PORTSMOUTH—The Portsmouth Public Library’s (PPL) Board of Trustees held a special meeting on Thursday as the library continues to address concerns brought by members of the public over a display that appeared in the youth services section.
The display featured Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning (LGBTQ) inclusive children’s books which commemorated June being recognized as Pride month. Literature for children of all developmental stages included frank discussions of gender identity, physical anatomy, and inclusion for those of all ages within the LGBTQ+ community.
The display was taken down by the PPL after a patron checked out all of the featured books.
After previously hearing comments from the public on both sides of the issue at a special meeting held on June 21st, PPL’s Board of Trustees adjourned without reaching a decision regarding the display and its content.
“Looking into this [issue], we discovered that we do not have a policy regarding this and that is obviously something we are going to look into,” said PPL Board President Tamela Morton at the June 21st meeting. “We also reached out to legal counsel because as you can imagine this is a very complicated topic. These waters are very choppy and we feel like we have a very strong relationship with the community; that our library is held high in integrity and we do not want to lose that at all,” she added.
At Thursday’s meeting, the Board of Trustees informed those in attendance that they had obtained legal counsel and that creating a policy for public displays was the next step.
Though fewer members of the public sought to address the Board at Thursday’s meeting, all who spoke had the display as the central focus of their remarks. Sharon Bender, who did not see the display but who followed the public controversy surrounding it, asked the Board to consider the informative aspect of the books and the display for curious children, as well as inclusion of all people within PPL’s educational endeavors.
“I just want to say that I find no problem with [the display]. I think educating children is something that is the responsibility of everyone, and it can’t start too soon. Young children have questions and they’ll ask their parents—heaven only knows what they’ll be told if they ask their friends, ‘why does Joey have two daddies, or why does Molly have two mommies?’ They have to get answers from somewhere. What better place than a book or a library?”
While public opinion regarding the display was largely divided at the previous meeting, many could agree on the fact that they were reticent of the library censoring materials due to public pressure. Others were concerned that limiting such materials could alienate members of the community—a concern which Bender echoed in her remarks:
“Any kind of book that you have is not going to be detrimental to a child. But I do think that they need to have a certain degree of education about all things. This is just one more thing. We don’t need to ostracize people or make them feel bad. We need to include everybody. And children need those same kind of feelings toward people,” she said.
Following public remarks, the Board moved into executive session with legal counsel to “discuss pending or imminent court action in accordance with Revised Code section 121.22(G)(3).”
The public was dismissed until executive session adjourned.
Two motions were put forward and accepted when the Board returned: One which indicated a request for reconsideration of policy. The Board tasked Paige Williams, PPL’s Director, to send a draft policy for PPL’s displays, exhibits, bulletin boards and programming to the Board so that they could respond with recommendations by July 7th.
The second motion tasked Williams with investigating the “parenting sections” within other libraries. Specifically, if they had a “parenting section” and which books were included within that section.
The specific details of what such a section entails were not made clear by the Board, nor were any additional details regarding “pending or imminent court action.”
Morton clarified that the matter was still under review before final adjournment. She indicated that the issue would be further addressed at the July 19th meeting, which will be open to the public.
No questions were taken prior to adjournment.
For more information about the Portsmouth Public Library or the upcoming meeting, visit PPL online at yourppl.org.
Reach Kasie McCreary at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1931 or by email at [email protected]
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