastating to see the overwhelming pushback against library administration's flawed narrative met with total silence. The response to ZOA's initial complaints was swift and brutal. Where is the acknowledgement of all the concerns shared here, on other blog posts, and elsewhere? We know you're reading this, and every moment you remain silent further cements your unsuitability to hold your positions at the Free Library. "Your silence will not protect you" -Audre Lorde
Ann - Philadelphia
Friday, September 17, 2021

I applaud your librarians for their important work, sharing award-winning titles and works by award-winning Palestinian authors that are often excluded, censored, or otherwise marginalized due to political bias. The ALA's Library Bill of Rights identifies libraries as forums for information and ideas and its Code of Ethics recognizes the importance of a free flow of information to a functioning democracy. I'm sorry to learn of a backlash by ideologues against programming clearly aligned with our professional values as librarians. I'm even more sorry to learn the Board succumbed to pressure from the ZOA. It shouldn't matter to you that I am Jewish, but since you appear to privilege Jewish voices over those of Palestinians and other indigenous groups working for freedom from settler colonialism and oppression and trying to transmit cultural memory in the face of efforts of cultural erasure, I'll add my voice to the chorus urging you to reinstate the online programming and apologize to your librarians, to the affected authors, to your local Palestinian community, and to your patrons, all of whom deserve better. (As a Jew, while I'm not surprised, I am appalled that this is happening at all, let alone so close to our day of atonement.)
Beth - Durham, NC
Friday, September 17, 2021