According to Jimmy Kelly, executive chairman of the Vinton Public Library, the controversy began with complaints about displayed children’s books containing information about the LGBTQ community.
“They would like to compensate for the fact that for every book that talks about LGBTQ issues, there is also a book that discusses traditional gender expression,” Kelly told CNN on Thursday.
However, former library director Janette McMahon defended the decision to display the books in her library collection in an interview with CNN, saying she never had an “agenda”.
“I don’t have an agenda when I buy a collection. This is not my task. I know what my job is and we have guidelines that we follow in doing so. So politics doesn’t play a role in my selection of my collections,” McMahon said.
While Kelly says that at later meetings there were “many people who spoke out in defense of people in the LGBT community,” the complaints still took their toll on staff, including former library director Renee Greenlee, who died in May left, and her temporary replacement who left last Friday.
“We decided that without a full-time employee, we would have to close,” Kelly said.
Greenlee told CNN she was glad the story was getting attention, but declined to discuss her own experience further, citing the need to move on.
The library has a complaints policy
McMahon said the library has a policy that allows residents to complain about books to have them removed from the library. She says no formal objections were ever raised. Instead, she says, customers checked out five children’s books, including “Joey: The Story of Joe Biden,” and didn’t return them.
“A reconsideration policy allows you to object to any material or program in which the library is a part. Libraries have this, it’s very common,” she added. “It protects library staff, it protects library management and the person making the complaint. It’s a wonderful process.”
The content complaints followed complaints last year. The library had a children’s book about Vice President Kamala Harris and one by First Lady Jill Biden, according to Kelly, but no children’s books about former President Donald Trump. This led to McMahon’s resignation, he said.
Since resigning last year, McMahon has accepted a position as library director in DeWitt, about 90 miles away. She says the controversy that led to her decision to leave the Vinton community was unfortunate.
“It was very sad. I’ve really enjoyed working with the city leaders that I’ve worked with,” she said. “I’ve had great staff and there were a few people on the library board that I thought were fantastic, but it was just the atmosphere and we all will choose a place to live or work based on what suits our personality just didn’t feel like I needed that extra stress in my life.”
McMahon said she’s also heard complaints that there are no books on display about former President Donald Trump.
“These were children’s books, these were picture books, and I did my duty of care. did i miss someone Has anyone written a nice book about the former president? The answer at that point was no. I don’t know if there’s anything now, I don’t know,” McMahon told CNN.
Kelly said he and the eight other members agreed to volunteer their time at the library so it could reopen next week with a limited schedule and offering. Library officials are in the process of interviewing a new director, said Kelly, who hopes the candid discussions they’ve had in public meetings will lead to greater understanding, but he acknowledged the future could still be difficult.
“It’s not a solved problem,” Kelly said. “It feels very much like it’s still on the surface.”
Mark Stringer, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Iowa, said Tuesday in a written statement, “Government institutions, such as public schools and public community libraries, have a legal obligation under the First Amendment not to censor materials simply because some community members do so.” do not agree with the points of view in these materials. Free societies read freely.”