A children’s sing-a-long book, ‘If You’re a Drag Queen and You Know It’, will not be removed from the children’s section at Mesa Public Library. Courtesy photo
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
The consensus of the Los Alamos Library Board Monday evening was that the children’s book “If You’re a Drag Queen and You Know It” was purchased under the current Library System Policies and Collection Development Guidelines and abides by them, therefore reaffirming the position of Library Director Gwen Kalavaza on the issue.
Library patron Valerie Fox had requested that the library remove the book form its collection along with “other LGBTQ books” and “paraphernalia such as political Pride bookmarks on display in the children’s section”. See https://losalamosreporter.com/2023/04/02/library-board-to-hear-request-for-lgbtq-pride-materials-not-to-be-displayed-in-childrens-section-of-library/
Board chair John Nash noted that the board is not required to make a decision on a particular book, but had to decide whether or not the book was purchased under the current policy and abides by that policy, and whether or not the policy matches what the board wants the library to be.
”We are not taking a vote on this, ultimately. My due diligence as chair consists of following up with the director as well as the children’s librarian responsible for purchasing,” he said.
Nash mentioned that 25-50 children’s books a month are purchased by the library and that the policy outlines what sort of things are taken into consideration.
“For this particular book, the author is well known and is recommended by the School Library Journal, represents their diversity and the illustrator is also a person of color as well as being a female. It’s found in other libraries including, in my research, about half the libraries in Florida… also throughout the south, Phoenix, Denver, Los Angeles and lots of libraries that I checked,” he said.
Nash said the book was not part of a display for Pride but was displayed because it was a new book and it was just on rotation. As books are shelved, if a new book has been taken, another new book gets put in its place, he said.
“In my opinion it is following the policy as it is currently written, but I will leave that open for other board members’ questions, comments,” Nash said.
Board members generally agreed that the purchase of the book falls squarely within the policy but there was mention by a board member of the need to provide equal advocacy for Christian books also. The board member said she would never ban the book because she would not give it status as a banned book.
I’m hearing a consensus that this book was purchased per current policy, particularly with its emphasis on diversity and inclusivity where we want the policy to be or do we need to revise that policy – it falls under our purview to do that.
With regard to the Pride bookmarks, Library Director Gwen Kalavaza noted that more than a dozen are published each year to coincide with themes and displays prepared by staff for the library related to topics of interest such as J. Robert Oppenheimer, African American and Asian American authors.
Multiple people made public comments prior to the agenda item and again at the end of the meeting as well as in some 40 emails received by the board in advance. They contained references to freedom of speech, the slippery slope of banning books, that banning books is part of a political attack from the far right and that no one banning books is ever on the right side of history.