The public libraries of Oklahoma City are currently wrestling with the question of where to place children’s books with LGBT themes.
The Oklahoman reports that currently, the Metropolitan Library System in Oklahoma City places LGBT children’s books in a section called “Family Talk,” alongside books that discuss physical and substance abuse, death, divorce, and mental illness. The section is elevated and thus less accessible to children in the city’s public libraries. The decision to introduce these books is left to parents and guardians.
This placement of LGBT children’s material has been standard practice for the past ten years. In 2008, an amendment introduced the requirement of keeping the section at least five feet off the floor. According to Janet Brooks, manager of material selection for the Metropolitan Library System, this arrangement is the result of a compromise—the alternative was keeping these kinds of books behind circulation desks, completely out of sight.
“We didn’t want to have this material in a locked room,” said Brooks. “We preferred thinking of [the Family Talk section] as a place for responsibility for parents, not a place to hide it.”
Now, LGBT rights group, Freedom Oklahoma, is arguing that the children’s books be placed into wider circulation. Member Troy Stevenson told The Oklahoman that the placement of LGBT books with titles covering sensitive subject matter like drug and sexual abuse is inappropriate.
“They singled out one class of people,” Stevenson said of the shelving decision. “Everything else on that list was a medical condition, a substance abuse issue, but you’ve got one class of people that are singled out. It identifies the entire LGBT community with sex, and I think that’s the biggest problem… It denies us our humanity.” He plans to attend the October 20th library commission meeting to ask that the LGBT children’s books be made more accessible.
Cynthia Trent, a former member of the commission, told The Oklahoman, “I’m one of the ones that wanted to pull the books altogether because of my Christian beliefs. It’s not because I have anything against those folks that have that kind of a lifestyle, it’s that children that young don’t have any business being faced with that type of book, unless they’re in that type of family.”
This debate has been gaining traction in many U.S. cities in recent years, especially since the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling. Kristin Pekoll, of the American Library Association, told Kera News, “The inclusion of LGBTQ children’s materials in public libraries has long been an issue for our office.”
“It’s important not only for the kids who identify with these books to see themselves in books,” said Pekoll, “but it’s so important for everybody else to realize that this is part of our world.”
YouTube Channel: Michael Rizzi
Featured image via She Knows
h/t New Now Next