Several Clovis residents, including three city councilmembers, criticized Diane Pearce for her views on LGBT books at the Clovis Public Library at Monday night’s council meeting. Because the item was not on the agenda, the city council did not take any official action. But, it led to a stern debate.
Pearce, elected to the Clovis City Council in 2022, criticized the county library system for displaying LGBT books during the June Pride month. She said some books — especially dealing with the transgender issue — had no place in a space for children. She made the comments on her Facebook page, and later an interview with GV Wire.
Residents complained that Pearce’s comments were harmful to a vulnerable LGBT community.
Jennifer Cruz, a Clovis mother and manager of the LGBTQ+ Resource Center, opposed Pearce’s views.
“Councilwoman Pearce’s messages are regressive and undermine intellectual freedom and inclusivity. Her statements create fear aimed at the LGBTQ community and make people afraid to visit their own public library,” Cruz said.
Mayor, Councilmembers Criticize Pearce
After public comment, in which five of the six speakers opposed Pearce’s views, the councilwoman responded.
Pearce said her conservative views have always been well known. She reiterated her view that transgender books are adult content, and do not belong in the children’s section of the library.
“I will not stand by and be silent about the attempt to normalize the sexualization of our children,” Pearce said. “I make no apologies for speaking that truth.”
It was Pearce’s colleagues who provided the sharpest rebukes. While Mayor Lynne Ashbeck and councilmembers Matt Basgall and Vong Mouanoutoua did not take a stand on the book issue itself, they said Pearce’s comments were a distraction.
Ashbeck said focusing on the library issue won’t help build streets or hire police officers. Pearce’s comments, Ashbeck said, caused “angst and destruction.”
“I don’t think you understand the impact of your words on our staff, on the citizens, the people who work here. People who work here have transgender kids. People who work here are gay. People who work here are Black. And all of those things, we pay a price for those (comments),” Ashbeck said.
Pearce said it is her role to push back against things not necessarily in Clovis’ jurisdiction. Libraries are run by Fresno County.
“If we aren’t willing to stand up and push back against those things that are coming from Sacramento or from other groups and organizations that are trying to put pressure on us, then I don’t think we’re doing our jobs very well,” Pearce said.
Ashbeck said Pearce should speak on such issues on her own, and not as a member of the city council.
How the Fresno County Public Library Selects Books
In an email statement to GV Wire, 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.”
Clovis Council Also Sore About Flag Issue
Pearce’s council colleagues also expressed dismay over Pearce criticizing them in a May 12 video on Facebook, over not defining a flag policy for the city.
At the May 15 council meeting, several speakers inspired by Pearce, spoke in favor of a policy that would fly only the American, state, or city flag on municipal flagpoles.
Several councilmembers at that meeting were irked by the implication they did not support the flag. They said it was not necessary to codify, and they believe only the aforementioned flags should fly.
The criticism of Pearce attacking them came up again on Monday.
“When it involves other members of our city or volunteers and we comment on them, I think we really need to be careful in not doing that in the future as well. And that’s for all of us,” Councilmember Matt Basgall said.
Councilmember Vong Mouanoutoua also had advice for Pearce.
“Grace goes a long way. Tact is still good. And I just feel like we need that,” he said.
Clovis City Councilwoman Diane Pearce responds to criticism. (GV Wire/Jahz Tello)