Feb 8, 2024 - Politics

Philadelphia libraries cry foul on mayor's social media policy

Photo illustration of Cherelle Parker with lines radiating from her.

Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photo: Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images

Mayor Cherelle Parker's new citywide communications policy hit a speed bump this week following public outcry over a clampdown on libraries' social media postings.

Why it matters: It shows the honeymoon period for the Parker administration is over after a little over a month in office.

Catch up quick: The Parker administration's new policy, under which communications from all city agencies must funnel through her office, was set to go into effect for libraries this past Tuesday.

  • In an unusually coordinated show, dozens of branches called out the Parker administration on social media, warning of anticipated announcement slowdowns.
  • The new policy drew outrage from many online and the libraries' posts received hundreds of interactions.

State of play: The Free Library's 54 branches can continue to communicate about "regular, daily issues" as they always have, its deputy director Priscilla Suero wrote to staff in an email Tuesday night.

What they're saying: Liz Gardiner, a member of AFSCME DC47 Local 2186 and staffer at a North Philly library, tells Axios it's unclear what must still be vetted beyond regular info, like posts about elections and community partnerships.

  • "Libraries are supposed to be places where there's freedom of information and any threat to the free-sharing of information … is something to be concerned about," Gardiner says.

The big picture: Parker, a Democrat, has sought to exert more control over public statements from all city agencies since taking office last month.

The other side: Parker spokesperson Joe Grace tells Axios the city's communication policy had been misread.

  • "We're not going to be involved in reviewing or approving regular, daily issues" at libraries, he says. "Our policy hasn't changed. I think it was a misinterpretation."

The bottom line: Parker is known as a meticulous planner and has been toting around a binder of notes and prepared comments to news conferences.

  • Parker's communications policy could give a clue about how she intends to run Philly over the next four years.
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