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The Library as Safe Space

The Future of Library Space

ISBN: 978-1-78635-270-5, eISBN: 978-1-78635-269-9

Publication date: 15 December 2016



The author of this chapter will explain how libraries define safe space through policies, procedures, and professional codes of ethics. The chapter will generate a history of the concept of libraries as safe space, will explain how libraries attempt to create safe spaces in physical and online environments, and will show how library practices both help and harm patrons in need of safe space.


This chapter provides a review of the literature that illustrates how libraries provide safe space – or not – for their patrons. The author will deconstruct the ALA Code of Ethics and Bill of Rights to demonstrate how libraries remain heteronormative institutions that do not recognize the existence of diverse patrons or employees, and how this phenomenon manifests in libraries.


Libraries, either through their physical construction or through policies and procedures, have become spaces for illegal activities and discrimination. Populations who would be most likely to use libraries often report barriers to access.

Practical implications

Libraries should revisit their policies and procedures, as well as assess their physical and online spaces, to determine whether or not they truly provide safe space for their patrons. While libraries can become safer spaces, they should clearly communicate what types of safety they actually provide.


This chapter offers a critique of libraries as safe spaces, which will challenge popular opinions of libraries, and compel the profession to improve.



Wexelbaum, R. (2016), "The Library as Safe Space", The Future of Library Space (Advances in Library Administration and Organization, Vol. 36), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 37-78.



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