Christmas

After Uproar, Dedham Libraries to Put Up Christmas Trees: ‘There Is No Ban'

"What has played out on social media is unfortunate, it has negatively impacted our staff and the community, and frankly, transpired before we had even started our seasonal decorating," the libraries' director said

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After heated arguments, Christmas trees will go up after all at public libraries in Dedham, Massachusetts, this holiday season, an official confirmed Monday, noting the libraries don't have "a ban on Christmas."

But the controversy over whether Christmas trees would be part of the two libraries' holiday decorations has cast a gloomy pall over the season in the town.

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"What has played out on social media is unfortunate, it has negatively impacted our staff and the community, and frankly, transpired before we had even started our seasonal decorating. As we finish decorating for this holiday season, Christmas trees will be put up at both locations," Director Amber Moroney said in a statement Monday.

Town employees had been harassed and bullied over whether the libraries would put up a tree, a statement from Dedham Friday, sourcing the rancor to "a recent social media post."

While the town didn't specify which post kicked up the Christmas-time furor, Boston.com reported it was a branch employee's post that went viral.

At that branch, Endicott, holiday décor greets people from the moment they walk up to the door. Inside, signs of Christmas and Hanukkah line the shelves -- though a tree wasn't put up as of Monday.

It's a family tradition for millions of Americans; finding and buying the perfect fresh Christmas tree. But these trees need a lot of water and time to grow. With much of the country dealing with drought, could fresh Christmas trees become a ghost of Christmas past?

The town encouraged constructive discourse amid an atmosphere of threats that didn't represent Dedham's values.

"We continue to encourage constructive conversations and healthy debates, but because of social media and outside sources, what could have been something of legitimate discourse turned neighbor against neighbor, and has threatened the safety and well-being of community members and staff. This behavior is not a true reflection of our commitment to lead with kindness and civility," the town's statement Friday said.

On Monday, Moroney, the library director, specified that Dedham does indeed welcome people ho celebrates Christmas, and doesn't ban it: "At the Dedham Public Library we do our best to respect the wide variety of viewpoints and beliefs in our community, including those who choose to celebrate Christmas and other winter holidays. To be clear, there is no ban on Christmas at the Dedham library."

She added that the libraries will review how they decorate and put up holiday displays so "they are welcoming, enriching, and reflective of our entire community," and acknowledged the people who have spoken out.

Some Dedham residents asked about the the situation Monday said it didn't need to escalate.

"I think the social media response got a little out of hand," resident Matt Brophy said. "People were arguing from both sides and us middle people were trying to get it to, like, just understand why."

Library decorations are the first agenda item on Tuesday night's meeting of the Dedham Board of Library Trustees.

"I might want to see if there are enough voices at the table discussing it to make the decision so that everyone has a chance to be heard," library patron Carolyn Watson-Peters said.

The same board voted in April on a new diversity statement. The board meeting's minutes include the following library programing and materials statement, which explained the library's efforts to update its policies:

  • "As with any good institution, the Dedham Public Library has been updating its policies to ensure they are accurate, consistent with mission, represent best practice, and meet citizen needs. This thoughtful review has been a focus for the administration and trustees, and aims to translate ambitious goals into reality. We are driven by a desire to be inviting and inclusive by enabling expressions of questions and ideas among varying viewpoints, philosophies, suggestions, and needs of each of our staff and patrons. Above all, we hope to be a center where those varying ideas are shared in a courteous and civil manner, and where each person feels safe and respected, even by those with whom they may disagree. To foster this kind of engagement, we aim to provide diverse materials that are thought provoking and relevant to current issues, including those which may be deemed controversial."

The minutes also include a diversity statement, which says the library is committed to "offering sanctuary and resources to address community disparities and helping those in need" and "supporting diversity, inclusion, and well-being within the community we represent and serve."

The board added that it is committed to the following bullet points:

  • Building a culture that is respectful, open to change, and empathetic to all perspectives
  • Holding ourselves accountable to our commitment and to our community
  • Fostering intellectual freedom and diverse discourse
  • Ensuring our services, spaces, and resources are representative of diverse cultures and perspectives, intentionally inclusive, and accessible to everyone
  • Recognizing, valuing, and empowering members of our community, celebrating aspects of their identity, including age, ancestry, citizenship status, color, creed, culture, disability/ability, gender expression, gender identity, genetic information, geographic origin, language, marital status, national or ethnic origin, neurodiversity, parental status, pregnancy, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, veteran status, and all others.
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