In the waning days of LGBT Pride Month, Clovis City Councilwoman Diane Pearce posted a message on Facebook that she called a “public service announcement.” It warned about LGBT books at the local library.
Thus began a debate in which the opponents refuse to give ground.
“Might want to wait until June is over to take your kids to the Clovis Public Library. FYI, the Clovis City Council has no direct control over this … these are Fresno County Libraries,” Pearce wrote on June 28.
She said the LGBT-themed books are not age appropriate for children. Pearce included photos of LGBT books on display at the library aimed at children. Several people responded negatively online to Pearce’s posts.
But the conservative Pearce is standing firm on her beliefs.
“Talking about sexual themes, gender identity, sexuality … adults can do what they want. Nobody’s talking about that. This has nothing to do with what adults do on their private time or in their bedrooms. But when we’re targeting children with that type of information, I think it’s only appropriate that parents have the opportunity to choose not to have their children exposed to that. And that’s what the issue was,” Pearce told GV Wire on Thursday.
Library policy is set at the county level, and the Clovis City Council does not have jurisdiction, Pearce acknowledges.
Clovis Mom Strikes Back at Pearce’s Post
“What (Pearce is) really doing by creating a dog whistle about LGBTQ content in our library is aligning herself with a very specific group of people who jeopardize the lives of our most vulnerable populations.” — Tracy Bohren, mom and LGBT community member
Pearce says she is voicing the thoughts of her constituents. However, it’s clear that some Clovis residents don’t believe Pearce reflects their values.
Tracy Bohren, a Clovis mother of two and a member of the LGBT community, is among them. She disagreed with Pearce’s comments on Facebook, and explained why to GV Wire, saying that Pearce’s comments are dangerous.
LGBT books, Bohren said, are vital to a vulnerable population and the community’s understanding of that population.
“What (Pearce is) really doing by creating a dog whistle about LGBTQ content in our library is aligning herself with a very specific group of people who jeopardize the lives of our most vulnerable populations,” Bohren said.
She supports the library’s display of LGBT books.
“LGBTQ materials that are made for children are specifically designed to be relatable to children, and they share information that helps children understand the diverse population of our planet so that they don’t grow up to dislike a segment of our population so much that they make social media posts about it,” Bohren said.
Pearce countered that her stance is about protecting children.
“It’s simply about taking kids and making sure that they can maintain the innocence of childhood,” Pearce said.
Bohren plans to speak at Monday’s Clovis City Council meeting “to voice my concerns about a councilperson not representing the entirety of the population.”
How the Fresno County Public Library Selects Books
In an email statement to GV Wire after the publication of this story, county spokesman Joshua Dean said that the library has a collection development team that selects the books available for checkout at the system’s 34 branches.
“Our book selectors are professional librarians with master’s degrees in Library and Information Science,” Dean said. “They consider circulation data and local interest. Additionally, we regularly receive suggestions for purchase from the public that we may also add to the collection. Suggestions can be made at https://www.fresnolibrary.org/ask/suggest_faq.html.
“Most of the library’s collection is currently purchased through Baker & Taylor, the leading supplier of library content, software, and services to public libraries in the U.S. A majority of the titles are purchased through curated lists provided by Baker & Taylor.”
Dean added that items that aren’t checked out much by the public are removed to make way for potentially more popular selections.
Who Decides Themes for Library Displays?
Dean said that each branch librarian decides on the displays he or she feels will resonate with the community. He noted that most of the displays highlight national and state holidays. But the displays also bring attention to awareness months such as Pride Month, which was in June, Native American Heritage Month, and Lung Cancer Awareness Month.
Said Fresno County Administrative Officer Paul Officer: “Public questions and concerns about any county service are welcomed and provide an opportunity to review policies and procedures to ensure that we are serving the public to the best of our ability and representing our community.”
Pearce Stops Short of Calling for Book Ban
The special Pride book display has been removed since the calendar flipped to July. The books, though, remain on library shelves in the children’s section.
Pearce said social study books dealing with LGBT themes, or biographies on historical LGBT figures are OK.
However, books such as “Who Are You? The Kids Guide to Gender Identity,” are not age-appropriate, she said.
But Pearce stopped short of calling for an outright book ban.
“I’m not going to make any specific call beyond that (it is not age appropriate). I’m happy to be part of the conversation. And if there is something that I can participate in and bring my community, my constituents’ voice to that, I’m happy to do that,” Pearce said. “There’s no such thing as age-appropriate transgender ideology when it comes to our kids.”
What About the Bible?
Responding to the argument that LGBT material is not appropriate for children, Bohren responded:
“Should we also remove the Bible from the library? Because that is also the parent’s job to teach their child about their religion and their beliefs. Should that book also be removed? Because what’s happening when you start talking like that is reminiscent of Nazi Germany, where the government controlled what was in the public libraries and there was not free access to information.”
Pearce said the Bibles should remain in libraries.
“When you read about violence (in the Bible), when you read about sexual impropriety, it’s not celebrated. It is pointed out as a sin and a problem. And there are serious consequences for people,” Pearce said.
Interestingly, a Utah school district this year banned the Bible in elementary and middle schools. The ban came after a parent frustrated by efforts to ban materials from schools argued that some Bible verses were too vulgar or violent for younger children.
However, the 72,000-student Davis School District north of Salt Lake City returned the Bible to its library bookshelves after a flood of protests from families, Associated Press reported.