Oklahoma library cancels adult romance book club after board bans sexual content

Last week, the board of directors of the Public Library of Enid and Garfield County in Enid, Oklahoma, voted 3-2 to ban book displays and library programs that focus on sexual content. “We’re not restricting anyone’s access,” library board chairman Joseph Fletcher, who wrote the new policy, argued before the vote. “We’re not kicking books out. We’re talking about not having displays or programs that focus on anyone’s viewpoint on sex and sexuality.”

To comply with the new policy, the public library canceled a Sexual Assault Awareness Month program, including a presentation on abuse prevention from Enid YWCA and a book display, and the inaugural Shameless Romance book club meeting. Library staff also concluded book displays on LGBTQ+ pride would have to be canceled.

Columnist Michaelene Malan wrote in the Enid News & Eagle last month that she was “pretty thrilled” when the library announced the new book club. “Romance novels spark joy for me, and bringing like-minded readers together is great!” she wrote. “The Shameless Book Club is for adults ages 18 and up and features mainly contemporary romance novels with a spicier heat level,” with information provided beforehand on the book’s “chili pepper ratings” and “any other content warnings that readers should be aware of. “

The library board had originally agreed that the bodice-ripper book club and sexual assault campaign “would be unofficially exempt from the policy,” the News & Eagle reports, but “library staff had reconsidered after the meeting.” The Enid Public Library said in a Facebook post that it “respects the authority of the library board to set library policies,” adding: “Community members who would like to be heard on the subject of library board policies are encouraged to contact the library board , city council, or the mayor.”

Eighteen people, including several librarians, subsequently applied for three open seats on the board. On Tuesday, the Enid City Commission reappointed one library board member who voted for the ban, did not reappoint a board member who voted against it, and voted in two board members who appear to support the policy.

County officials and conservative residents of Llano, Texas, have gone further, Washington Post reported Monday, exemplifying a growing trend in which conservative activists in several states “have joined forces with like-minded officials to dissolve libraries’ governing bodies, rewrite or delete censorship protections, and remove books outside of official challenge procedures.” Read more at Washington Post.

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