Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2023 Issue

Censorship Marches On

Librarian from the Patmos Library in Jamestown Township explains what she has been put through.

The forces of darkness that have invaded libraries of late continue to push forward. There have been book bannings and library defunding. The newest tool now is library privatization. From Texas, capital of censorship, comes another such story. This time, the location is Huntsville.

 

Last summer, staff at the Huntsville Public Library put up a display of books with LGBTQ themes. It is not something new nor surprising, as libraries have traditionally tried to make all people feel welcome. This has been true of racial, ethnic and religious minorities who have been discriminated against. What is new is the sudden concerted effort to attack libraries that have tried to make LGBTQ children feel welcome, or worse yet, feel good about themselves. Huntsville is just one of many places where these attacks have taken place.

 

The library was forced to take down the display, and another one for Banned Books Week, at the behest of the City Manager. Further displays were banned. The City Librarian was placed on leave. Then last month, without warning, the city leaders voted to hire an outside firm to run the library, replacing the library board. They selected Library Systems & Services, a Maryland firm. They said it would save money and provide for greater community input. Sure. Library personnel and the library board were not consulted. LS&S may be a fine firm, but they are not there to serve the public. Their job is to make a profit. This requires pleasing the city officials who hired them, and can fire them if they do not enforce their agenda. The needs of the patrons are secondary. As American Library Association President Lessa Kanani'opua Pelayo-Lozada observed last September, “Efforts to censor entire categories of books reflecting certain voices and views shows that the moral panic isn’t about kids: it’s about politics.” Politics won the day in Huntsville. The children are the losers.

 

Another place that has been regularly in the news for attempted censorship, but where the library stood up to the would-be censors, is Jamestown Township in Michigan. A group of residents wanted books with LGBTQ themes removed. Library officials said no. So the censors took library funding to a vote and the local citizens voted to defund the library. That was not the end of it. A private citizen decided to start a Go Fund Me campaign to pay the bills, and to the amazement of everyone, it raised $250,000. That's enough to keep it in operation for another year. Still, the board realized this was not a permanent solution, so they brought raising the necessary taxes to fund the library up for a second vote. The second try was on election day when they figured turnout would be greater. It didn't matter. The citizens voted it down again.

 

You might think that would be enough to satisfy the anti-LGBTQ crowd but evidently it was not. The librarians and board have continued to field the invective of the haters. A couple of board members resigned while others have endured vicious insults. Finally, at a library board meeting, one of the librarians got up and addressed the crowd. She had had enough. The grandmother of three was tired of being called a pedophile and all the other insults thrown at her by the hate-filled people whose lives revolve around abusing others who have done them no harm. Her response has gone viral, and it is worth a listen by anyone who thinks that librarians are still treated with appreciation and respect the way they were by past generations. You can hear her response on this link: www.tiktok.com/@inclusiveottawacounty/video/7179067901180300590?is_copy_url=1&is_from_webapp=v1&lang=en

 

As the ALA President pointed out, this isn't about the kids, it's about politics. That's why these books have never caused a stir before. These parents, or whoever they are, obviously never go to the library. Otherwise, they would have noticed these books a long time ago. It has taken a coordinated effort to draw them out to attack an institution they never cared about before. It's the politics of hate, and while the librarians are the ones on the front lines taking the abuse, the ultimate victims are the children, confused, unsure of who they are, fearful the world will despise them for reasons beyond their control, whom librarians have sought to protect. What kind of people do such things to children?

Rare Book Monthly

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