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Library Display Debate Needs to Consider Broader Perspective

I used to hate the holiday season. The term here isn’t an agnostic euphemism for Christmas but rather a broader sense of a timeline meaning from the week of Thanksgiving to the week after New Years.

Everything is always simultaneously on pause yet also in fast forward. Either way, it has been a stressful time for someone like me who usually finds solace in a mundane routine.

This year, though, the perspective shifted. For the first time, giving up the routine in favor of being with family didn’t feel like an abandonment of who I was but rather a return to it. I redefined priorities.

The problem I had previously been having was an inability to separate who I am from what I do. Political Consultant. College Professor. Living up to these titles became more important than living who I am. Husband. Son. Out-of-shape rowing enthusiast.

These titles are personal to me, to who I am, but the idea of forgetting that for more narrow titles like what I do professionally isn’t unique to me. We’re just as likely to do it on a communal level as we are on an individual level as well.

It’s easier to see what I mean by this if we look at it through an electronic context first.

Social media is not real life. We know this, but we don’t always remember this. It can feel like something you see on Facebook is everywhere until you ask someone who doesn’t have an account and you realize how isolated it is to the online platform.

But social media can be a reflection of social structures in the real world as well. Small communities can amplify their voice to the point where what they frame as life or death to them can have a spillover effect to feeling significant for everyone even though the vast majority of people may not have given it any thought at all.


An example of this will be a decision the Commission faces in their first meeting of 2022 a week from Tuesday regarding the libraries. The Board has been pressured to vote on creating specific language to dictate how the library system can set up displays.

This is in response to a group of people who have been consistently advocating against LGBT displays in the library since June. The debate intensified when the group thought the Commission had ordered the library director not to put any more displays like this up, which the library did for October which is nationally known as Pride Month.

If you have been watching the Commission meetings, you know exactly what I’m talking about and are already expecting the meeting on Jan. 4 to be a long, passion-filled fight. If you, like 149,700 of our 150,000 residents, haven’t been watching the meetings then you’re probably wondering why this is such a big deal. You’re the equivalent of people without a Facebook account, and that’s a good thing.

We should trust the opinion of the 99.8% here that isn’t highly involved in the day-to-day politics of public affairs and the Commission should dismiss this action item against the will of those who are inevitably going to show up.

Those who are advocating for the directive are not as hateful as their opponents make them out to be. They have serious concerns over the content in books from a morality standpoint.

Some of those advocating don’t want LGBT material removed because of personal anti-gay stances, but rather because it pushes an idea of putting life in the context of sexuality even in books that are meant for kids which feels extreme. I get that.

Our elected officials passing directives over what can and cannot be displayed in public libraries because of what a few persistent and passionate people have pushed them to do is a scary road to go down.

The Commission is not likely to pass the directive, but it has got this far. The leader of this movement has already tried to join the Library Advisory Board, but the motion for his nomination from Commissioner Kitchen did not receive a second, and someone else was subsequently appointed.

This was an example of the Commission understanding the will of the people is more than the narrow perspective we see in the meetings, just as this holiday season was a reminder to me that I am more than my job title says I am. They’ll need to remember that one more time next year.


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