Metro Weekly

Long Island Library Backtracks on Removing LGBTQ Books

New York governor has ordered probe into Smithtown Library Board's now-reversed decision to remove LGBTQ works from children's section.

The interior of the Smithtown Library in Nesconset, N.Y. – Photo: Facebook.

A library in Long Island has reversed course after removing all LGBTQ displays and books from the children’s section amid an ongoing national backlash against LGBTQ visibility. 

On June 21, the Smithtown Library Board of Trustees voted 4-2 to take down all Pride-themed displays  at the town’s four library branches and ban any books dealing with Pride or LGBTQ issues from the children’s section at those branches. 

The decision was prompted by complaints from conservative parents offended by the presence of LGBTQ displays, arguing that they are a form of “indoctrination” that infringes upon parental rights by exposing children to issues or concepts they are not old enough to grasp. 

The conservative group Catholic Vote has called on parent to “hide the Pride” by checking out all LGBTQ books so others, especially children, will not be able to read them, reports NBC New York.

A mother in Brunswick, Maryland, recently performed a similar stunt, checking out all the books from an LGBTQ library display in order to preserve children’s “innocence.”

The move prompted outrage from members of the LGBTQ community.

“I was horrified by the display of ignorance at last night’s Board meeting,” Brianna Baker-Stines, the president of the library board, said after the vote last Tuesday. “As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, I recognize the importance of access to diverse materials.”

“I feel like I’m living in the Twilight Zone,” Nassau County Legislator Arnold Drucker told NBC New York. “Earlier this year, when Florida was ramming destructive ‘Don’t Say Gay’ laws through its state legislature, I lamented the fact that this coordinated, nationwide assault on the LGBTQ+ community could soon arrive on our doorstep. Well, it’s here.

“What transpired in Smithtown shows us that we cannot pull the wool over our own eyes for a moment longer by saying, ‘it won’t happen here,'” Drucker added.

Following the vote, the board of trustees issued a statement saying LGBTQ books are still part of the library’s collection and can be checked out by anyone wishing to do so, according to the Daily Voice.

“These titles have not been removed from the collection,” the board said in its statement. “The Library continues to display Pride month displays in our Teen and Adult areas.”

The trustees’ vote was criticized by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, who announced she was directing the New York State Division of Human Rights to launch an investigation to see whether their actions rose to the level of discrimination.

“Public places are prohibited by law from engaging in discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” Hochul said in a statement. “Everyone — and particularly our state’s young people — deserves to feel welcome at the library.

“For many LGBTQ+ kids, libraries are a place of refuge and information where they can be welcomed and affirmed for who they are,” she continued. “We will not tolerate a ‘Don’t Say Gay’ philosophy taking root in our state.

But the trustees later reversed course, voting during a June 23 emergency meeting to put the Pride displays back up. The displays will remain in place until at least July 15, at which point it will be up to the supervising librarians at each branch to decide whether to take them down or leave them up,” according to News 12 New Jersey.

Still, there remains opposition to allowing LGBTQ-themed books in the children’s section.

“It is still my concern to shield some of these books from the little kids, from the children’s area,” Trustee Marie Gergenti told News 12 New Jersey. “Not the adult sections or the teen section…”

While she’s happy about the Pride displays being restored, Baker-Stines argued that trustees never should have voted on whether to remove the displays in the first place, saying librarians are better trained to determine what is appropriate for public consumption and which books are age-appropriate for particular sections. 

“We need to trust the staff we hired and allow them to handle the day-to-day operations of the library,” Baker-Stines said. “The motion we made went against our mission statement and it was a mistake.”

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