December 05, 2008

UNC-CH libraries leave Christmas trees in storage

Good move on the library's part. Libraries, as well as all other government-related and/or funded organizations and institutions should understand that there is (or supposed to be) a separation of church and state. I agree that the library specifically is not a place for the celebration of a single religion, but should provide information on all types of religious beliefs instead of just concentrating on one.  However, I wonder why the reported only got a comment from the university's College Republican's group? 

CHAPEL HILL - For as long as anyone can remember, Christmas
trees adorned with lights and ornaments have greeted holiday season
visitors to UNC-Chapel Hill's two main libraries.

They aren't there this year.

trees, which have stood in the lobby areas of Wilson and Davis
libraries each December, were kept in storage this year at the behest
of Sarah Michalak, the university's associate provost for university

Michalak's decision followed several years of queries
and complaints from library employees and patrons bothered by the
Christian display, Michalak said this week.

Michalak said that
banishing the Christmas displays was not an easy decision but that she
asked around to library colleagues at Duke, N.C. State and elsewhere
and found no other one where Christmas trees were displayed.

from the fact that a UNC-CH library is a public facility, Michalak
said, libraries are places where information from all corners of the
world and all belief systems is offered without judgment. Displaying
Christian symbols is antithetical to that philosophy, she said.

strive in our collection to have a wide variety of ideas," she said.
"It doesn't seem right to celebrate one particular set of customs."

UNC-CH's chief librarian for four years, said at least a dozen library
employees have complained over the last few years about the display.
She hasn't heard similar criticism from students, though they may have
voiced their concerns to other library staff.

Public libraries
generally shy away from creating displays promoting any single
religion, said Catherine Mau, deputy director of the Durham County
library system, where poinsettias provided by a library booster group
provide holiday cheer.

If religious or holiday-themed books are
put on display in December, they tend to be broad in range and subject
matter, she said.

"It's a conscious decision," Mau said. "We want everyone to feel welcome."

At UNC-CH, student Derek Belcher sees a case of political correctness running amok.

don't understand it," said Belcher, a senior from Havelock and
president of the university's College Republicans. "We have Christmas
as a federal holiday. If we're going to remove the Christmas tree, do
we have to remove that holiday?"

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