Enid library board bans some book displays, programs as questions remain over interpretation | News

ENID, Okla. — The Enid library board followed through on twin proposals banning sex- and gender-related book displays and library programs with two narrow votes at the tail end of a 2 1/2-hour meeting Monday.

The Public Library of Enid and Garfield County’s board of directors voted 3-2 in favor of the two proposals, as questions now linger on how library staff would interpret the policy changes.

As the adopted proposals read, library exhibits no longer would promote books and programs that promote topics focused on “the study of sex, sexual activity, sexual perversion, sex-based classifications, sexual preferences, sexual identity, gender identity or that are of a sexual nature.”

The decisions followed another contentious debate at a library board meeting between members of the public for and against book displays and programs at the library intended for LGBTQ+ people.

Board chair Joseph Fletcher — who drafted the approved proposals that were considered alongside an alternate pair of policy proposals drafted by library staff — said they reflected that sex and sexuality are private topics, but don’t ban or limit access to books and materials already in the library.

“No public institution should inundate its visitors with issues of sex and sexuality when they walk in,” Fletcher said. “Frankly, most people just don’t want to see it, and especially in a venue so heavily used by children.”

Board member Kitty Herbel, a teacher who voted against the proposals, said she was concerned about including “gender identity” in the policy.

“If we go through with this vote, there is going to be no displays ever,” Herbel said. “We may really want to reconsider how we word this, or there will be no displays. And if you’ve been in the library without displays on the shelves, it’s a tad boring.”

The library’s interim director said in accordance with the new exhibit policy, the library no longer would have one marking national LGBTQ+ Pride Month each June — when policies over book displays last came before the public eye.

“I certainly believe that is the intention” of the new policies, interim director Theri Ray said later Monday afternoon.

The Enid library’s director or deputy director is responsible for overseeing and approving any displays, programs or meetings in accordance to the policy, which set by the board.

But what else would be affected at the library is unclear, as Ray said she would have to consider other displays such as “Mother’s Day” and “Father’s Day,” which are both holidays based on gender and sexual identity.

“I’m not 100% sure at the moment,” Ray said.

Current library programs likely would be left untouched, including an 18-and-older book club on adult romance novels set to begin meeting April 21, called Shameless Book Club, and an all-inclusive teen book club called HomoSapiens United.

“It is not necessarily singing out a lifestyle. It’s about diversity and inclusion,” Ray said about the teen club. “Because the subject of the book club is not about sex or sex-based classifications or preference, my interpretation is that the book club can continue to meet.”

Board members determined Monday with Enid’s city attorney that the adult book club and an upcoming program from the YWCA Enid on sexual assault prevention would be allowed.

The library would also still allow organizations such as the Enid LGBTQ Coalition to continue to meet in the building, as the library’s meeting policy was not changed, Ray said.

Ray said board chair Fletcher had brought both “A” proposals to discuss at March’s board meeting, but they were moved to Monday because they weren’t already on last month’s agenda for consideration.

She said the language was pulled from Oklahoma Senate Bill 1142, a bill making its way through the state Legislature that would ban the same stated sexual/gender content from schools and school libraries.

During a similarly heated board meeting last July, while discussing the Pride Month display, board members had asked library staff how displays are determined and were told that they could amend library policy in the future.

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