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American Library Association weighs in on Washington County LGBTQ display ban

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ST. GEORGE (News4Utah) – The Washington County Library System continues to stand with its decision to not allow LGBTQ displays in any of its eight southern Utah branches.

Washington County Library Director Joel Tucker says the reasoning for the display ban is to remain neutral, but others believe the ban goes against the Library Bill of Rights

“Rather than try to avoid controversy I think we should try to embrace it and say this is what our community is talking about, these are the people in our community … and we should be proud of that,” said James LaRue, Director of the American Library Association, Office for Intellectual Freedom.

The American Library Association shared their views with News4Utah about Washington County’s LGBTQ display ban.

“We very much believe that the kinds of displays that go on in Pride month … they are part of the human condition and it makes perfect sense for them to be in libraries,” said LaRue. 

The group makes it even more clear on their website which reads in part: 

“The American Library Association … unequivocally maintains that … libraries have an obligation to resist efforts that systematically exclude materials dealing with any subject matter, including sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation.”

“Exhibits and displays are part of what we do… We follow the Library Bill of Rights,” said Wanda Huffaker, Intellectual Freedom Committee Chair with the Utah Library Association.

“Displays in the library, the point typically is to highlight things that people are looking for, but they weren’t aware that the library might have had,” said LaRue. 

Washington County Director Joel Tucker confirmed at a Thursday night forum hosted by Equality Utah that previous LGBTQ displays worked.

 “Were there any books that were taken down?” asked the forum’s moderator. 

 “… No … and actually there were quite a few books checked out and that’s kind of a purpose of a display,” said Tucker. 

But he maintains his position on neutrality. Additional displays, he said during the forum,  would not be neutral due to differing philosophies in the community.

“Nature says that you’re born this way, vs nurture that says this is a choice you’ve made, and this is not me throwing out the conversation,” said Tucker. 

“Displays have been happening all around the country. I want to ask why we are different?”  …Why we’re not allowed to have a display just like everyone else,” asked Ammon Treasure, Hurricane Librarian. 

“So this community is not Provo or other communities around the nation. This community has different people, with different ideas,” said Tucker. 

“Everyone should have a place at the table. And so for many communities, particularly the rural communities in America, the library is the table. It’s the common ground where all are welcome. And to do that you can’t censor some voices. Everybody gets a seat at the table,” said LaRue. 

On the Washington County Library’s website, it has its own mission statement. In part it reads: “It will protect library materials from censorship’ …and  ‘Promote the awareness and use of library resources”.

Tucker said to News4Utah Tuesday that he wants everyone to feel welcome within the library, that they welcome everyone and have material for all people. He said he is currently working through issues and concerns of all people, and all patrons. 

WEB EXTRA:
Hear more about the Library Bill of Rights, its history, and the American Library Association’s take on the LGBTQ display ban. 

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