Four New York libraries have reversed their decision to remove LGBTQ book displays from children’s sections after facing backlash

By Alisha Ebrahimji, CNN

A New York City library board reversed its decision to remove all LGBTQ-related postings from its children’s section at four of its libraries during Pride Month after the removal was criticized.

On Tuesday, four of Smithtown Library’s seven boards had voted to remove all displays of Pride material from the children’s section at its Commack, Kings Park, Nesconset and Smithtown locations on Long Island.

“All books on this subject are still part of the library’s children’s collection and can be viewed by anyone who wishes,” the Smithtown Library Board had written on its website of the vote. “These titles have not been removed from the collection.”

The library said at the time that it would continue to display Pride Month materials in the teen and adult-only areas of the building.

On Thursday, however, the board convened once again for an emergency meeting to discuss the ban, which resulted in a reversal on a 4-2 vote. Pride month material will remain on display until July 15 and will then be removed at the discretion of the supervising librarian.

CNN has contacted the Smithtown Library Board for comment.

“Earlier tonight, the Smithtown Library Board rescinded our earlier decision to remove the Pride displays from the children’s room of our library,” the Smithtown Library Board said in a statement. press release online. “The majority of the board agrees that our prior decision was made without the time, care or due diligence that a decision of this type deserves and that it was the wrong decision.”

Patrons and parents had expressed concern about the content of Pride display material, Marie Gergenti, a library administrator, said at Thursday’s meeting, which is why she twice voted to remove it. .

“They (customers) felt that little children were being exposed to certain images in some of these books and they weren’t happy about it,” she said. “The original recommendation was to remove sensitive material from the children’s section based solely on complaints from parents in the community.”

Books that tell the stories of Black and LGBTQ people or authors from those communities top a 2021 list of the 10 titles most targeted for suppression or censorship in schools, libraries and universities, a said the American Library Association.

The majority of these books were labeled as inappropriate because some people considered them to be sexually explicit, containing sexually explicit images, or including sexual references. Some books dealt with the LGBTQ experience, and one was challenged for allegedly promoting “an anti-police message,” the ALA said.

“For many LGBTQ+ young people, libraries are the only safe, affirming and welcoming space during these formative years of personal development,” the New York Library Association said in an online statement. “Libraries, for our LGBTQ+ youth, are the first place where they see themselves for exactly who they are without retaliation.”

“The removal of Pride displays and all related materials on display further perpetuates the cycle of shame and silence of our LGBTQ+ youth. This directly contributes to the growing suicide risk of LGBTQ+ youth and worsening mental health crisis, while violating libraries’ universal commitment to protect the freedom to read.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul shared a similar sentiment and tweeted his support of LGBTQ youth on Wednesday night. In a statement on Thursday, she said: “The law prohibits public places from engaging in discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Everyone — and especially our state’s young people — deserve to feel welcome at the library.

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