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Four libraries in New York reversed their decision to remove LGBTQ book displays from children’s sections after facing backlash


By Alisha Ebrahimji, CNN

A library board in New York reversed its decision to remove all LGBTQ-related displays from its children’s section in four of its libraries during Pride month after the removal was criticized.

On Tuesday, four out of seven Smithtown Library Board of Trustees had voted to remove all Pride material displays from the children’s section in its Commack, Kings Park, Nesconset and Smithtown locations on Long Island.

“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 Smithtown Library Board of Trustees had written on its website about the vote. “These titles have not been removed from the collection.”

The library said at the time that they would continue to display Pride month materials in the teen and adult areas of the building.

On Thursday, however, the board met once again for an emergency meeting to talk about the ban, resulting in a reversal on a 4-2 vote. The Pride month material will remain on display through July 15 and be removed afterward at the supervisory librarian’s discretion.

CNN has contacted the Smithtown Library Board for a comment.

“Earlier this evening, the Board of Trustees from the Smithtown Library rescinded our earlier decision to remove Pride displays from our library’s children’s room,” the Smithtown Library Board of Trustees said in an online statement. “The majority of the board recognizes that our earlier decision was made without the time, care, or due diligence that a decision of this type deserves and that it was the wrong decision.”

Patrons and parents had expressed concern about the content in the Pride display material, Marie Gergenti, a library trustee, said during Thursday’s meeting, which is why she voted twice in support of the removal.

“They (patrons) felt that little children were exposed to some images in some of these books and they weren’t happy about it,” she said. “The original recommendation was to remove sensitive material from the children’s section only based upon complaints by parents in the community.”

Books that tell the stories of Black and LGBTQ people or by authors in those communities topped a 2021 list of the 10 titles that were targeted the most for removal or censorship in schools, libraries and universities, the American Library Association said.

The majority of those books were called inappropriate because some people considered them to be sexually explicit, have sexually explicit images or include sexual references. Some books dealt with the LGBTQ experience, and one was challenged for allegedly promoting “an anti-police message,” the ALA said.

“For many LGBTQ+ youth, libraries are the only safe, affirmative, and welcoming space during these formative years of their personal development,” the New York Library Association said in an online statement. “Libraries, for our LGBTQ+ youth, are the first place where they see themselves for exactly who they are without retribution.”

“The removal of Pride displays and all related materials on display further perpetuates the cycle of shame and silence of our LGBTQ+ youth. This directly contributes to the increasing risk of LGBTQ+ youth suicide and escalated mental health crisis, while also violating libraries’ universal commitment to protecting the freedom to read.”

New York Governor Kathy Hochul shared a similar sentiment and tweeted her support of the LGBTQ youth Wednesday evening. In a statement Thursday, she said, “Public places are prohibited by law from engaging in discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Everyone — and particularly our state’s young people — deserves to feel welcome at the library.”

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