Louisiana county libraries block displays for groups, issues

LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — Book displays targeting specific groups or topics such as Cajun heritage, Pride Month or Black History Month are prohibited indefinitely at public libraries in Louisiana’s Lafayette Parish, a newspaper reported.

Library Director Danny Gillane said Tuesday that the new policy, which also affects Women’s History Month and Native American history, will be in place “for the foreseeable future,” according to The Advocate.

Gillane said he made the decision to protect the library and its collection of books and films.

“I’m doing this because everything’s a fight,” he said. “And if I put these books out right now, I feel like I am inviting people to challenge these books.”

Library patrons in late 2021 and this year have challenged two books and a documentary film, seeking to have them removed or their access limited. The first objection was to “This Book is Gay,” which was shelved in the nonfiction teen section.

Before the library board voted on whether to ban the book, Gillane moved all teen nonfiction books to the adult nonfiction section.

In April, the board assigned an NC-17 rating to an unrated documentary film about a man who was an unofficial pimp for gay Hollywood stars so that only those 17 and older are allowed to check out the movie, which contains some nudity.

Gillane said all the moves he’s made have been to keep materials in the library from being put behind a desk or a door.

Some consider his actions, including not allowing Pride Month book displays, self-censorship.

“For a library, that’s ridiculous,” Lynette Majia, an administrator of the Facebook page Lafayette Citizens Against Censorship, said Tuesday. “It goes against everything a library is supposed to stand for.”

“This is viewpoint discrimination,” said Matthew Humphrey, president of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays Lafayette. “Denying representation to any minority community at the public library will not go unanswered. We are not afraid to sue.”

Pride Month, which celebrates the LGBTQ+ community, began Wednesday.

“After two years without a full-blown celebration, we would like the focus to be on all things Summer Reading, including our displays,” Gillane wrote in an email to library managers. “We want to take the spotlight away from anything considered political and focus on what the library does best: Providing programs and services to everyone in Lafayette Parish. Period.”

Book displays going forward, he said, will focus on topics such as mystery, romance, science fiction and poetry.

Two library board members, including President Robert Judge, were vocal opponents of Drag Queen Story Time, an event in 2018 in which men dressed as women read to children at the public library. Humphrey was one of that event’s organizers.

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