News (USA)

Major library system banned Pride displays in children’s areas due to GOP official’s new rule

A Pride display at the King County Library System.
A Pride display at the King County Library System. Photo: Shutterstock

A Kansas City, Missouri, area library system has banned Pride displays in its children’s and teens’ sections.

As Kansas City public radio station KCUR reports, the decision by the Mid-Continent Public Library (MCPL) comes in response to new rules enacted by Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft (R), including one that bans libraries from displaying “age-inappropriate” materials in areas primarily used by children and teens. According to Missouri Library Association President-elect Kimberly Moeller, however, the rule does not include a clear definition of what is “age-inappropriate.”

“We’re getting questions saying, like, ‘Can we have [an LGBTQ] Pride Month display this year?’ Or does that violate this policy?” Moeller told KCUR in late May. “And we just don’t have an answer to that.”

But patrons and employees of Mid-Continent Public Library now have an answer. MCPL outlined the new policy banning Pride displays from children’s sections in the minutes of the library’s May 16 branch managers’ meeting, according to KCUR. The library said that Pride displays would still be allowed in common areas.

“Our staff work very hard to provide a wide range of services and resources to meet the needs of our diverse customer base,” MCPL director Aaron Mason said in a statement. “Maintaining customer access to this broad collection of resources is our top priority.”

Library employees say the new rules send an unwelcoming message to LGBTQ+ patrons and employees. Ryan Fleming, a youth librarian at on MCPL branch said that the policy “decreases the accessibility that libraries should be all about.”

Jim Staley, MCPL’s community relations and planning director, said that implementing the Missouri Secretary of State’s new rules has been confusing and challenging for library employees. He criticized Ashcroft’s lack of guidance.

“This has been very difficult,” Staley said. “We’re trying to balance complying with the rule and being able to keep that state funding that’s important to us, with making sure we have great access.”

Staley added that during summer months, children’s displays focus on summer reading. “Those displays should be broadly inclusive of all types of books, as long as they’re children’s and youth books,” he said. “There’s no suggestion that we shouldn’t have broadly inclusive materials in the children’s area.”

But one anonymous MCPL staffer criticized the library’s new policy, which she said would make it more difficult to find LGBTQ+ materials scattered throughout the library.

“It’s very difficult to just find these on the shelf, which is why displays are so important to what we do,” she said.

She added that the ban on Pride displays in children’s areas indicates who the library cares about. “They care more about the people that could potentially become aggressive over a display like that than they care about the community that we’re serving.”

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