AUBURN — A decision to remove an LGBTQ pride display at the Eckhart Public Library has sparked a flood of comments on the library’s Facebook page.
The library posted this statement Wednesday morning:
“We realize that a great deal of hurt and disappointment was caused when a pride display was taken down at the library. We are incredibly sorry for the pain that this caused. While this was not our intention, we know that our actions need to match our intentions. We realize that we can and will do better in the future to ensure that the library is a safe and welcoming environment for the diverse community that we serve. Thank you for reaching out to us. We take pride in celebrating intellectual freedom and making sure our collection represents experiences beyond our own. If you would like to speak with us directly, please contact us at 260-925-2414, ext. 701.”
By Wednesday afternoon, that post had drawn more than 100 comments and shares.
“Heidi C,” who identified herself as a library employee, posted on Facebook Tuesday that she has resigned from the staff over the display removal.
“I turned in my resignation letter to Eckhart Public Library last night due to the following situation that I cannot stand by and support. I feel like I would be doing a disservice to my community, to all librarians and people who fought for these rights, if I did not take a stand,” she wrote.
“Last Wednesday, the director of Eckhart Public Library decided to remove a Gay Pride Book display from the public to view. ... On Friday, a library staff member asked if she could create a pride display for the community, unaware that one had already been created and removed by the director. I asked, ‘Can we know why it was taken down since there was one that was created?’
“The response was given from the assistant director, ‘The Management Team was directed by Janelle (presumably library director Janelle Graber) to take another look at it, to help the display committee ensure that the display has a message that underscores the library’s commitment to serve the entire community. The Management Team has already been discussing it and I hope to speak with the display committee early next week about the display.’”
Heidi C said she was told the topic would be discussed in staff training sessions with an intellectual freedom specialist. The message referred to the American Library Association’s intellectual freedom policies, saying they are reflected in Eckhart Public Library’s collection development policy.
Heidi C said she had been told that the conservative electorate would be offended by the display, raising concerns that it could affect the library budget.
Heidi C wrote that she agreed to be patient for a solution, but when she heard nothing Monday, she turned in her resignation letter Monday evening. She said she was placed on administrative leave until her resignation date.
Around 2 p.m. Wednesday, Heidi C made this post on her Facebook page: “I am in full support of the library. That is why I am making this information known to the public. These injustices are not right and they need to be addressed for our library to be held to the standards that they set. ... The issue at hand is about censorship for financial gain from elected officials.”
Heidi C cited the American Library Association definitions of intellectual freedom and censorship.
“Removing the display for the fear of offending would be the suppression of ideas and information,” she wrote. “To give the management credit, they did not remove the items from the collection, items can still be checked out.”
“To finish the insult, the Eckhart Public Library has chosen to make a pride display about everyone,” Heidi C wrote. She concluded: “I ask that you continue to use your library. Check out those items. Circulation numbers count. Show them you want that information. Tell them your thoughts. The library will listen to their community. Now is the time to use your words.”
Around 2 p.m. Wednesday, the library posted this message to its Facebook page:
“Due to a miscommunication with staff and managers, the original location of a Pride display was supposed to be used to advertise and promote new titles and fire replacements. The designated use for this space was not followed. The books originally on the Pride display have been moved (to) the area originally slated for display, on a custom piece of furniture on the historic side of the main level of the Main Library.
“EPL serves the entire community and has items for everyone! Censorship is something we have historically fought against and will continue to do so.”