Do Salt Lake City Librarians Have a Censorship Problem?

Salt Lake City Library employees say the latest chapter on staff turmoil is rich with irony: a clampdown on free speech inside the very institution that celebrates the principle.

A just-launched crackdown on any opinionated email — and on criticism of management expressed via social media — has some veteran librarians fearing for their jobs and a chorus of others crying censorship.

Even Friends of the Library members are openly questioning the library’s direction and its “chronic problems.”

The uproar started last week after the human resources manager unveiled new guidelines for all-staff email. It is only appropriate, Shelly Chapman wrote, to send pertinent, work-related information such as available shifts and job announcements. “It was also determined,” Chapman wrote, “that employees would not use all-staff email to voice opinions or express concerns.”

“Appropriate” all-staff email must be reviewed by two staffers before sending, the edict reads. And “any other” all-staff email must be approved by the employee’s manager.

That prompted veteran librarian Ranae Pierce — via an all-staff email — to point out the irony of the rule, given the library’s free-speech mission. Story from the Salt Lake City Tribune.


If management wants to set rules about all-staff emails these rules should be followed. Very unprofessional to be blasting out complaints to the entire staff. Address concerns with your chain of command.

Instead of all-staff emails why not post your complaints to LISNEWS? Then we all can read it.

sending "all-staff" or "global" emails to complain? I would ban that practice, also. you send email to those involved, concerned, able to assist: you don't spam everyone in your library. unless you have kittens who need a good home.

I agree that it's not totally out of order to ask all-staff emails to be kept to a minimum, and should only cover specific topics. However, it sounds like this is the straw that broke the camel's back. If you look at news stories about the library over the past couple of years, you'll see that it appears that Beth Elder, the director, is facilitating and encouraging a toxic work environment.

Here's one of the least critical articles I found:

I agree with the comment above that there is much more to this story than rules about mass emails. That alone would not be such a problem, but it seems that a culture has been created at the Salt Lake City Library (under the current leadership) that has left the staff scared to express opinions for fear of reprimand or retaliation -- and even fear of losing their jobs. Libraries -- which as part of their foundation are beacons of free speech and free access to information including all points of view -- should "walk the walk" and allow discussion among the employees, about policies and such, where people are not scared to express their own ideas, thoughts and opinions.
Thanks for the link in the comment above.

My money is on the director be right and the staff being a bunch of indulgent whiners. When they start throwing out censorship claims because of an internal work email list I start to side with the director. From reading the news articles the director made some changes. It sounds to me like these librarians cannot deal with change.

Notice that in all the newspaper articles about the director there is no specificity about what the director did wrong.

If you want to work somewhere you work under their rules. Now you can stand in the library and talk about it but if your rules say mailing lists are only to be used for official business that's what you have to accept.
Otherwise you could do anything you wanted.

They should do what we do, have an 'official' business related mailing list and a misc mailing list for things like kittens.

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