(Bloomberg) -- A Long Island library’s board of trustees voted this week to remove Pride displays and books discussing LGBTQ identity from children’s section shelves, prompting outcry from New York Governor Kathy Hochul and advocacy groups.
The board of the Smithtown Library, which has locations in four towns in the greater New York City area, voted 4-2 in favor of the change on June 21, according to a memo posted to the website. The board is holding an emergency meeting tonight, according to a tweet and a post online, although no agenda is posted.
“Please understand that all books on this subject are still part of the Library’s Children’s collection and can be checked out by anyone wishing to do so,” the memo reads. “These titles have not been removed from the collection. The Library continues to display Pride month displays in our Teen and Adult areas.”
The vote comes during a national wave of challenges to books discussing LGBTQ identity, as well as race and other topics. A report released in April by the American Libraries Association found that around 1,600 books had been challenged or removed from libraries, schools and universities last year. It was the highest amount of challenges or bans the group has chronicled in its 20-year history of tracking such trends.
Hochul in a statement said that “public spaces should be accepting of our young people — not rejecting them.” She also highlighted a statement by the New York Library Association denouncing the policy change.
The resolution, as well as the removal of books from display, “is a direct violation of NYLA’s commitment to intellectual freedom and the freedom to read that libraries are entrusted to uphold,” the group said.
Jodi Picoult, a bestselling author of 27 books including “My Sister’s Keeper,” also spoke out about the vote. Her first job was at a Smithtown library branch, she wrote. “To see this memo disgusts me and makes me reevaluate an institution that I have praised for being formative in my life as an author. Love is love… and representation matters.”
Representatives for the Smithtown Library did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.
In a report released Wednesday by the media watchdog group GLAAD, 70% of LGBTQ respondents said they had personally experienced discrimination, compared to 46% of respondents who said the same two years ago. Eight in 10 respondents said they wished lawmakers took more legislative action protecting LGBTQ rights.
New York City’s annual Pride March is scheduled for this weekend, in commemoration of the 1969 uprising by members of the LGBTQ community at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. The parade had been virtual for two years due to the pandemic. The march, as well as the unaffiliated Queer Liberation March, are both slated for June 26.
“The decision by Smithtown Libraries underscores the importance of Pride in advocating for the LGBTQ+ community,” said Dan Dimant, the media director of NYC Pride. He said the organization is looking forward to welcoming members of the greater New York City area at Pride “both in celebration and in protest.”
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