OREM, Utah (ABC4) — The Orem Public Library has been accused by the Utah Library Association of removing and subsequently discontinuing heritage month displays.

The ULA released a statement on Monday, Feb. 13, saying the Orem Public Library has discontinued all heritage month displays following the removal of Pride Month displays in June 2022. Furthermore, the statement alleges library staff members were threatened to not speak publicly about the censorship.

“This act of censorship is not only a disservice to the Orem community but also an act of overreach by the city government,” representatives of the ULA said. “The public library exists to serve all people, and, as an institution, the library is both a legal and a symbolic embodiment of the fundamental American value that we all have the right to self-direct, think for ourselves, read, learn, and engage with ideas and information without government interference.”

In a previous statement, the ULA said the Orem City Council forbade the library from putting up displays in the children’s area related to Pride Month in June 2022. The display was instead moved to another location in the library far away from the children’s section.

Members of the ULA said it is unacceptable when politicians direct library staff to take down displays or move them to another area just because they do not like the topics being expressed.

“Because of our statement, I believe they got rid of all heritage month displays,” said Marissa Bischoff, president of the Utah Library Association. “I think it was just an effort to make it easier in the future to just kind of be done with it and not have anything that could be controversial to certain political viewpoints on display in the library.”

According to the ULA, a current library employee published a blog post last month detailing their thoughts about the discontinued displays. At one point, the employee said they never imagined they would be working for a library that isn’t allowed to put up a Black History month display.

The employee went on to say, since June 2022, the library has executed a “subtle but troubling process” of censorship, adding that staff did not put up a Hispanic-American heritage display or a Native-American heritage display last year.

“It’s important to have heritage month displays so that people in the community can come in and maybe find a book about someone who’s different from them,” Bischoff said. “Or someone can come in and find a book that’s about them. There’s great value in that, and I would really like for that to come back.”

Orem Public Library issued the following statement in response to the accusation:

“We are committed to the excellence of the Orem Public Library and fully support its efforts to serve and enrich our community. We are reviewing and updating our library policies to ensure greater clarity and understanding. It is important to note that during this process (and prior to it), no items have been removed, and the city has supported the librarians’ efforts to showcase more of the library’s collection. The updated policies will ensure the stewardship of our librarians while providing appropriate opportunities for input and engagement. We believe greater clarity will help to enhance our library and its important mission in our community.”

Orem Public Library sent in an email

According to the Daily Herald, Orem Public Library Director Charlene Crozier announced last month she would be retiring in February after three other top staff members have also left the city government in the past six weeks.

In an interview with the Daily Herald, Rita Christensen, former head of the Children’s Department of the Orem Library, said the mayor and council members are getting away with their “draconian tactics and uncompromising unfairness.”

Christensen reportedly left for a new position at the Salt Lake City Library.

In today’s statement, the ULA calls on the Orem City Council to account for their involvement in canceling heritage month displays and “offer a public commitment to refrain from illegitimate political meddling in library operations.”