Arlington Public Library Advisory Board Compromises on LGBTQ Pride Month Postings
Norma Zuniga, Director of Libraries, says books recognizing the LGBTQ+ community would receive the same section dedication as the other categories on offer. Zuniga says the library regularly organizes special collections based on public interest.
“It’s not something we’re starting now because of this issue, but it’s something I wanted you to consider when we talk about screens,” Zuniga said.
A survey the library held open for a week received more than 1,800 responses. Of these, 1,062 did not support restrictions on Pride Month postings, 686 supported the plan that kept postings in the adult section, 51 did not want postings anywhere and 17 did not want “controversial, political, sexual or offensive” postings.
The city has been under pressure to withdraw its support and recognition of the LGBTQ community since June 2021, when anti-gay speakers denounced Mayor Jim Ross’ recognition of gay pride month. Repeated calls to drop the celebration this summer included demands to remove LGBTQ-themed books and prevent future Pride Month displays from public libraries.
Zuniga says several pastors met with her, City Manager Trey Yelverton, and Ross in September because they see visual depictions of LGBTQ characters and themes as a potential stressor for youth mental health.
Cat Serna-Horn, chair of the board, says she was concerned that dedicating a section might accidentally drag someone out of the collection. However, Serna-Horn says she spoke with LGBTQ residents who said they would support the designated sections.
“I was like, ‘Oh, okay, so I can get involved if it really meets the needs of the colon on this topic,'” she says.
The board voted 9-1 to recommend the changes to Zuniga, who will write the final policy. The city council has the final say on the finalized document.
Serna-Horn says displays shouldn’t be behind a figurative or literal “curtain,” or tucked away in the back corner of bookcases.
“Just like there’s dinosaurs here and we all know there’s ‘Boxcar Kids’ here, there’s Judy Blume here, there will be…the shelf with LGBTQ and it will be presented like any what other section”, Serna-Corne says.
Council members who called for restrictions on exhibits for children said they felt marginalized.
Jabranica Stroba says people who, like her, held “unpopular opinion” were lost in the reshuffle.
“I’m just asking that everyone have a seat at the table, but not whoever is, like, I hate to say it, whoever is popular now,” Stroba said.
Stroba asked if books with LGBTQ representation would appear in Banned Book Week, which is observed every fall.
“They kind of seem to go together,” Stroba says.
Zuniga replied that the Captain Underpants and Judy Blume series were on the banned books list, among the most serious titles.
“Our role as library professionals, as providers of information, is just to make that available and have the public say, ‘Oh, really? Judy Blume was challenged at some point? Why? And they can choose to take it or not,” she says.
The board also discussed whether to seek wording from the American Library Association to come back to the next draft. The ALA is considered the standard for library practices.
Serna-Horn compared the ALA to the American Pediatric Association and law enforcement associations after speakers decried the group as a liberal organization.
“ALA is sort of the foundation of library and information science,” she says.
Devin Dowling, vice chairman of the board, says the ALA shouldn’t be the moral authority just because it’s run by educated professionals.
“I feel like it’s a talk of elitism,” Dowling says. “Just because you’re educated doesn’t mean you have better opinions about it, that you should decide these topics just because you’ve been educated.”
Gina Woodlee, a resident who led the fight against library or city council recognition of the LGBTQ community, says she plans to ask the city council to follow the ALA’s recommendations.
The board also agreed to explore alternate names for year-round sections in case the acronym used to refer to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning isn’t the best. name.
“I’ve lived long enough to see insulting and offensive designations,” Adams says.
Graphic novels are getting a new review process
Zuniga says she’s introducing new guidelines for graphic novels after people in multiple meetings complained about the availability of a copy of Michelle Perez’s “The Pervert” at checkout.
Zuniga says the department will move graphic novels to the third floor of the downtown George W. Hawkes Library, implement a new screening process for purchasing graphic novels, and review existing collections.
The library will also institute a new Parental Controls feature that will allow parents to restrict material deemed appropriate for teens or adults. The current system only limits the ability of children under 12 to view adult content.
Zuniga says she’s been waiting for a request for reconsideration – a form that initiates the formal review process for circulating material – but hasn’t received one since May, when people brought their concerns to the board. municipal.
“We kind of looked for them, but it didn’t happen,” she says.
Zuniga says — and a KERA public records request backs it up — that the library system has just one request this year as of Thursday night.
The single request resulted in the children’s book “Our Skin: A First Conversation About Race” by Megan Madison and Jessica Ralli being moved to a children’s section that caters to a slightly older age range. The complaint claims that the illustrations, which depict white children and adults discriminating against black and brown children, suggest that only white people are guilty of racism.
Woodlee said she didn’t fill out a form because it was the library staff’s fault that “The Pervert” made it to the shelves.
“It’s kind of like you’re handing this over to us, when the original work is all yours,” she says.
Heather Lowe of the Friends and Foundation of the Arlington Public Library said she would “choose to be the adult in the room and fill out the form.”
“You just drop the form and pull it off the shelves,” says Lowe. “I realize you won’t have the guts to wave at these meetings, but it will be a blessing as we’ve been talking about this book since May.”
For LGBTQ mental health support, call the Trevor Project’s toll-free 24/7 helpline at 866-488-7386. You can also contact a trained crisis counselor through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 800-273-8255 or texting 741741.
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