A New York Library Bans Pride Displays and LGBTQ Kids’ Books, And Other Library Censorship Stories from Pride Month

Danika Ellis

Associate Editor

Danika spends most of her time talking about queer women books at the Lesbrary. Blog: The Lesbrary Twitter: @DanikaEllis

Earlier this month, I wrote about the censorship of pride displays in libraries across the U.S., including the “Hide the Pride” campaign that encourages people to check out all the LGBTQ books on display to remove them from view and keep other patrons from accessing them. In the weeks since, even more stories have come out.

For one, Catholic Vote, the group that started the “Hide the Pride” campaign, has put out a self-congratulatory update with photos of Pride displays (before) and empty shelves (after). One of the people who wrote in checked out 52 books.

Multiple librarians, both in public libraries and school libraries, have discussed on social media seeing this tactic used in their library. Some of the “Hide the Pride” people leave a letter in the books’ place that explains that they’re protesting the existence of Pride displays and even carrying LGBTQ books at all.

The biggest recent news story about library Pride displays was a Long Island library’s decision to not only ban Pride displays, but also remove all LGBTQ books from the children’s section. The decision prompted a huge backlash both within the community and on a broader scale.

It’s not safe to think, “That sort of thing doesn’t happen here.”

Author Jodi Picoult spoke out against the ban in a Facebook post, having worked at the library in the past. She said, “To see this memo disgusts me and makes me reevaluate an institution that I have praised for being formative in my life as an author. Love is love…  and representation matters.”

In response to the backlash, Smithtown Libraries held an emergency online meeting with more than 1,000 participants. The sheer amount of people trying to view the meeting was hard for the platform to handle. No public comments were allowed, and participants were threatened with being kicked out if they used the “raise hand” function, as it slowed down video and audio. Some participants changed their names to “LGBTQ RIGHTS” and “ALLOW PUBLIC COMMENTS” to communicate their opinion.

The board then voted 4-2 to reverse the decision.

This story demonstrates something Kelly Jensen has also been pointing out in weekly censorship news posts: it’s not safe to think, “That sort of thing doesn’t happen here.” Because it does happen in New York state. And that’s not the only blue state it happens: one of these “Hide the Pride” people checked out all the LGBTQ books on display at a California library, in Sonoma County. For each of these stories, the ones that make the news are only the tip of the iceberg. How many libraries are having this happen to them, but they don’t have the framework to connect it to the “Hide the Pride” censorship, or the platform to speak out about it?

We’re seeing this anti-LGBTQ and anti-BIPOC sentiment growing across the country. It’s powerful and organized, from groups like Moms for Liberty and Catholic Vote all the way up to prominent rightwing politicians. Don’t be complacent. No matter where in the country you are, show up for library and school board meetings. Vote in local elections. Make your voice heard. Because otherwise, these groups will happily make decisions on your behalf.

More Censorship of Library Pride Displays

Macon, NC: A county commissioner in North Carolina threatened library funding over a small Pride display: “If you want to celebrate divisive things like gay pride or whatever, then do it, but do it on private property. I cannot support increased funding to an agency with those displays.”

Greenville County, SC: The Greenville County Library system decided to take down all Pride displays. The director called each branch to avoid leaving any documentation of the ban that could be seen in a FOIA request. An Assistant Librarian, Victoria Slessman, decided to quit over the decision. Slessman had also previously requested to include pronouns in email signatures and was denied. When they received the news about Pride displays being banned, Slessman instead moved the display to a less visible area. Like Smithtown, the Greenville County Library System has since reversed the ban.

Bedford County, VA: A tiny Pride display in Bedford County has been taken down. It was made up of a handful of books on the top of a shelf with a rainbow sign beside it. The library manager also said that the books are “out of the library and were checked out by one person,” which might also put this under “Hide the Pride.”

Litchfield, NH: Yet another “Hide the Pride” story: a patron asked for the Pride display at Aaron Cutler Library to be taken down. When the library refused, the patron checked out all 15 books. There is some speculation that the person who checked out the book is a member of the library board of trustees.

Orem, UT: The Utah Library Association has released a statement in opposition to Orem Public Library’s decision to not allow Pride displays in the children’s department. Not only is it censorship, it also means that children looking for age-appropriate LGBTQ books have to go to the adult section to access them.

Jennings, IN: The Jennings County Public Library isn’t removing their Pride display… they’re just removing everything that identifies it as LGBTQ, including the Pride flag that accompanied it. In my first article, I mentioned a dangerous trend of “compromise” with anti-LGBTQ groups, and this is a perfect example of that. The board president says in this article that they’ve never remove books and that the library is for everyone, not acknowledging that this is still a slight against queer patrons.

Jackson Madison County, TN: A Jackson Madison County Library Pride display has been challenged by a resident complaining about “homosexual” content, but it’s still up.

Portsmouth, OH: This is yet another “Hide the Pride” story. A Portsmouth library had its entire Pride display checked out by a patron, and the Pride display is being challenges in board meetings. This article, which seems a little questionable, says the board is seeking legal counsel in how to continue.

St. Tammany, LA: Several patrons complained about a Mandeville library Pride display, but when offered a form to actually challenge it, no one followed through on their angry Facebook comments with a formal objection. The library also had several patrons reach out to show their support for the display.

Columbia, SC: And here’s one last “Hide the Pride” story, including a form letter left behind by the person who checked out all the books.

It may be the end of Pride month, but it’s not too late to reach out to your local librarians and library board and let them know that you support Pride displays and the the library carrying LGBTQ books. We need every voice we can get to fight back against this organized anti-LGBTQ movement invading library spaces.

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