Commissioners have conflicting feelings over LGBTQ+ books in Williamsport library children’s section

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WILLIAMSPORT, LYCOMING COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — In honor of Pride Month, the James v. Brown Library in Williamsport has a display of LGBTQ+ books for children which has sparked controversy on whether they should stay out.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Vice Chair of the Lycoming County Commissioners Tony Mussare brought up the books displayed in the children’s library, saying they aren’t age appropriate. But after checking out the content, Mussare changed his perspective on some, but not all.

“With that one book, I’ll say it once. With these other books, no. These are very educational; I have no issue with them being on display,” said Mussare.

Commissioner Rick Mirabito argues that trying to dictate which books should be displayed and which should be on the shelves is a “back of the bus mentality”.

“We can’t say these books are going to ride in the back of the bus because that is denying the existence of the people in those books.”

The library stands behind their initial decision to celebrate Pride Month with the display in the children’s section.

Eyewitness News spoke to two local children who shared their thoughts on the library’s Pride Month tribute.

“I think it’s wrong for them to be here. It’s just, I won’t push it on them or anything,” Tristan of Benton said.

“I just think it’s inappropriate to read those kind of books,” Morgan from Benton said.

Executive director of the library, Barbara Mcgray issued Eyewitness News a statement:

“On Wednesday, June 2, Commissioners Metzger and Mussare visited the Library and provided a verbal objection to the Pride Display in the children’s area of the Library. The Library takes any request to censor materials or displays very seriously. Our policy dictates that we ask any community member regardless of status to submit their objections to any collection or display materials available at the Library in writing so that the Library can formally review and discuss the objections. This policy and process was shared with the Commissioners prior to the June 9th Commissioners meeting. To date we have not received anything in writing from the Commissioners regarding this issue.

This is an important policy and procedure because the Library is careful not to misrepresent the intention of anyone that issues an objection or complaint. As a core value the Library shows respect, values and welcomes everyone.

Prior to this recent objection from two of the three Commissioners, the Lycoming County Commissioners have been very supportive of all of the public libraries in the Lycoming County Library System. Most recently by sending a letter to our state representatives advocating for increased support to the Public Library Subsidy.

The mission of public libraries is to provide equal and inclusive access to all, regardless of age. To that end, the Library affirms the core principles of the Freedom to Read Statement, the Code of Professional Ethics, and the American Library Association Bill of Rights. The Freedom to Read is guaranteed by the Constitution and expressly states, “The freedom to read is essential to our democracy. It is continuously under attack. Private groups and public authorities in various parts of the country are working to remove or limit access to reading materials, to censor content in schools, to label ‘controversial’ views, to distribute lists of objectionable books or authors, and to purge libraries. We, as individuals devoted to reading and as librarians and publishers responsible for disseminating ideas, wish to assert the public interest in the preservation of the freedom to read.

Libraries are cornerstones of the communities they serve. Free access to the books, ideas, resources, and information in America’s libraries is imperative for education, employment, enjoyment, and self-government. In “Libraries: An American Value,” published in June 2006 by the American Library Association, it states:

● We defend the constitutional rights of all individuals, including children and teenagers, to use the library’s resources and services;

● We value our nation’s diversity and strive to reflect that diversity by providing a full spectrum of resources and services to the communities we serve;

● We affirm the responsibility and the right of all parents and guardians to guide their own children’s use of the library and its resources and services;

● We connect people and ideas by helping each person select from and effectively use the library’s resources;

● We protect each individual’s privacy and confidentiality in the use of library resources and services;

● We protect the rights of individuals to express their opinions about library resources and services;

● We celebrate and preserve our democratic society by making available the widest possible range of viewpoints, opinions and ideas, so that all individuals have the opportunity to become lifelong learners – informed, literate, educated, and culturally enriched.”

“These are the core values that we hold dear. In our children’s library, children under age 11 must be accompanied by an adult at all times.

The Library celebrates Pride Month to welcome and honor our LGBTQ+ community of all ages in Lycoming County. Community members in order to feel welcome must see themselves reflected in the award-winning books, materials and displays that we offer.

The community support I received over the past few days has been overwhelmingly positive. I urge you to show your support by using the library, because it’s here for YOU.”

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