Dear Burlington Community,
As you may know, the Gender Critical Vermont meeting scheduled for Tuesday, January 28th at 6:30 PM was cancelled by its organizers.
The Fletcher Free Library has been, and will continue to be, a welcoming place for everyone. We support the Trans community and Trans rights. We will continue to demonstrate these values by having programming and collection resources that show this commitment.
Over the last two days we have learned that many in the Vermont community were disappointed that the library did not cancel this meeting. We are sorry that this decision hurt so many. We are aware that there are some challenging objectives in the role that we play for our community.
As we move forward we will look at our Meeting Room Policy for improvement. This policy will be discussed at a library commission meeting which will be open to the public.
We appreciate the personal stories, outreach and input of the LGBTQ+ community on this issue. It has been valuable and beneficial. For those who have shared with us, thank you.
Response to Library Meeting Room Booking: Gender Critical Vermont
To the Burlington Community,
Yesterday it was brought to my attention that a group called Gender Critical Vermont has reserved a library meeting room for the purposes of hosting a “Discussion group for Vermonters who oppose the subversion of Women's Rights by the transgender agenda.” As required by library policy, this meeting is free and open to the public. This is not a meeting sponsored by the City or the library, but a meeting utilizing one of the library’s public spaces.
The Fletcher Free Library has a meeting room policy that can be found here: https://www.fletcherfree.org/sites/default/files/MeetingRoomPolicy%26Rules.pdf
After receiving comments from a number of individuals in the community expressing concern about this group’s use of library space, we have engaged in considerable discussion with the City Attorney’s Office and concluded that we are allowing this meeting to occur. I hope you will take the time to read the library’s response to this meeting. The library prides itself on being open and welcoming to all while upholding the first amendment right to free speech.
Public libraries have always been organizations that vigorously try to uphold the tenets of free speech on which our country was built. We have fought censorship on many levels, including efforts to ban books that occur still to this day. Today public libraries often find themselves being the place to provide public discourse on some of the most egregious and alarming topics that are occurring in our society right now. The safety and security of all who enter the library is our number one concern, and we will not allow groups that engage in violence or advocacy that is not protected by the first amendment.
To bring civility, interrogation and fervor for facts on these topics is very challenging, but should not be shied away from if we are to grow as a society. Public libraries believe that it is by engaging through conversations, sharing stories, providing access to empirical evidence, and promoting civil discourse that real change can occur. Even hate speech, which is horrible and troubling, can be met with more speech. Free speech that speaks against hate speech is the path of democracy that the library can be a part of.
Our goal at the Fletcher Free Library is to provide library programming that is inclusive, educational, cultural, and informational and which leads to transformational experiences. We look forward to engaging with the community to continue to find ways to support transgender rights as well First Amendment issues. I welcome your input as we move forward.