Oklahoma LGBT activists are calling into question a local library policy that limits the placement of LGBT-themed books to a section that holds books on sensitive topics such as drug use, incarceration and sexual abuse.
The Metropolitan Library System in Oklahoma shelves popular LGBT themed books like Heather Has Two Mommies and King and King in its "family talk" section. The section is named as such because of the parental discretion required for a child's access, something reinforced by the height of the shelves. The policy is over a decade old. In 2006 library officials reached a compromise with local politicians, library commission members and parents who were concerned about the availability of LGBT-themed books to their children. Rather than remove the books from the library completely, as was requested, it was agreed the books would be kept in the special section. Two years later, a library commission member ammended the policy to ensure the section remains at least 5 feet from the ground.
Now, however, local LGBT advocacy groups, such as Freedom Oklahoma, contend the policy is outdated and unnecessarily stigmatizes books that can be helpful and important to young readers. Their efforts have not been welcomed by the entire community, however. The 2006 discussion that led to the initial policy was at times tense, NewsOK reports, with many conservative and religious library commission members un-easy about the books remaining in the Metropolitan Library. Many of the same people remain on the library commission today.
Proponents of the policy's reversal consider it to single out a group of people, labeling an identity in the same way as a health issue like substance abuse.
NCAC's LGBTQ Right to Read resource guide is a helpful primer in making sense of the circumstance. The resource looks at what makes something an LGBT-themed book and why labelling (or shelving) something as such can be problematic. Books that have gay characters as their foci are, after all, just stories of everyday life. The resource also notes how LGBT- themed books are more frequently the subject of challenges and explores common rationales, such as religious beliefs, behind the actions of would-be censors.
NCAC is monitoring the situation in Oklahoma and this post will be updated as developments occur.
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