A group of conservative Christians have been complaining about books they didn’t want to see on the shelves to the employees and board of a public library in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, for months.
The more than 400 books on their list are primarily YA novels containing LGBTQ protagonists, sexual activity scenes, or occult references.
The only issue is that none of the books are included in the library’s inventory.
However, the 2,500-person town’s radicals demanded that the books be outright outlawed. They railed against the library’s decision to affiliate with the American Library Association, a non-profit trade group with a reputation for opposing censorship that local activists incorrectly charged with encouraging pedophilia. Their goal was to safeguard youngsters from explicit materials and grooming, therefore they initiated a campaign to recall four out of the five library trustees due to a rule against limiting access to contentious publications. They put up signs around the community to that effect.
The enthusiasm has reached such a pitch that the director of the library is resigning after only nine months due to a deluge of harassment, which she claims makes it impossible for her to do her duties. The stress got so extreme, according to Kimber Glidden, 51, a former bank manager who is now a librarian, that she acquired a tic that causes her thumb to tremble violently.
Nothing in my background could have prepared me for the political climate of extremism, militant Christian fundamentalism, intimidation techniques, and threatening conduct currently being used in the community, Glidden claimed in her Facebook resignation announcement from August 16th.
What happens next is unknown to them. According to Glidden, they simply want to burn it down, and they’re succeeding admirably.
Two of the recall organizers for the trustees, Donna Capurso and Adrienne Norris, did not reply to calls for comment.
This month, the group said on Facebook, “We want a solid written policy that will not allow the library to order publications involving sex acts,” adding that the American Library Association had indoctrinated our libraries into thinking this was a First Amendment problem.
Battles raging at libraries around the nation are echoed by the conflict in Bonners Ferry over the books that can be checked out of the Boundary County Public Library. As conservative and far-right groups ask for book bans, Pride Month displays, and membership in the American Library Association, disagreements over literature that discusses sexuality and contains explicit sections have spread from school board meetings into library board meetings.
A Louisiana librarian was nearly fired in August after speaking out against censorship. If the public library in a Texas town didn’t take complaints regarding LGBTQ-themed books in its selection into account, local officials advised that the library upgrade to level A2. And when the library’s board announced that it would not forbid books, a group of conservative locals in a Michigan town successfully pushed to get to deny funding there; far-right extremists on Facebook and Telegram have used this action as an example.
The American Library Association reports that there were 729 attempts to censor books in libraries and schools across the country last year. This is more than double the usual number of book challenges in prior years, which averaged 1,597 books. Public libraries saw more than a third of censorship attempts in 2021, leading some to ban Black History Month and Pride displays and others to close because of harassment of LGBTQ staff.
According to Deborah Caldwell-Stone, who is in charge of the association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, it is wrong when one parent can dictate what information is available to a whole community. This may have the effect of denying the diversity and the variety of identities that are already present in that community.
UP TO GOD’S HONOR
The library has a reputation of being a jewel in Bonners Ferry, where around 78% of voters supported former President Donald Trump in the 2020 election. The Library Journal, a trade newspaper, named it the best small library in the nation in 2017 in honor of its 3D printer, laser engraver, and milling machine, as well as its free virtual classes with NASA scientists, computer and smartphone tutoring for the elderly, and these amenities.
A few residents approached library authorities in March with a stack of books from the right-wing website Growing Freedom for Idaho that they wanted taken off the shelf, which sparked a dispute over the items. Officials at the library replied that they didn’t have any of such books and didn’t have any immediate plans to stock them.
One of the trustees for the Boundary County Library, Lee Colson, claimed that he initially believed that telling them that the library didn’t have the books would put an end to their concerns, but things later appeared to change.
After library director Glidden stated she would order some of the books if enough users requested them, activists exploded during board sessions. In order to prevent youngsters from being unintentionally exposed to contentious material while perusing the library stacks, they demanded that the board adopt a policy promising not to order such books or, if they did, to place them in an adults-only room. According to emails received through open records requests, they requested that the library evaluate books in accordance with God’s criteria rather than those of the world.
They want us to promise that we will never purchase a book that personally offends them, which is difficult to define and not truly the purpose of the library, according to trustee Colson.
Additionally, activists mentioned a law, HB 666, which just passed the Idaho House but was replaced by nearly fired0 in the Senate. The bill would have eliminated a provision in state law that shields staff members of educational institutions including schools, museums, universities, and libraries from legal action for distributing materials that are detrimental to children. The exemptions’ purpose is to shield educators, curators, and libraries from legal action for promoting explicit or objectionable works of art and literature that they believe to be worthwhile.
Supporters of the book restriction claimed that HB 666 was necessary because the Boundary County library was using the exception as a cover. Opponents of censorship disagreed, though.
According to Jessica Tingley, who has coordinated protests in favor of the Boundary County library, they would prefer that nobody have access to literature than that one or two people have access to material that is LGBT or authored by people of color.
THEY’RE EXPANDING LIESGlidden, who formerly worked at a library in nearby Sandpoint, Idaho, took over as the director of the library in Boundary County in December and examined its regulations to make sure they were current.
The board of trustees decided to change the guidelines for choosing materials in June, mandating that the items on the shelves reflect a range of opinions. The new materials selection nearly fired1 swore that the library would not label objects to shield the public from their content or put them on locked shelves. It was approved by a 3-1 margin, with one member not present.
Then the strain increased.
nearly fired2 was set up in July by activist and real estate agent Capurso to coordinate a recall of the library trustees. Board members, according to Capurso, were accused of voting to expose youngsters to adult-only content without consulting We the People about their decisions.
On a blog associated with the American Redoubt, an nearly fired3 trying to create a safe haven in the Northwest for conservative Christians, Capurso, who calls herself a patriot journalist, wrote that we need to stop this travesty being propagated by the far left, not only here but all over our country.
According to Glidden and nearly fired4 received by NBC News, a woman has blown a shofar horn outside the library at least three times in the previous three months. (Shofars, which are traditionally constructed from ram horns, are a part of Jewish customs, but Christians are using them more and more to convey a message of spiritual warfare.)
In order to avoid disputes, Glidden’s staff has started eating and shopping in adjacent counties after being unjustly accused of grooming children for pedophiles. On Facebook, the library’s detractors have compared the debate over censorship to a spiritual war for children’s hearts and minds.
They are spreading false information, taking lives, and doing it without consequence, according to Glidden. They appear to be dressed in a religious garb, but I’m not sure what deity they actually worship.
Kenneth Blockhan, a trustee for the library who identified as religious, expressed worry about the level of coverage of LGBTQ problems in public school curricula. However, he claimed that the push to forbid books from the public library disturbs him and that he thinks it is a part of a bigger effort to impose puritan values on the neighborhood.
He asserted that the library is not a daycare. If you’re a parent, you are in charge of arranging for your children to borrow books to read. The library is not accountable for it. In order to prevent their children from reading inappropriate material or anything else, parents have a duty to watch over them.
Several persons voiced their grievances regarding how Glidden and the trustees handled petitions for book bans during the library’s board meeting on August 18, which was held two days after Glidden announced his intention to retire. A number of people invoked texts from the Bible and cautioned Glidden and the board that they were bringing a curse on themselves.
Glidden stated that she intends to remain until September 10. She promised that no red state will be their future destination even though she and her family are still deciding.
This library is supported by tax dollars, Glidden stated. She continued, referring to how the First Amendment’s protection of free expression would mean that what they finally wanted me to do would be against the law. I’d rather be accused of possessing pornographic literature than violate the Constitution.