Greenville library board plans ‘neutrality’ policy, drops book club names in the meantime | Greenville News

GREENVILLE – The Greenville County Library System Board of Trustees voted to temporarily rename all book clubs in its internal event guide to “book club,” dropping any themed branding like “romance” or “LGBTQIA+.”

The temporary change — passed by a 9-2 vote on Oct. 24 — will stand while the board’s operations committee meets to craft a new policy to govern the system’s uncoded neutrality stance, along with how and if events and sponsored by libraries that contain controversial events. issues should be promoted. The policy could also examine what is considered controversial.

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At the end of the October meeting during the new business part of the agenda, board chairman Allan Hill distributed copies of the September/October edition of the library’s event guide to all board members. On page 3 of the booklet, he directed their attention to the “Rainbow Book Club,” a club for people aged 18 and over at the Anderson Road Branch.

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“Celebrate LGBTQIA+ literature with the Rainbow Book Club, a welcoming and inclusive community of bookworms,” ​​reads the club’s description. It is a club sponsored by the library, run by a county employee.

GCLS board of trustees

Greenville County Library System Board of Trustees at its meeting October 24, 2022. Stephanie Mirah/Staff

The four-session book club held its first meeting on September 21 and its second on October 19. “Honey Girl” by Morgan Rogers and “Cemetery Boys” by Aidan Thomas were discussed, respectively. The book club will hold two more meetings on November 16 and December 14 where “This Town Sleeps” by Dennis E. Staples and “Kiss Her Once for Me” by Alison Cochrun will be discussed, respectively. All of the books are currently in the library collection.

Hill said he had received objections to the ad, saying it appeared the library was promoting the “Rainbow Book Club” and its discussed LGBTQ+ materials.

“It looked like the library chose to promote that label and that way of life and the agenda that goes with that,” said Hill.

“As we said last time, what the library intends to be is a place that does not promote any one agenda over the other, especially on controversial issues,” said Hill.

Hill first stated that the use of county funds and materials for the book club “is against the previous policy that has been in place for many years.”

That statement was challenged by board member Brian Aufmuth, who asked what policy the booklet violated.

“The way the library has operated in the past is that the library does not take a stand on controversial issues,” Hill responded. “We haven’t had to have a written policy about this sort of thing because that’s the way it’s usually been taken care of.”

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Hill read a materials policy that stated, “the library will not promote or censor any particular religious, moral, philosophical or political conviction or opinion.”

“We are not trying to censor the books. We are not trying to ban the books. We are trying to reach the option where we have the neutrality that we have been known for in the past,” said Hill.

After a short discussion with several board members sharing their ideas and suggestions, Executive Director Beverly James asked the board for guidance on how to edit the advertisement for the “Rainbow Book Club” for a guide November/December events which will go to print soon. .

Board member Elizabeth Collins proposed that each book club should be given the title “book club”, adding the recommended age range, a list of the specific titles to be discussed. He added that the change would be temporary until a policy can be suggested by the operations committee. The motion was passed with two members opposing.

The library will continue to host and sponsor the book club formerly referred to as the “Rainbow Book Club.”

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The operations committee was tasked with developing a draft policy to present to the full board. Library committee meetings do not routinely occur on scheduled days, so the best way to track when the committee will meet is to monitor the library board website for a posting, which is required at least 24 hours before a meeting.

During the October 24 meeting, the board also approved a revised policy on how the public can appear before it. One of the key changes is that the public can only make public comments during full board meetings and not during committee or special meetings.

This board meeting comes five months into a debate about library system materials, especially those with LGBTQ content. The inciting incident happened at the end of June when someone leading the library instructed staff to remove Pride Month displays in its 12 branches. The displays were quickly reset after pushing back.

Follow Stephanie Mirah on Twitter @stephaniemirah


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