Equality Utah organizes forum following county libraries banning ‘controversial’ LGBTQ-themed displays

ST. GEORGE – Last month a Washington County Library employee took concerns that the library system was censoring LGBTQ-themed displays and materials to the local press when attempts to resolve the matter internally fell short. The response sparked a forum Thursday organized by Equality Utah at the St. George branch of the county library.

Ammon Treasure, an employee of the Hurricane branch of the Washington County Library System, stands in front of the St. George branch library following a forum held by Equality Utah concerning the county library’s banning of LGBTQ-specific displays, St. George, Utah, Aug. 2018 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St George News

Ammon Treasure, an eight-year employee of the Washington County Library System and member of the LGBTQ community, repeated his story Thursday night, saying when he originally brought up the issue, he was told that the library doesn’t advocate for one side or another and should remain free of controversy.

An attempt to keep the library controversy-free

Treasure explained that the original incident occurred during June 2017 when fellow library employee Natalie Daniel created a display at the Hurricane library sporting an LGBTQ theme for Pride Month. The display had a banner that read “Got Pride?” and offered research materials while also highlighting a selection of related books.

“I went with the ‘Got Pride?’ slogan because I thought it would be humorous,” Daniel said Thursday, making reference to the “Got Milk?” ad campaign. “We were told to change it to ‘June is Pride Month’ and take down all of the research material. That was the part I was most upset about.”

Washington County Library System director Joel Tucker responded Thursday by saying Hurricane library employees were directed to change the display to something more neutral and seemingly less advocating in nature due to receiving some complaints from library patrons.

The changes were made, and the altered display and associated books were allowed to remain in place through the remainder of the month with a directive that future displays were not to be LGBT-specific.

A button worn by employees of the Hurricane branch of the Washington County Library System during Pride Month. Complaints from some library patrons resulted in the employees removing the buttons, St. George, Utah, Aug. 2018 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St George News

Tucker’s argument for banning the displays is that they are seen as advocating for a controversial position that is not universally shared within the community. Allowing such a display would only serve to alienate some of the library’s patrons, he said, adding that he wants the library to be a neutral ground that is open to everyone.

“While on the clock, we do not advocate specific positions,” Tucker said in the library system’s August newsletter. “Doing so would contradict our goal of providing a place of public resources where all feel welcome.”

As Treasure was a part-time library employee in 2017, he said he didn’t have the confidence at the time to stand up and say something. That changed when he and other library employees took a different route in offering information on the library’s LGBTQ-themed reads this year and were shot down a second time.

In June the employees created a display themed around diversity in general that featured subjects on race, religion, sexual orientation and other topics.

Joel Tucker, the director of the Washington County Library System, tells Stephen Lambert of Equality Utah that he directed a ban on future LGBTQ-specific displays in county libraries following complaints from patrons, St. George, Utah, Aug. 2018 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St George News

“That was the kind of thing I support,” Tucker said. “It didn’t focus on one topic. It didn’t focus on anything controversial. I thought it was the perfect display.”

In addition to the diversity display, however, some library employees also chose to wear buttons that had “Ask me about LGBTQ reads” written on them. These were accompanied by brochures of related titles library patrons could look up if interested.

Treasure said he and the other employees didn’t feel that was “breaking the directive” about displays.

But when the complaints came yet again, they were directed to remove the buttons.

“It was at this point I decided I needed to speak up,” Treasure said, adding that he went to speak to the library system’s human resources department about the matter.

“I was discouraged by their response,” Treasure said, noting he was given a repeat of Tucker’s reasoning for banning the 2017 display. “I was most discouraged by the language used to justify taking down the display and buttons.”

Springdale resident Mark Chambers speaks against the banning of the LGBTQ display due the belief it is a controversial and divisive subject, St. George, Utah, Aug. 2018 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St George News

The word he has issue with is “controversial” when used to describe the community of which he is a part.

When going to human resources didn’t garner the results Treasure had hoped for, he contacted the press.

‘You have made it controversial’

Mark Chambers, a former Springdale town councilman who describes himself as an openly gay man, attended Thursday night’s forum due to concerns raised over the library’s display ban. During the forum he stood and exchanged words of disagreement with Tucker over the ban.

“You have made it controversial,” Chambers said to Tucker. “You are advocating a side saying we don’t have a presence. … The reasoning and decisions you are using hurts me and it hurts my community. You have created this controversy.”

Tucker disagreed, and reiterated he strives to keep the library a safe a neutral ground for all, no matter their background or ideology.

Striving for ‘a neutral perspective’

A public forum held at the St. George library by Equality Utah to discuss the events leading to the Washington County Library System’s ban on LGBTQ-specific displays, St. George, Utah, Aug. 2018 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St George News

“I would liked to have found more common ground,” Tucker told St. George News following the forum. “I strive to be accepting to all people and all perspectives, and the LGBTQ community is a part of that. I want them to feel included and a part of the library.”

Yet, while trying to be neutral and open to all sides, Tucker also said he’s had library patrons recently accuse him of pushing an agenda in favor of the LGBTQ community.

“It’s really not my intention to push an agenda,” he said. “I just like to maintain a neutral perspective. … I don’t want people to feel unwelcome in the library.”

For the time being, LGBTQ displays will not be allowed at Washington County libraries. The same is true to any subject that could be considered controversial, Tucker said. This is reason the library will not create displays related to potential divisive topics.

This ban does not extend to the literature related to these topics, Tucker said, and LGBTQ-related books the library carries aren’t going anywhere.

L-R: LGBTQ community member Mark Chambers and Joel Tucker, director of the Washington County Library System, discuss the LGBTQ display ban outside of the St. George branch library, St. George, Utah, Aug. 2018 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St George News

‘A step in the right direction’

“I feel the discussion was good,” said Stephen Lambert, of Equality Utah who organized Thursday night’s forum. “I think we need changes. I hope there are changes.”

Lambert noted that while Tucker is the library director, he also works under the county’s Library Board.

“I want the Library Board to know we’re here,” he said. “I hope they come to a conclusion that the LGBTQ community is not controversial.”

Treasure said he was glad the forum took place, as it helped get voices heard and keeps the conversation going.

“I think we were able to convey our concern which is the number one thing I was hoping for, and to start the conservation,” Treasure said. “I do think this is a step in the right direction.”

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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21 Comments

  • jpff August 11, 2018 at 10:36 am

    Straight people do not place displays at public entities in order to draw attention to their sexual practices. Why is it that the lgbt people think they should have a right to display their sexual literature or bring special attention to it at publicly supported places?

    • AnnieMated August 11, 2018 at 4:57 pm

      The same law/right that gives you the right to spew comments like that on public forums like this; The First Amendment.

      Why do you think that right only applies you and people who agree with you?

      • SilentThunder August 11, 2018 at 7:24 pm

        @Annie Here is the problem, the straight community cannot display anything because now it is deemed as hatred, hate speech, etc. Now if someone from the whatever letter community does the same, it is applauded and they have parades and all sorts of stuff. Your argument is invalid, as you are slamming this person for their FREEDOM of SPEECH. Tell us all why straight people or even white people cannot celebrate what they believe in without being racist, sexist, or bigots.

        • comments August 11, 2018 at 7:56 pm

          Because Annie says so! And if you tell her she’s wrong YOU ARE A SEXIST PIG AND VERY LIKELY A RACIST WHITE SUPREMACIST NAZI!

          right Annie? 😉

          • Striker4 August 12, 2018 at 6:41 pm

            That pretty describes you with all the ignorant and hateful comments you make here

        • AnnieMated August 13, 2018 at 1:48 pm

          I did no such thing and any implication that I “slammed” him is unintentional. My only intent was to answer his question and ask my question. I have no problem with anyone displaying anything so long as it is not hurting others. The way I see it, our society takes everything to gosh darned seriously these days. Times have changed. I recently watched a clip of Pat Paulsen, a white comedian, get up on NATIONAL TV (on The Merve Griffin show in the late 60s or 70s) in blackface and makes jokes about everyone from Pollacks to WHITE PEOPLE! Do you know what the audience did? THEY LAUGHED! Nobody can say anything anymore without “offending” someone else to the point the offended person tried to get the speaker in trouble. If you’re so “offended” by a sign that says “Got Pride” or a gun in the back of someone else’s car then you need to ease the heck up and maybe get a life. Rant over.

  • NotSoFast August 11, 2018 at 11:15 am

    I stand with the reasoning of the Library board. The LGBTQ community has to come to grips that they are not special. And to keep throwing into the faces of everyone that they are is building a wall.

    • AnnieMated August 11, 2018 at 5:02 pm

      Oh you do, do you? I wonder, would you stand with them if they removed, oh I don’t know, the 3-4 shelves they dedicate to the Mormons? What about so-called “Romance Novels”? Should we ban “The Great Gatsby” because Gatsby was a bootlegger?

      Just something to think about.

      • Utahguns August 11, 2018 at 6:42 pm

        ….never met a bootlegger that was queer.

      • cooper August 11, 2018 at 7:17 pm

        Just so you know, they didn’t ban any books. They are still there, and I am sure if you ask a librarian, they would happily show you where they are located. They banned displays that are deemed controversial.

      • SilentThunder August 11, 2018 at 7:25 pm

        Annie is just triggered! She needs a safe place ASAP!

      • ladybugavenger August 11, 2018 at 7:46 pm

        I didnt know this article was about LGBTQ books. I thought it was a display of rainbows.

        By the way, LGBTQ misrepresents the rainbow. The rainbow is Not the sign of gays, lesbians, transgenders or equality.

        The rainbow is the sign that God will never flood the Earth again.

        • Happy Commenter August 12, 2018 at 9:46 am

          That’s because the LGBTQXYZs corrupt everything they touch!

  • comments August 11, 2018 at 7:36 pm

    LGBTQ+

    L=lesbians

    G=gays (Although I’m not sure “true homosexuals” actually exist because they keep managing to have children.

    B=bisexuals (or sexual opportunists)

    T=”transgenders” (in actuality transexuals or trannies)

    Q=queers? (what exactly is a queer in this context? It used to be derisive to call someone a queer.

    I don’t get how all this mishmash of sexual deviants became a supposed “community”. I guess they band together because they all feel that they are “victims”. I’m not sure what they hope to accomplish this their little parades and displays like this.

    I also wonder if the “LGBTQ community” will ever include pedophiles within their community to become LGBTQP+. The pedophiles are every bit as deviant as you other LGBTQ’ers, so why not include them in your club? Is it just too edgy or what?

    • cooper August 11, 2018 at 8:43 pm

      I feel sorry for you. All of your comments are full of bitterness, hatred, and meanness. It must really suck to be you.

      • mesaman August 12, 2018 at 11:33 am

        Now that was mean, hateful, and bitter. You really suck.

      • Striker4 August 12, 2018 at 6:43 pm

        It does suck to be him

  • Happy Commenter August 11, 2018 at 10:57 pm

    LGBTQXYZ displays do not belong in any public libraries. They are offensive. Nobody else puts displays up about their sexual preferences, what gives that group ant special rights to put theirs out there when it just offends most people. Keep it in the privacy of your own bedroom.. we don’t care! But if you’re going to flaunt it in our faces, don’t cry when we start putting up displays about lgbtqxyz being abnormal and disgusting right next to yours!

  • Fester August 12, 2018 at 6:23 am

    97% of Americans do not practice the behaviors that define this so-called lifestyle and many do not support advocating to the library patrons (children) for more of it. The library should not allow any promotion of homosexuality in their properties. Imagine the flip side, suppose the library had a big display of gun rights and ownership, the lefty crowd would rabidly oppose that.

    It’s the usual lefty nonsense with language too, names their group “Equality” while demanding special laws and accomodations nobody else has. What a sick bunch.

  • Anejo August 12, 2018 at 2:03 pm

    It’s a shame it’s being fought over like this. I just see it as a recognition of civil rights and it’s neither a celebration nor the pushing of an agenda.

    There’s far more going on in the world to be concerned about than a section of a library. Take a deep breath, my fellow commentators, it’ll soon cool off and we can go back to arguing about the election! 😉

  • bikeandfish August 13, 2018 at 7:45 pm

    Its comments like these that justify the need for Pride.

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