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A Message to Patrons Regarding May 2024 Exhibits and Programming:

As one of the busiest public libraries in Massachusetts, Newton Free Library provides an extensive collection of over 548,000 physical items and offers an active calendar of free events to help educate, enrich, and connect our community.  

We are an open and free public library. We are guided by the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights and its principles, including:

  • Having materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues
  • Resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas
  • Not excluding materials because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation
  • Making exhibit spaces available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.

In any given month, more than 200 exhibits, programs and displays are happening within the building. This includes art exhibits. The Library has offered artists exhibition space for decades. Twice a year an independent committee of art professors and professionals, who live or work in Newton, selects works to be displayed monthly over the course of the following year at the Library. Selections are made based on the Library’s philosophy of providing open access to information and ideas and of presenting diverse points of view.

On Wednesday, May 1, a photography exhibit by artist Skip Schiel was installed for a month. The artist and his photos were selected in July 2023 and are titled The Ongoing & Relentless Nakba: The Palestinian Catastrophe of 1948 to Today. Schiel’s exhibit displays photographs taken during 2018 and 2019 of people and landscapes in the West Bank. 

On Thursday, May 2, an exhibit of drawings by artist Zeev Engelmayer entitled Postcards will be installed, containing a sampling of the colorful drawings the artist created each day since October 7 from his home in Tel Aviv.

The selection of an artist for exhibition does not constitute an endorsement by the Library of the content of the program or the views expressed by the exhibitor; however, we know some will find these exhibits objectionable and hurtful.  

Our Library has always stood for the principles of free expression and free speech. Newton’s Board of Library Trustees and I strongly believe in the importance of providing access to multiple viewpoints on complicated and contentious topics. As with other materials in the library, people will have varied reactions and will form their own opinions.

Now more than ever, the Library is committed to helping visitors learn more about nuanced, complicated, and controversial topics. 

With the continued goal of presenting access to varied points of view, we are compiling resource lists for readers. We are inviting speakers from different perspectives to come together for conversations about the history and events that are shaping our world today. We are also actively working to prepare programing on the use of art to interpret events and express oneself, and ways to listen, talk, engage, and learn respectfully about divisive issues.

We are deeply committed to ensuring that visitors and staff have safe, unimpeded access to the library.

I ask the Newton community to help us serve as a model for respectful and peaceful exploration of ideas and information.

Jill Mercurio, Director of the Newton Free Library