A group of patrons has asked for LGBTQ-inclusive children’s books to be removed from the children’s section of a Louisiana public library and made available for checkout only by adults. The library board is set to discuss the matter this afternoon.
The Ruston Leader in Ruston, Louisiana, reported Friday that according to Lincoln Parish Library Director Vivian McCain, she and members of the library’s Board of Control in mid-November “began receiving emails from more than a dozen patrons, all with identical verbiage, asking that ‘LGBTQ items’ be removed from the shelves and displays in the children’s department.”
Among the books targeted for removal, according to the paper, are My Two Moms and My Two Dads by Claudia Harrington; Real Sisters Pretend, by Megan Dowd Lambert; The Great Big Book of Families, by Mary Hoffman; Jazz Jennings: Voice for LGBTQ Youth, by Ellen Rodger; Snapdragon, by Kat Leyh; the Wings of Fire series by Tui T. Sutherland, and George and Rick
by Alex Gino. Other books would also be impacted, but were checked out at the time the paper did its reporting and photographs.
A few board members met to discuss the complaints and asked McCain to remove the books, which she allowed, reported the paper. It added that McCain said, “This goes against every grain in my body as a public librarian.”
McCain told local news station KNOE yesterday that the books had been chosen for the library’s collection according to “stringent criteria,” and that they were removed after the complaints in order to make sure they did meet the criteria. My interpretation is that she was willing to subject them to this extra scrutiny knowing that they are fine, but that she is not in favor of permanently removing them from the children’s section. She spoke with KNOE about the stigma that restricting the books puts on patrons, particularly children, who want to check them out.
The board has now reviewed the books, KNOE reported, and is expected to recommend at a meeting today at 4:00 p.m. CT, that they be placed back on the shelves. KNOE said McCain is “thrilled.”
The library is in fact now closed to the public until December 14 because a staff member has tested positive for COVID-19, but the meeting is as of this writing, still proceeding.
Unfortunately for the library, too, the town on Saturday voted down the property tax that funds most of its budget. The Ruston Leader said that this vote had been mentioned in the November letters challenging the LGBTQ books; it is unclear if the challenges impacted the vote.
LGBTQ-inclusive kids’ books are among those most often targeted for removal or restriction, as the American Library Association’s Top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books of the Past Decade list shows. Authors of such books also face attempts to stop them from giving book talks in schools or libraries, whether in-person or virtual. Once books about LGBTQ people and those with LGBTQ parents are restricted in libraries and/or schools, what’s next? Banning a transgender parent from taking their kids to a library book reading? Telling a kid during show-and-tell that they can’t talk about taking a family vacation with their two moms?
And yes, it’s a parent’s choice about what to teach our kids and expose them to, though our ability to control that declines rapidly as our children grow, in my experience. As I wrote way back in 2007 (in relation to attempted censorship in a school curriculum), “At some, if not many, points in my child’s education, the curriculum will contain something that contradicts a viewpoint I hold. The solution is not to ban it from being taught, but rather for me to be involved enough—with both the school and my son—that I can use the occasions as opportunities to teach him what I do believe. Wanting to ban something from the curriculum is an admission that I have little faith in my own teaching abilities and influence over my child.” (Though again, that influence tends to decline as our kids reach adulthood, which is something we parents just have to roll with.) Same applies to books in libraries.
Let’s hope that the board does indeed do the right thing, as KNOE indicates it will, and keeps these books on the shelves.
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