Friday, December 16, 2016

All I want for Christmas (2016 edition)

Dear lovely readers,

Remember how I said that I would fight anyone who says that the 'Santa version' of Christmas is appropriate to celebrate in the library because it isn't really a religious holiday? I've gotten sucked into several debates among library professionals about this very topic over the last few weeks of December and I've been discouraged to hear many of my colleagues say that they saw no problem with decorations featuring Christmas trees, Santa, reindeer, etc. in their libraries. If you feel that way too, I'm probably not going to convince you otherwise (believe me, I speak from experience now), but if you think that having those things in a government institution is problematic, I would love it if you would consider going to your local public library and writing a comment card expressing that, whether it affects you personally as someone who doesn't celebrate Christmas or whether you celebrate Christmas but just don't see the public library as an appropriate place for that celebration.

Here is what I wrote to one of the libraries where I work, which has Christmas decorations:

I would appreciate it if the library would consider not putting up Christmas decorations next year. I am not a Christian and this time of year I feel like I am constantly reminded that I am not a part of mainstream American culture. It is sad and frustrating to experience that at the library also, since the library is supposed to be a place for everyone regardless of their culture or beliefs. I have no problem with displays of Christmas materials, but to have decorations all over the library makes me feel like the library is not really for me and makes me feel left out.

Here is what I wrote to my own home library, which (at least at that time) did not have Christmas decorations:

Thank you for not putting up Christmas decorations at the library. I am not a Christian and this time of year I feel like I am constantly reminded that I am not a part of mainstream American culture. Everywhere I go there are things emphasizing how I am a minority. It is really nice to have somewhere public to come where I have a break from that.

Although I'm not a Christian, I celebrate Christmas because that is what my family celebrates. Talking to other librarians in similar personal situations started to make me think I was making a mountain out of a molehill until I got this response from a librarian who is Jewish:

"Parents who come the rest of the year have told me that they won't take their kids to storytime in December because it is always Christmas-themed and they already get way too much of that at school and at businesses. They don't want to subject their kids to yet another reminder of how they are different and left out of what other kids are doing. Contrary to what other people are saying, Christmas-themed decorations and programming are actually driving patrons away from the library, not bringing them in. They approach me to tell me since they think I will be the only person on the staff who will understand."

When your patrons aren't only unhappy with what your library is doing, but afraid to say anything because they don't think they will be listened to, you're doing something wrong.


  1. Yeah, and adding a menorah doesn't make it okay.

  2. It's bad enough that Christmas is shoved down the throat of anyone who goes to any store in December. It would be nice to have the library be a refuge from all that.