The Hamilton Public Library has revised its diversity and inclusion policy to include the statement that all individuals have the right to self-identify the washroom they are comfortable using.
It means, says library Chief Executive Officer Paul Takala, the library will change individual and some family washrooms where appropriate in all its branches to gender-neutral facilities.
“It’s clear from the (City of Hamilton) human rights settlement and what we need to comply with, people do have the right to choose their washroom,” he said.
Library officials are investigating different signs that will be installed on washrooms that will be converted, including one that is called a “washroom for everyone” to help with identification.
There will be some branches with family washrooms, and even universal washrooms, that will be difficult to change, said Takala.
For instance, said Karen Anderson, director of public service, the Turner Park branch has a family washroom embedded in the children’s area. The idea is to designate that washroom as a family facility. There is a single washroom within the existing branch that would be converted into a washroom for everyone, she said.
“It will be a little bit of a case by case depending upon what the cases are,” said Anderson.
Takala said he expects people will applaud the library’s move but there will be other individuals who have some concerns.
“We will reach out to them and talk to them, making sure they understand why we are doing what we are and what their options are,” he said.
The decision to adopt gender-neutral washrooms emerged from the City of Hamilton’s settlement of a human rights complaint last year. It involved a transgendered woman who was denied access to the women’s washroom at the MacNab Bus Terminal in the fall of 2014. The individual filed a complaint to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.
Takala said the library will work with the city on its diversity programs but the library also has to follow its own policies.
“We need to make sure what we do aligns with, or is framed by what the city does,” he said. “As long as we meet what they’re doing, we’re in good shape.”
In addition, the Canadian Federation of Library Associations in February 2017 adopted the statement of diversity and inclusion to present all libraries as a welcoming and inclusive environment.
The Hamilton Public Library has 22 branches across the city.
It is expected library staff will introduce a recommendation to the library board to change the library’s washrooms to gender neutral at the March board meeting.