News (USA)

Conservatives try to end county’s libraries after failing to ban 11 books

A chain tied around books
Photo: Shutterstock

A rural county in eastern Washington state will soon be voting on whether to dissolve the local library after library officials refused right-wing activists’ demands to remove over 11 books dealing with LGBTQ+ issues, consent, and themes of racism.

“Whether there can be short-term appeasement on this issue is immaterial, because in the process of dealing with it, a greater truth has been revealed that this public library is an irretrievably compromised entity, and it needs to be removed from our midst,” several activists trying to dissolve the Columbia County Rural Library District said in a statement in favor of their ballot initiative that was obtained by the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin.

Last year, activists opposed 11 books, including Juno Dawson’s This Book is Gay, Frederick Joseph’s The Black Friend, and Yes! No! A First Conversation about Consent by Megan Madison, Jessica Ralli, and Isabel Roxas. The activists attempted to challenge the books to remove them from the Dayton Memorial Library, a part of the Columbia County Rural Library District. The library board went through its review process and decided to keep the books on the library’s shelves.

People flooded a local board meeting after the board decided to keep the books, where Director of Library Services Todd Vandenbark explained that the books had been moved to the adult section of the library.

“It’s trying. It’s tiring. It just drains my energy and my enthusiasm, even though I enjoy my job so much,” Vandenbark said, citing the amount of time that was being taken up at meetings about the 11 books and offensive comments received on social media. “It just kind of saps the energy.”

The opponents of the books succeeded in getting a question on the ballot this November. In their explanation for why the library district should be dissolved, the opponents said that there is “age-inappropriate sexual material in the children’s section of the library.”

“Challenging books proved fruitless,” their statement reads. “The American Library Association (ALA) has sought to replace historic community standards with a misinterpretation of the First Amendment and with new standards such as ‘there is no right or wrong just my right and your right’ and ‘equity over equality.'”

Supporters of the library also filed a statement opposing the ballot initiative that cited the services the Dayton Memorial Library provides, including computers and internet access for people who can’t afford them.

“In 2005, Columbia County’s rural voters affirmed the importance of having a library with the financial means, vision, and leadership necessary to keep pace with our community’s 21st-century needs,” the statement reads. “On November 7, rural voters can reaffirm that commitment: Vote ‘No’ on Proposition 2.”

In a library board meeting last week, board members discussed carpet cleaning, maintenance, finances, and an employee policy. One board member suggested stopping spending on new materials until the election, but other members favored continuing business as usual.

“We’ve still got this place to run,” said Board Chair Jay Ball. “We should do it. We have a budget, let’s work with it … We’ll see where we stand pretty soon, but in the meantime, I say just keep rowing the boat the way we’re going.”

Jessica Ruffcorn, who led the anti-library activists in their effort to defund the library, attended last week’s meeting, and expressed anger over the board discussing carpet cleaning instead of the 11 books she and others dislike.

“Clearly we have our priorities mixed up,” she said. “You guys were presented [with] an opportunity to show that you guys are going to be good stewards of our tax dollars and spend wisely while we decide whether we need to have a library or not. You guys have decided to continue to recklessly spend.”

The 11 books are below.

  • Our Skin: A First Conversation About Race by Megan Madison
  • What’s The T? by Juno Dawson
  • This Book Is Gay by Juno Dawson
  • When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrice Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele
  • This Book is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewel
  • The Black Friend by Frederick Joseph
  • Yes! No! A First Conversation About Consent by Megan Madison, Jessica Ralli, and Isabel Roxas
  • Being You: A First Conversation About Gender by Megan Madison, Jessica Ralli, and Isabel Roxas
  • Melissa by Alex Gino
  • Pink, Blue, and You! – Questions For Kids About Gender Stereotypes by Elise Gravel
  • When Aidan Became A Brother by Kyle Lukoff

Don't forget to share:

Support vital LGBTQ+ journalism

Reader contributions help keep LGBTQ Nation free, so that queer people get the news they need, with stories that mainstream media often leaves out. Can you contribute today?

Cancel anytime · Proudly LGBTQ+ owned and operated

Trans folks were thriving in India’s groundbreaking public shelters. Then the money stopped coming.

Previous article

Armed man kills dog & threatens to attack LGBTQ+-inclusive church

Next article