Enid LGBTQ+ group planning Pride library exhibit after board changes policy | News

ENID, Okla. — After Enid’s library board approved another policy change reversing last month’s decision Wednesday, the local LGBTQ+ organization said it intends to ask the city about putting up its own Pride Month book exhibit at the library.

Stephanie Ezzell, a member of the Enid LGBTQ+ Coalition, said Wednesday evening that she’d contacted the city of Enid’s CFO, Erin Crawford, who oversees library operations from the city, for approval to create a Pride Month exhibit for the month of June at the Public Library of Enid and Garfield County.

Ezzell said the display could potentially include the recent city Pride proclamation from Mayor George Pankonin, rainbow decorations and a selection of books from the Enid library.

Enid library board members on Wednesday effectively replaced the controversial policy banning displays and programs they approved last month after the city was faced with a potential lawsuit over the changes.

After an hour and a half in executive session at Enid’s city administration building, the present five board members unanimously voted in favor of a new set of policies about the library’s exhibits, displays and meeting rooms.

The collective policies primarily focus on differences between third-party “exhibits” and library-sponsored “displays.”

LGBTQ-related books at Public Library of Enid and Garfield County are part of a Pride Month display in June 2021.

Under the new policy, those seeking to place an exhibit must complete and submit an exhibit request form to the library, for approval from the library director. Exhibits may be in place for no more than four weeks.

Displays created by Enid library staff would be intended for a general audience that includes children of elementary school age, while outside exhibits that include “adult content” but aren’t obscene or harmful to minors could be placed upstairs.

Neither displays nor exhibits can include material that is “obscene” or “harmful to minors,” as defined by state statute.

Wednesday’s policies included footnotes defining “obscene” and “harmful to minors” using statute, but no definition was given for “adult content.”

City Attorney Carol Lahman, who drafted the verbiage, said after the meeting that the library director would be tasked with determining what materials are obscene or harmful to minors.

Displays would be nonpartisan and non-sectarian in nature, while exhibits can have partisan or sectarian content and would not be restricted out of constitutional protection, according to the policy.

The same distinctions would apply to programs and meetings held by the library or by an outside group or persons.

The library will also provide an appeal process for patrons seeking redress over the library policies. A complaint in writing must be submitted to the library director. Further appeals — in a total process lasting up to three and a half months — then would proceed, in order, to the library board, the city manager and the city commission.

Library board secretary Ruth Ann Miles, as Wednesday’s presiding officer, read aloud the last paragraph of a three-page statement, which was printed and given to meeting attendees along with the board policies.

“Achieving policies, that reflect the mission of the library and the community it serves is an art, not a science,” Miles read. “Police are always a work in progress and are never complete, nor perfect. It is the board’s hope that the new policies will meet the needs for which they were drafted and improve the use of the library for all patterns.”

The city of Enid reportedly faced a potential lawsuit over the library policies, and Enid city commissioners and library board members had met in respective executive sessions to discuss the possible suit.

When pressed after returning to regular session by Enid resident Ben Ezzell, a private attorney, Lahman said an exhibit marking LGBTQ+ Pride Month could be created by a member of the public.

However, she said she did not know if the library staff would be making a new display next month.

“I don’t know what (interim library director Theri Ray) is planning or her staff, and (Ray) is on vacation right now,” Lahman said. “Certainly some kind of Pride display could be OK. Now, are they going to do it, or a third party?

Lahman said the collective policies were meant to replace last month’s board policies, which banned library book displays and programs that focused on sexual content.

“That was definitely the intent,” Lahman said. “It doesn’t exist anymore.”

Board members who voted for the policies held that they were not drafted in response to last year’s Pride book display at the library, but over content of a sexual nature that included books in the display they considered inappropriate for children patrons.

After April’s board approval, the library had canceled plans for any future library LGBTQ+ Pride Month display, as well as a pre-planned sexual assault awareness prevention program with Enid YWCA and an adult romance novel book club.

Board member Kitty Herbel said Wednesday that the sexual assault prevention program would be allowed, while the book club and other adult-focused programs would be held on the second floor.

Board chair Joseph Fletcher, who drafted April’s policies the month before using language from a Senate draft bill, was not present at Wednesday’s special meeting nor the one held earlier this month.

The twin policies also drew swift criticism from local and state LGBTQ+ activists and community members, as well as professional librarians.

Rebecca Silverstein, a representative of the Oklahoma Library Association, attended both of this month’s library board meetings.

She questioned Wednesday whether library board members were required to have training on library practices, which she said OLA provides year-long.

“I can’t imagine many folks would want to work under such conditions where they’re being reprimanded from people who don’t have the training and understand of librarianship that we went to school for,” Silverstein said.


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