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Crook County Library Board rejects calls to label LGBTQ books, move them from children’s area to special spot

(Update: Adding video)

PRINEVILLE, Ore. (KTVZ) – After hearing impassioned public testimony on a proposal to label and place children’s books on LGBTQ issues in a separate area of the Crook County Library, as well as warnings of the potential legal and financial ramifications, the library board voted 4-1 Thursday night to leave them where they are.

It was another in several meetings that focused on the issue in recent months, but while strong views were shared and applause given to those opposed, the crowd was orderly and did not interrupt, boo or the like. When a board member asked for a show of hands of those in support of moving the books or leaving them where they were, he said most in the crowd opposed placing them in a special section.

One of the invited speakers, Emily O’Neal of the Oregon Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee, advised the board that putting the LGBTQ books in a separate area in the library would cause problems, because unlike a section for, say, cookbooks, “the purpose of this shelving and stickering is expressly to show what not to check out.”

“A stigma has been placed on this collection,” she said. “In this labeling, the library is now ‘outing’ the readers, without their consent,” and in the eyes of groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union would raise “the real possibility of litigation.”

She also claimed the library board had not followed its own policies and complaint procedures in dealing with the criticism to this point.

Buzzy Nielsen, from the State Library of Oregon’s Library Support Division, noted that the Crook County Court, which appoints the library board members, had hired a First Amendment attorney who said a separate location for the LGBTQ books would not be unconstitutional.

But Nielsen said, “the question of a separate section is more than a constitutional question,” and also involves “equitable service for your patrons. We expect a public library to be a welcome place for the entire community,” including the "under-served and protected classes under Oregon law.”

After the invited speakers an elementary school student was first to speak, saying, “I think those books should stay in the children’s section,” because “I had a crush on a girl." As an aside, she added: "Also, a dog is not a girl’s best friend – a cat is!”

But the next speaker, a high school student, said, “I’m here to oppose any books that sexualize kids,” who don’t have the maturity to deal with such subjects. “I personally have been harmed by such books in school,” he claimed, not being more specific.

Another Crook County resident brought up some passages of the Bible and asked, “Do only some books get a pass for the content in them?” Hitler and the Nazis, he said, were “banning books because they wanted everyone to think one way – their way.”

“There are a lot of offensive books,” another speaker said. “What’s offensive to one isn’t offensive to another.” He urged people to read the targeted books, which he said are “age-appropriate. They aren’t pornography.”

Mark, a five-year Prineville resident, said, “You get my vote to keep those things right where they are.”

A man who grew up in Prineville said he'd grown disappointed by the community in this debate, though heartened by what he'd heard this night. He said youth who have questions about issues such as gender “deserve better than to see their existence and their rights constantly debated by adults. Keep the public library public, and say no to exclusion and censorship.”

Article Topic Follows: Crook County

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Barney Lerten

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