[Libs-Or] Display Challenge

Rachael Grindberg libraryclerk.oaklandcitylibrary at gmail.com
Mon Jun 14 15:35:37 PDT 2021


Thank you so much for all of your support. I am compiling all of the advice
I got into this email.

I was told to bring it to the City Council and wait to respond until I get
feedback from them. One of the City Councillors is outraged and definitely
on my side. I'm not sure how the others will react. I will let you all know
what happens.

I also wanted to let everyone know that our library is making sure we
purchase books that represent the LGBTQ+ community, and we let anyone in
Douglas County get a library card and check out materials. I make sure that
the stories I do for our online story time represent many different people,
not just cis white people. I appreciate everyone's support.

This will be a very long email due to all the responses, but I wanted to
include them in case anyone else has this same issue or one similar.


Hi Rachael,
  I am sorry you have been getting negative feedback about your display. I
would reach out to OLA Office of Intellectual Freedom. They can help you
navigate this situation and craft a response to this patron.


Thank you!

Heather R. Jones

Assistant Director of Library Services

Crook County Library

hjones at crooklib.org

541-447-7978 x320

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Hi, Rachael.

I’m sorry you are facing this complaint.

If you have a challenge policy, I would offer her the form or procedure
that’s in place. I’m case you don’t, I can forward one.

My other thought is to utilize the wording and authority of the American
Librarian Association, Oregon Library Association, and State Library. If
you have a board or governing/guiding body, it might help to have them

For example, if I were answering this complaint, I would answer with a
“thank you for the input” and for “caring about the community.” I might
then go on to say that it is the library’s mission to welcome and include
everyone (or something else along those lines that matches your mission
statement). I would then offer the formal complaint form and access to the
procedure by which these challenges are handled.

Banned Books forums might have more specific language.

Sincerely thanking you for your thoughtful question and for being willing
to engage this patron.

Miriam Sisson, District Librarian
North Douglas Library District
Miriam Sisson (she/her/hers)
District Librarian
Mildred Whipple Library, North Douglas Library District

Hi, Rachael,

Just the ramblings of a reference librarian on his day off, but this might
be one way to approach it:

I might start by agreeing with them that it is a community library, and
since there are people who are LGBTQ in the Douglas County community, it is
important to make sure they feel welcome in the community library.

I'd continue with the fact that your library (at least based on the catalog
searches I did) has materials on Islam, Christianity, atheism, the Vietnam
War, white supremacy, Donald Trump, and Barack Obama, just to name a few
potentially controversial subjects, and just because a subject is
controversial in your community does not mean it isn't worth having
materials on and promoting it in the library.

I might wrap it up with the fact that the library is a place for people to
feel comfortable exploring ideas, all people with many different lifestyles
and beliefs, and it is especially important for the library to reach out to
groups of people who have been, historically speaking, mistreated and
discriminated against.

I might add a little P.S. stating that the patron who wrote the letter
doesn't need to subscribe to all the different beliefs found in all the
different materials in the library, but that the Douglas County community
has more than one point of view on people who are LGBTQ, and while the
library would never demand that the author of the letter support people who
are LGBTQ in their personal life, they need to understand that the library
is there for the entire community, not just people with their beliefs.

Thought that P.S. section might be a little too snarky?

If none of this is helpful, you might be able to find some help through ALA
here: https://www.ala.org/advocacy/diversity/librariesrespond/Services-LGBTQ or
here: https://www.ala.org/rt/rrt. To get help from a more local source, I'm
sure the good folks at the State Library of Oregon:
https://www.oregon.gov/library/Pages/default.aspx and OLA:
https://www.olaweb.org/  would be a big help, as they usually are.

Best of luck in dealing with this prickly situation!

Matthew Baiocchi



City of Lincoln City  *|*  Driftwood Public Library

801 SW Hwy 101 * |*  PO Box 50  *| * Lincoln City, OR

*P:* 541.557.1116  *|*  *E**:* mbaiocchi at lincolncity.org

*W: *Driftwoodlib.org *| **W**:* LincolnCity.org

I posted a statement related to this on the People for Oregon Libraries
Facebook page yesterday. I think this statement is adaptable to your
situation. It is posted on this library’s Facebook page:


Over the past few days, there have been postings (principally on social
media) that misrepresent the content and the goals of the library’s
forthcoming Drag Story Hour, particularly through the use of images that
are not relevant to the nature of the program that is taking place. The
stated intent of many of these posts – the majority of which seem to
originate outside the West Warwick community – is to cancel the event.

Drag Story Hours are a recognized form of library programming for children,
supported by the American Library Association, and this sort of story time
has taken place at other public libraries in the state and across the
nation. The event here celebrates Pride month, and will consist of guest
readers in costume – both of whom have lead story times in the past –
reading children’s books to children and their accompanying parents. The
message we are hoping to get across is that people are different, and that
difference shouldn't be a reason for teasing or bullying. Our special
guests do appear before a range of audiences, but in this instance the
program content will be appropriate for the age group concerned, will be
guided by professional Youth Librarians, and will not pertain to issues of
religious belief or affiliation. We will be partnering for this event with
West Warwick Health Equity Zone (who are funding the program), Youth Pride
RI and PFLAG of Greater Providence. We are offering two time slots for
parents and children to register for the event on June 26th, and the first
of these is already at capacity.

This year we were proud to be one of just 15 libraries nationwide to be a
named a finalist for the National Medal for Museum and Library Service by
the Institute of Museum and Library Services. We are the first library in
the state to be so recognized since 2001, and this honor redoubles our
commitment to provide exemplary library service to all of our patrons. We
recognize that not every program we offer matches the interests or the
values of every member of our community, and that patrons may or may not
attend at their own discretion. We will, however, continue to ensure that
issues of equity, diversity and inclusion inform and enrich everything that
we do. Our message is simple – Libraries are for Everyone.

Colin McCullough, Library Director
Nathan Shapiro, Chair, Board of Trustees
*Diedre Conkling*
*diedre08 at gmail.com* <diedre08 at gmail.com>

“If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change
your attitude.”―Maya Angelou
Hi Rachael!

I'm so sorry you have to deal with that.  🙁

My advice would be to not respond.  I've found a fairly effective way to
deal with people who don't believe queer kids exist is:

   1. Don't respond directly to the comment/complaint.  If people are
   really offended by something, they would leave and just not engage.  Most
   of the time when folks write a letter like this, they're bored and want to
   get a reaction.  I try to sympathize and think about how restrictive and
   joyless this person's life must be without queer folks in it.
   2. However, * do* redirect the conversation to minimize harm.  If this
   person (or someone else) comes in and says the same thing in person, your
   goal is to keep them from hurting kids in the vicinity (including their own
   kids).  So don't even say anything related to the display or what they
   say.  Say something like "oh, interesting, could I talk to you about this
   over here or outside?  That way I can hear you better."  Or even something
   that makes them feel important, like "coming up with fresh displays is
   hard! I wonder if you could help me come up with some ideas?  I've been
   thinking about doing one on cookbooks for kids...anyway, maybe we could
   brainstorm?"  And while you're doing that, walk towards the door or
   somewhere away from kids--walk slowly and they will come with you without
   even noticing (that's my favorite: the Walk and Talk!)  Then when you're
   away from the kids, you can listen passively while they get it all out, and
   then give them your director's card.  Or if you're the director, say
   something like "I have to get back to the desk, but I want to hear you.
   Can we continue this over the phone or schedule a time to meet?"  Honestly,
   if they follow through with meeting/calling, they're someone you're going
   to have to deal with eventually, but they usually end up getting busy and
   forget once July comes around!
   3. Continue to act like it is totally normal to have a pride display
   (which it is) and play dumb/do the above when people complain.

However, that works at the urban and academic libraries I've worked at
because it's usually either someone who wanted to make a fuss but not bad
enough to follow up, or it's a regular that I can get to know and have a
conversation with over a longer span of time.  At a small library, you
might have to respond to the email, since I bet * everyone* is a regular.

Personally, I would pretend like it went to spam, because if the patron
lets it go, problem solved.  If they write again, then I would craft a

The ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom are experts in responding to things
like this.  I would contact them and I'm sure they would help you draft a
response.  Check out this guide: Defend Pride at Your Library -
Intellectual Freedom Blog (ala.org) <https://www.oif.ala.org/oif/?p=14620>.
They are also happy to be "scapegoats."  In order to diffuse tension,
sometimes it helps to pass things up the chain.  This is what we've been
doing for masks: when people complain to a frontline staff person, we're
like "oh, it's my supervisor's rule," and then the supervisor says "oh,
it's the director's rule," and then it's the mayor, the governor, etc., and
then we all just thank Obama.

The only way I can imagine to respond to this email (what I would do
personally, so take it with a grain of salt!) is to respond to *some*
things, but not the complaint itself:

*Dear Patron,*

*Thank you for your kinds words!  It's always so nice to hear from library
fans!  I will be sure to pass along your appreciation to our volunteers.   *

*We always appreciate suggestions from the community for displays.  If you
don't mind, could you share some celebrations that are important to your
family and friends?  We'd love to add those to a list to help our
volunteers!  We strive to be a library for all adults and kids in Douglas
County, and our displays are something we do not just to show off the great
books we have, but also to show that we welcome the whole Douglas County
community.  *

*Thanks again!*

*Your Library*

If you can include your pronouns in your signature, or a little rainbow or
something, that will be an extra thing to show to show that you are
including LGBTQ+ folks when you say "all adults and kids in Douglas
County," just in case the patron releases the email on social media or
something.  If they respond, just keep playing dumb, like it's so weird
that a person would be mad about a pride display, they must be
confused...oh, but I do understand when they say kids come in the
library--yes, they do!  "Aww, that's so nice of you to notice!  Yep, we
love kids.  Do you have kids?  Do you let them play computer games?  Do you
know which ones they like?"

If they keep pushing back, you can send a final email with something like:

*We have received your input.  The library celebrates the diversity of all
the people who make up our beautiful Douglas County.  We will continue to
display materials that welcome the LGBTQIA+ people in our community.  *(Or
"LGBTQIA+ adults, teens and children"--I like to be a broken record about
the fact that there *are* queer kids, and they are KIDS. Like, actual human
children.  But that is a fight *I'm *willing to pick, and it might not be
the right strategy for your library/community. It might be too much for
this person to handle right now.)

We can't really change people's minds by trying to change their minds--they
will be so busy arguing that nothing will sink in.  But what libraries can
do is contribute to the normalization of inclusion.  This is what I always
tell my people: Queer folks exist.  The earth is round.  Some people don't
know those things for some reason, so we just have to keep displaying pride
flags and globes to help those people out and to gradually coax their minds
open.  They'll get it eventually, or they'll pass on and the Tik Tok kids
will inherit the earth.

In the end, remember that the overwhelming majority of library folks have
your back, and that includes the OLA and ALA.

*Nicole Langley*
Adult Services Librarian (Hablo español)
Beaverton City Library | 12375 SW 5th St | Beaverton, OR 97005
503-350-3617 | www.BeavertonLibrary.org <http://www.beavertonlibrary.org/>
Work days: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday
Pronouns: she, her, ella

Rachael,  everything Matthew said seems spot on to me. In addition to his
helpful suggestions for resources and support, I would add that the OLA
Intellectual Freedom committee is also here to help in whatever way is
appropriate. I have copied Kirsten Brodbeck-Kenny and Perry Stokes, the IFC
co-chairs here. You can reach out to them directly, or reply to me (I am a
member of the committee).

A couple additional ideas to note: Have you had displays on topics that
would be things this patron would likely support? Pointing out that the
library provides displays on a variety of topics and viewpoints, similar to
the variety of topics and viewpoints in its collections, could potentially
help them see what it means to support ALL the groups within the community.
And hopefully you have a clear displays policy that sets out the rationale
for providing displays on a variety of topics/viewpoints and not avoiding
controversy (which is a form of self-censorship).

And do please report this challenge to the State Library Intellectual
Freedom Clearinghouse (https://libguides.osl.state.or.us/oifc/report). This
helps the State Library track challenges, and forwards challenges received
to ALA for its tracking as well.

Hope this is helpful. I or anyone from the IFC would be happy to have
further conversation if it would be helpful.

Challenges can be nerve-wracking, but stay calm, respond rationally and not
emotionally. Hear the patron's concerns, but stand firm on your
intellectual freedom principles. Best of luck

Steve Silver

Very unfortunate, but not a total surprise, eh?

I suggest you perhaps find a person or persons in the LGBTQ+ community
[maybe even in the library LGBTQ+ community] willing to sit down and have a
“get-to-know-each-other” chat. It’s been shown [research not at my
finger-tips but would be glad to find] that personal contact changes
peoples’ attitudes toward the LBGTQ+ community more than anything else.

It can be offered to the person who wrote the letter. If she declines then
you know her mind is closed; she not only has misperceptions, she wishes to
hold on to them.

I think the gesture itself would be a lesson to her. Just knowing someone
is strong enough in themselves and their LGBTQ+ identity to be willing to
have a civil conversation with her may put a small dent in her
self-righteous views.


Donna L Cohen, MLIS, MEd

Portland, Oregon


dcohen at hevanet.com

Civics for Adults – and Others – Workshops: To Enhance Civic Knowledge and
Inspire Political Engagement

Webpage www.civicthinker.info

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Civics-for-Adults-1490728887922036/

“My philosophy is very simple. When you see something that is not fair, not
right, not just – stand up, say something, speak up!” Rep. John Lewis

Hi Rachael,

If you decide to take this route please be careful in reaching out to
LGBTQ+ staff or community members about doing this. I would recommend
making a blanket ask for a volunteer to a local LGBTQ+ group rather than
making a targeted ask to specific individuals. I don’t know how you
identify, but if you are cis and straight, you should know that queer
people are forced to interact with people who have these beliefs on a
regular basis, and it can be traumatic and triggering. Cis straight folks
do not get to ask queer folks to put themselves in a potentially dangerous
or distressing situation in order to educate other cis straight people.
Even if you make it clear that saying no is okay, just putting them in a
situation where they are forced to say no is problematic, in my opinion.

I lived and worked in your neighboring Coos County for several years, and
as a queer librarian, I am not certain I would have been comfortable being
asked to attempt to humanize the entire LGBTQ+ community to someone who is
obviously resistant, especially in that particular community where a lot of
homophobic and transphobic sentiment persists (and my understanding is that
Douglas County is similar or even a bit worse). In addition to a
potentially traumatic conversation, the possibility of making myself a
target for violence from others in the community would have made me very
leery. I definitely would have reacted poorly to being asked to do this by
my boss (or volunteer supervisor) as a part of my job/volunteer work.

I am not saying this tactic shouldn’t be pursued or could not be helpful,
just that you should be very careful about who and how you ask.

Thank you for putting up the flags and keeping them up despite this
complaint! I’ve seen time and time again how big of a difference these
gestures can make, especially in rural communities where LGBTQ+ people
often feel unsafe in public spaces. I appreciate you doing the work to make
everyone feel welcome, especially knowing how much harder it is to take
that public stance in communities like yours than it is for us up in the
Portland metro.

*Elena Gleason | Readers’ Advisory Librarian | Pronouns: she/her*

City of Hillsboro, Oregon | Hillsboro Public Library

503-615-6500 x2327 | email Elena.Gleason at hillsboro-oregon.gov

www.Hillsboro-Oregon.gov/Library <http://www.hillsboro-oregon.gov/Library>
| Follow us on Twitter @HillsboroLib <https://twitter.com/HillsboroLib> and
Facebook <http://www.facebook.com/HillsboroPublicLibrary>

*Member of Washington County Cooperative Library Services (WCCLS)*

*My work week is Sunday through Thursday*

Folks will know best what they can get away with in their local settings,
and I can’t and don’t wish to speak for all queer people. But here is what
I personally wish the response would be:

“Thank you for your thoughtful message. Your concern for your neighbors and
our community is admirable, and we always encourage people to actively
engage with the library.

However, your concerns are not consistent with the experiences that LGBTQ+
individuals describe in their own lives. Further, you included several
factually incorrect statements about medical care for transgender people
and reproductive options available to people of all gender identities and
sexual orientations.

Our library staff would be happy to connect you with reliable sources of
information about these topics, since they are of interest to you.

Thank you again!”


Hi Rachael,

As someone who spent their teen years in Douglas County and who had many
high school friends who are part of the LGBTQIA community who are ALSO from
Douglas County, I just wanted to say thank you for putting up that display
in the first place AND for keeping it up. I wish that my friends could have
seen such a display when they were still living in Roseburg, because it
would have made a huge difference to them. In fact, ALL of my LGBTQ+
friends moved away from Douglas county because of the negative treatment
they received or witnessed growing up identifying with the LGBTIQIA
community. In addition, I do still have a few friends in Douglas County who
are raising children and those parents are actively looking for materials
that show examples of our queer friends, because it’s a part of their lives
and the lives of those they love.

I think everyone who responded to this email had great insight into how to
deal with this challenge. I just wanted to say something as a former
Douglas County resident to let you know that this display will mean so much
to some of your community members who routinely experience harassment and
hate from other Douglas County residents. It means so much to be seen and
validated, especially in a hostile environment. Thank you for doing what
you do and keep it up!


Caitlin McMahan, MLIS
Youth Services Coordinator
Fern Ridge Public Library
88026 Territorial Rd.
Veneta, OR 97487

Hi Rachael,

I agree with Matthew. It is important to express the library’s posture and
point of view in this matter. A “thanks for your e-mail” type of reply will
just dilute the message behind the flag. Sometimes people with this type of
behavior and mentality are really tied to a hierarchical posture/view and
by pointing out the American Library Association’s support might be
beneficial to emphasize how much equity and inclusion are expected and
appreciated at libraries.



*Equity of Access Issues*

The Library Bill of Rights
<http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/librarybill> affirms that all
libraries are forums for information and ideas and provides for access to
information for all people.

Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender peoples’ access to libraries may be
limited or prohibited by many issues, including:

   - Collections which do not present LGBTQIA+ content or
   perspectives. LGBTQIA+ materials can often be censored under partisan or
   doctrinal disapproval
   - Environments which are not welcoming or inclusive of LGBTQIA+ people
   and which, through actions by staff or other patrons, may be made unwelcome
   to LGBTQIA+ people and their families
   - Programs which do not address the LGBTQIA+ experience
   - Services which are not promoted to LGBTQIA+ populations or in
   collaborations with local LGBTQIA+ organizations

Hi, Rachael.

I am so sorry that you are having to deal with this.  I'm afraid that I
don't have any specific advice except that you can contact the ALA Office
for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services
<https://www.ala.org/aboutala/offices/diversity>.  I am sure that they
would be willing to offer advice and support for you and your staff.  They
may even be willing to write a letter of support for you.  It might be a
little bit harder for them to argue against the American Library
Association.  However, before you take any further action in regards to the
display, I would first advise you to contact your Manager or Director if
you have one, and if not, your Board of Trustees or local administrative
board that is responsible for the library.  Get ahead of the problem and
tell your story before this ugly patron tells theirs.  Sending you support
and best wishes from Mississippi.

Warmest regards,

*Jenniffer Stephenson, Interim Director*
*First Regional Library*
*370 W. Commerce Street*
*Hernando, MS 38632*
*662-429-4439, ext. 116*

The best advice I ever got for dealing with challenges is to identify and
speak to people's feelings and needs.  Hopefully you have policies in place
about collections, programs and displays that also include a process for
people who want to challenge them.  If  not, now is a good time to start
putting those in place.  This is how I would respond, just to give you some

Thank you for your interest in the library, and for taking the time to
share your experience and convictions.  I appreciate your courage in
sharing your perspective and I understand that this is an important issue
for you.
As you pointed out, the library is a community library and that means that
we serve everyone, and that includes LGBTQ+ people in our community. We
want everyone to feel welcome in the library and to know that it is a safe
place.  Serving a diverse community like ours means having something for
everyone and letting each person decide what's best for them and their
family.  I hope you will continue to use the library and all of the
resources that are right for you, and that we will have your support in
ensuring that everyone in our community can do the same.

I would definitely talk to your trustees, but it may be enough to politely
thank the patron for sharing their opinion and then refer to the ALA
Library Bill of Rights (https://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/librarybill)
-- Our displays are in keeping with the American Library Association
Library Bill of Rights, which is the standard for our profession.
Best of luck,

Hi Rachel (and all),
I am writing on behalf of the Oregon Intellectual Freedom Committee.
Thanks so much for reaching out to the OLA community to ask about this
challenge and to seek some advice.  The OIFC agrees with many of the
suggestions offered here, and we felt it pertinent to chime in a bulleted
list of suggested talking points and next steps.

We do recognize that the customer interaction and response provided will be
different for different circumstances.  As one of our committee members,
Steve Silver put is so clearly:

"It's not a one-size-fits-all situation. Some folks would be in a position
to hear [a more detailed explanation]. For others, just keeping it simple
(and non-confrontational) will be best. I think it calls for sensitivity
and awareness of where the patron is on that scale for each individual
interaction. Only the local librarian involved with that patron/community
can best judge what the patron can or cannot handle and what the best level
of information to share would be most helpful."

That said, we share the following list of possible talking points to

.       Point to display policy (if one exists).  Could also possibly
reference program or collection development policy as applicable
.       Keep it short option. Example: "The library will continue to
represent and include everyone in the community"
.       If appropriate, address misinformation. Example: "the library is
not advocating for any specific medical treatment for children, we are
advocating inclusiveness for all people in Douglas County and have chosen
to display these flags to acknowledge the nationally-recognized occasion of
Pride Month."
.       If appropriate to a longer response:
o       Remind the customer that the library is a place for all members of
the community, including the LGBTQ individuals in Douglas County
o       Remind the customer that the library is a place for people to
explore ideas, learn about different lifestyles and beliefs. Introduce the
concept of mirrors and windows.
o       Remind the customer that the library provides a wide variety of
information and concepts within its collections, displays and programs and
that in providing that information, the library is not subscribing to any
one platform or belief, nor is it asking for support one way or another
from its customers.

This is a great reminder to all that one of the best practices for managing
challenges includes having and maintaining policies on how selections are
made within your library.  Just as many libraries have a Collection
Development Policy, it is also pertinent to have a programing policy, a
display policy and a services policy.  Having these in place makes managing
challenges much easier, as you can clearly outline how decisions are made,
as well as defend those decisions with a written document your library

The IFC hopes that these suggestions help, and we are here to support any
other questions or challenges that may come up.  If you need more support
from the IFC, please reach out via email to ifc.chair at olaweb.org.

Oregon Intellectual Freedom Committee

Emily O'Neal (541) 617-7061  emilyo at deschuteslibrary.org

Hi Rachael -

I'm not sure if you have already responded; I am just seeing this. I think
a short and sweet reminder that you are not encouraging or discouraging
anyone from their beliefs or healthcare decisions, but the library is a
place where differences are celebrated. I'd also thank the patron for
sharing their concerns (and try not to argue your point, because it is
futile at best and can escalate the situation). Good luck! I'd be super
interested to see a compilation of the advice you receive!


Yikes. I would keep the response brief and focused. I’m sure you can
wordsmith this but here are some thoughts:

Thank her for her interest. If you have a display policy, you might review
and send to her if it addresses any of this.

It’s important for libraries to reflect the diverse communities we serve
without discrimination. A library’s mission is to provide access to
information for all users and offer diverse resources from many points of
view. All library users have the same First Amendment rights.  We are here
to represent everyone – all genders, sexual orientations, ages, religions,
etc.  We offer a safe space to all people. Each family has the right to
determine which library resources are acceptable for its children and must
accord the same right to other parents.

I don’t know if you ran into this article, but perhaps you can pull some
words of wisdom from this:


“But if we truly understand librarianship, we must understand that a job
well done means that we will occasionally be offending someone. According
to recent statistics, approximately 50% of teens identify as LGBTQ. By
saying that we won’t put LGBTQ teens on display, we are saying that we are
willing to silence half of our teenage population. This is a group that has
historically and continues to this present day to face widespread
persecution and assaults on their mere existence. The rates of
homelessness, bullying and suicide are incredibly high among LGBTQ youth.
Our silence, our refusal to buy and amplify these voices makes us,
libraries and librarians, complicit in these statistics. Let us always
remember that helping teens find the books they need can, in fact, be
literally life-saving.”

Best of luck. I’m glad you’re standing firm. It’s difficult to respond to
an email like that.

[image: The North Liberty, Iowa, logo, where we're connected to what
matters.] <https://northlibertyiowa.org/>



(319) 626-5778 office

(319) 321-8056 mobile


Pronouns: she/her/hers

*Messages to and from this account are subject to public disclosure unless
otherwise provided by law.*

Yikes is right.

Often the best thing about this type of comment is that it gives the
library the opportunity to open up a dialog. So while a written response is
appropriate, I would think a phone call (if the person left a contact
number) might be more productive. Or even and invitation to meet for a
moment in person.

That said, I would have talking points prepared that include the Library
Bill of Rights, Freedom to Read, and other tenants of librarianship. While
you want to be responsive to the community, in this case (as you have
indicated) you also need to uphold the right to of the library to display
the flags.

The Colorado Library Consortium keeps a database of policies
tailored for smaller, more rural libraries. I found one display policy from
the Grand County, Utah (Moab area) library that may also help you with some
language, even if you don’t formally adopt the policy. Here is the link to

Good luck! You are doing important work. This is what makes librarianship
challenging and worthwhile.

Kind Regards,

Anna Szczepanski | Western Regional Consultant

CLiC (Colorado Library Consortium)

CLiC Office: 303.422.1150 | Direct/Cell: 720.739.5366

www.clicweb.org <http://www.clicweb.org%20> | Check us out on Facebook

In a nutshell she answered her own concern.

“This is a community library and it is not helpful to alienate a large
segment of the community if you want community support.”


Melissa ‘Miss Mel’ Hager

Children’s Librarian

Alexander County Library

*Searching for some strange and perfect world where we might begin anew,
unaware there is always a veil that hides the paradise we seek, that always
we are the veil. *

-      *From “To St. Brendan the Navigator, Protector of Sailors” *

*by Cathy Smith Bowers - A Book of Minutes*

Dear Rachael:

Good morning!

Wow, this is just very frustrating all around. I have reached out to a
fellow librarian in Maine who I think went through an art piece display
challenge a couple years ago and might be able to provide some practical

President Biden signed this official recognition of Pride Month:

You might also want to use this Challenge Reporting Tool from ALA to report
the challenge: https://www.ala.org/tools/challengesupport/report

The wonderful Jamie LaRue is on the ARSL Advocacy Committee, and I know he
will see your email but I am cc’ing him in anyway, as he has done some
direct work with this:

I confess this touches a real sore spot with me as a Mom of a non-binary
child going through HRT treatments. (They are also a wonderful library user
and supporter.) Picking through this patron’s argument and weeding out the
junk science, it seems to come down to some vague insinuations that your
funding might be threatened by persons unnamed and unknown. This is not a
new tactic, of course.

My own personal thought right now, as a former director, is that this
patron should fill out a challenge form if they are that concerned. Put it
on the record. That is one complaint. If there are more, than they, too,
should fill out the form.

I will let you know what I find out from my colleague in Maine, and I look
forward to others’ response as well.

Most respectfully and sincerely,


*Lisa M. Shaw*

(Pronouns: she/her)

Maine State Library – Library Development

Rural & Small Libraries/Workforce Development Specialist

64 State House Station

Augusta ME 04333-0064

(207) 217-1565 (mobile)

lisa.m.shaw at maine.gov



*Dator’s Law: “Any useful statement about the future should at first seem
ridiculous.” *

*[Jim Dator]*

Wow. Just wow. You’d should contact ALA’s office for intellectual freedom.

They can help you formulate a response. Public libraries are supported by
the tax dollars of ALL the people we represent, no matter their sexual
orientation. One person’s personal opinion should not impact your ability
to support a group of individuals and the greater good.

Best of luck!

When you respond to the letter, I think you might note that the flags
aren’t there to encourage children to “become” gay or trans — that’s not
how gender identity works anyway. They are simply to express support for a
group of people who have experienced (and continue to experience, as the
letter writer’s comments show) oppression and discrimination. It’s a
message of kindness and tolerance for who people are, not encouraging
anyone to become something else.  The letter writer’s comments could be
seen as  evidence that some tolerance and kindness is needed.

I will add that not everyone who is uncomfortable with pride month has that
woman’s attitude. Some just feel that sex is a private thing and what
people do in private — regardless of gender identity or orientation— is
nobody’s business, and they don’t see why the LGBTQ+ community has to be so
“in your face” about it.  (I’ve heard this several times this month, even
from people I know support gay marriage and other progressive attitudes.)
How many flags do you have up? Do you put up as many American flags for
Flag Day, Veterans Day, etc.?  Might the number of pride flags seem
excessive in comparison?

That’s just what came to mind. Good luck!

Terri Foster

My two cents is to politely respond that in bowing to her wishes, you would
still be “alienating a large part of the community.”

Best of luck!

*Melanie Hetrick* (she, her) |  Children’s Librarian


1716 3rd Street

Tillamook, OR 97141

Phone  (503) 842-4792 x1784

Mhetrick at co.tillamook.or.us

This e-mail is a public record of Tillamook County and is subject to the
State of Oregon Retention Schedule and may be subject to public disclosure
under the Oregon Public Records Law. This e-mail, including any
attachments, is for the sole use of the intended recipient(s) and may
contain confidential and privileged information. Any unauthorized review,
use, disclosure, or distribution is prohibited. If you are not the intended
recipient, please send a reply e-mail to let the sender know of the error
and destroy all copies of the original message.

I have to confess that it's too hard for me to objective in writing a
response letter to this challenge, but I can at least give some input for a
potential draft.

First off, I LOVE that PS you included, Matthew - the library isn't
requiring that she or anyone else who shares her views to agree with the
display. I would say that we didn't put up this display as a matter of
politics, but as a matter of supporting those members of the LGBTQ
community in Douglas County.

I would want to keep it short and sweet. Essentially, "we're sorry to hear
you don't like this display. However, because queer people use the library,
too, and the library is a place for everyone, we will be keeping it up."

I'm also so sorry to see you've gotten this challenge. If you'd like an
additional set of queer eyes to look over your response before sending it,
please let me know! I would love to help.




My suggestion is to focus on the fact that the library is for everyone. You
may want to reach out to ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom and report a
challenge (ala.org/tools/challenge support/report). They will help you to
formulate a response.

Good luck,
C. L.

Rachael, the basic format is this.

1. In writing, thank the patron for her concern. Thank her, as well, for
her kind words about volunteers.
2. Repeat her concerns (she may not remember exactly what she said).
3. Include a copy of whatever policies you have regarding displays. Most
libraries have something that says they offer displays highlighting
collections *and topics of current interest*.
4. Let her know that some topics of contemporary interest are divisive. But
the library has to serve everyone in the community--which also includes
LBGTQ patrons. But if the only choice is to deliberately suppress a view
SOME may not agree with (evolution, abortion, climate change), then the
library fails in its mission, which is to provide access to the content of
our culture, and insight into the dialog of the times.
5. Let her know your decision: the display fits your policies, and will run
its course. You are constrained, after all, to follow your own rules. Be
firm but polite.
6. Let her know (depending on your policies) that she has the right to
appeal your decision, mostly likely to your board. Tell her if she wishes
to do that, you'll make it happen. (Then make sure to brief your board on
the relevant policies ahead of time, and your letter.)
7. Always, end again with thanks. It can be just as uncomfortable to
complain about something as it is to receive the complaint. You appreciate
the interest and her time.

And good luck! For more support, do reach out to ALA's Office for
Intellectual Freedom. And I'd ask you to report it to them, anyhow, just to
keep track of such things. For more info, see

Jamie LaRue


I thought this response regarding complaints to a drag queen storytime was
brillian. I wish I would have written it.

*Michelle Brandstetter*
City of Englewood | Library
1000 Englewood Parkway Englewood, CO 80110
englewoodco.gov <https://www.englewoodco.gov/> | o: 303.762.2567 c:

Wow.  That's an interesting one.

Maybe answer with something like it is a public library and your goal is to
be welcoming to everyone in the community.  I assume you have displays for
the other causes that are celebrated each month.  If you decorate for
Christmas are non-Christians upset?  I can understand that people are
uncomfortable with situations they don't know very much about.  Librarians
have the responsibility to provide information for all points of view.

I'm not articulating this very well, but I hope some of it makes sense.
The other option is to have a very bland library and not put up any displays

I'm sure you will find a good way to respond.  Unfortunately, we can't
please everyone, but hopefully we can provide excellent service to everyone.

Good luck with this.  I would be interested to find out how it works out.
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