Little Free Diverse Library to be removed in Rochester

Sep 29, 2023

ROCHESTER — A Little Free Diverse Library that sparked controversy in Rochester will no longer stand on Plumb Library property following a vote by the Rochester Board of Library Trustees at its Thursday, Sept. 28 meeting. 

The Little Free Diverse Library currently sits outside Plumb Library’s entrance and was built by the non-profit organization Tri-Town Against Racism.

The board voted unanimously to “return the Little Free Diverse Library to Tri-Town Against Racism.”

Tri-Town Against Racism President Allison Noyce called the decision by the Board of Library Trustees “nonsensical.”

Explaining the decision, the Board of Library Trustees cited “confusion surrounding the ownership and control of the Little Free Diverse Library.”

“Pursuant with [Plumb Library gift policy], the library director is charged with administration of content but the Tri-Town Against Racism organization has asserted that ability,” said Board of Library Trustees Chair Kelley Medeiros. “Thus, we have a situation where there is confusion over the ownership and control of the Little Free Diverse Library.”

According to the library’s gift policy, which was reconfirmed by the board at this meeting, “unless otherwise specified in writing, all gifts are considered unconditional and unrestricted. Any conditional or restricted gifts must be accepted by the Board of Trustees or conform with guidelines established by the board.”

According to Medeiros, no written stipulations regarding content for the Little Free Diverse Library were reviewed and approved by the trustees at the time that the vote was made. 

In addition to their decision to remove Tri-Town Against Racism’s library, the Board of Library Trustees voted to indefinitely table a request by Rochester resident Jeffrey Costa to build pro-family and pro-freedom libraries outside Plumb Library, and a request by Rochester resident Greg Hardy to build a little free library. 

“We didn’t receive the information we needed on time,” said Medeiros. “Similar to [Tri-Town Against Racism], we didn’t receive [written stipulations regarding content] on time.”

According to Costa, he still plans to pursue the construction of the pro-freedom and pro-family little free libraries. 

Medeiros said the decision to approve Tri-Town Against Racism’s Little Free Diverse Library was made in January 2021, before any current library trustees or Library Director Kristen Cardoso joined the board.

“It’s curious to me why once people started complaining that they didn’t like our flag, then suddenly there’s all of these issues that weren’t hammered out ahead of time,” said Noyce, addressing the Board of Library Trustees. “I would say that’s on you.”

In July, a diversity flag that flew on the Little Free Diverse Library was removed following the adoption of a new flag policy by the Rochester Select Board on July 10. The Board of Library Trustees adopted the town’s flag policy during Thursday’s meeting. 

According to the flag policy, only certain flags can be flown on town flagpoles “to keep it simple,” said Rochester Town Administrator Glenn Cannon. 

The flags are: The United States flag, the Massachusetts state flag, the Rochester town flag, the POW flag and official flags of United States military branches, according to the policy.

“It’s [on] you to stick to what you decided, what you allowed, what you helped us to celebrate instead of backtracking now because there’s people here that are offended in some way by it,” said Noyce, addressing the Board of Library Trustees. “All of this is so disingenuous, and frankly, really embarrassing for the town of Rochester.”

Noyce said Tri-Town Against Racism will “pursue different avenues” for its Little Free Diverse Library. 

“I’m hoping the town would offer us a place for the library that might be accessible to people. I think having it on town property sends a positive message to the community,” she said. “If not, we’ll take it from there, but it will be in Rochester.”