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Library Board votes to keep LGBTQ+ books in place

Board Chair Gianna Jacks arranges paper on a desk as community members stand in the hallway of a library community room.
Bert Johnson
Washoe County Library Board of Trustees Chair Gianna Jacks prepares for a public meeting on Wednesday, April 17, 2024, as community members wait in the hallway for a turn to give public comment.

Trustees upheld library staff recommendations to reject book challenges filed by far-right residents.

The Washoe County Library Board of Trustees voted to uphold a staff decision rejecting book challenges filed by a Republican-aligned group Wednesday night.

During a heated six-hour meeting, members of Wake Up Washoe County called on trustees to reshelve or otherwise restrict children’s access to books they found objectionable, although many of the challenged books are already filed in the library’s Adult Section.

Darla Lee, who challenged the placement of Zenobia July, a children’s book about a young trans girl’s experience of coming out, complained that the story showed bias against Christian families.

“It is a blatant propaganda for LGBT and trans [sic],” she said.

Lee also called the book a “grooming tool,” repeating a decades-old homophobic trope that falsely equates the LGBTQ+ community with pedophilia.

Katie Stanton, who identified as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, tearfully asked trustees to reject the challenges.

“We are already isolated, we already are othered on a daily basis. I’m asking you not to remove the stories that represent our world,” she said.

In Dec. 2023, Lee and other members of Wake Up Washoe County filed 14 book challenges with the library as part of a coordinated effort. Library staff told trustees they reviewed each request, reading every book in its entirety and reevaluating whether they had been miscategorized.

“The library supports the individual's right to access ideas and information representing all points of view,” Collection Development Manager Debi Stears explained.

Stears said staff ultimately rejected the challenges, finding that each book was already appropriately placed within the collection. What’s more, she explained federal case law prevents library staff from reshelving books based on community objections.

In 2000, a District Court ruled that moving children’s books to the adult section of a library was a form of censorship, and thus violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

Tensions ran high between supporters of Wake Up Washoe County and residents opposed to their book challenges.

Members of both groups interrupted each other during public comment. At one point, a supporter of Wake Up Washoe County appeared to threaten the opposing group, challenging them to “talk to me outside.”

Trustees ultimately voted to reject the appeals of library staff decisions keeping books in place, with Board Chair Gianna Jacks as the lone vote in favor of overturning the result.

Jacks also decided to table agenda items concerning Drag Queen Storytime events hosted at public libraries, which are scheduled for public hearing at the next Board meeting on May 15.

Bert is KUNR’s senior correspondent. He covers stories that resonate across Nevada and the region, with a focus on environment, political extremism and Indigenous communities.
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