Citizens express opposing views on library’s programming, books during DCPL board meeting

June 22, 2023 | 12:10 am

Updated June 22, 2023 | 1:14 pm

Photos by Kharley Redmon

The Daviess County Public Library’s recent celebration of Pride Month was the main topic of discussion during the public comments portion of their Wednesday board meeting. 

In attendance were members of the LGBTQ+ community, Prism Arts Alliance, and independent citizens.

Before the meeting, both groups — those protesting the library’s LGBT-themed programming and those in support of it — started gathering outside of the library at approximately 3:30 p.m. While both crowds participated in chants, shouts, and short conversations, both demonstrations were peaceful. Also before the board meeting, those opposing the programming participated in a march around the library.

All board members were in attendance, as was Janie Marksberry, who serves as the Daviess County Fiscal Court liaison to the library.

Marksberry, who has been active in the conversation of the topic since last week’s events, was the first speaker during public comments.

Echoing an earlier Facebook post she made, Marksberry described how she found out about the bags, said that she was asked by many constituents to investigate what was being given to the children, and voiced her concern.

“No sexual agenda — heterosexual, homosexual, or other — should be promoted to children under the age of 18, especially under an entity funded by taxpayer dollars,” Marksberry said. “That’s my personal belief and I’ve come to realize based on responses that that’s the belief of most of Daviess County.”

Much of the crowd booed that statement and voiced disagreement, to the point they had to be quieted so Marksberry could continue. 

Marksberry went on to say that “Just because a lot of these constituents will not publicly express their preferences, does not mean they do not exist.”

Marksberry continued to speak beyond her allotted 2 minutes despite requests from the board and crowd for her to finish. She did not comply until the microphone was physically taken away by a board member. 

Marksberry asked “why did you take my microphone away” and began video recording the board member who took the microphone away.

During the time she went over, Marksberry named FFA, 4H, and activities to get kids out in nature as programs she would like to see the library offer.

Thursday morning, Marksberry told Owensboro Times that she has spoken during the public comments portion of previous library board meetings, saying she has never been told before that she had a 2-minute limit. She added that at previous meetings she’s also sat with the board at the table rather than in the seats set out for attendees, but said when she arrived to Wednesday’s meeting the board initially did no have a chair for her at the table and expected her to sit in the audience. A chair was added so she could sit with the board.

Three additional people spoke out against the library’s celebration of Pride Month, distribution of Pride Month materials, and/or LGBTQ+ books in the library.

Michael Hamlet said that children are not equipped to understand concepts presented in LGBTQ+ material, such as the words homosexual and heterosexual.

“The mind can’t understand that. They haven’t gone through puberty and we’re confusing them and we’re affecting their development,” Hamlet said. “There’s a lot of boys out there that are feminine and there’s a lot of girls out there that are masculine. It doesn’t mean they’re gay.”

Kathryn Crowe focused her comment on the distribution of “pornographic material” by the library, both heterosexual and homosexual. Crowe claimed that library associations and activists have been slowly introduced pornographic material since the 1970s and cited the book “Let’s Talk About It: The Teen’s Guide to Sex, Relationships, and Being a Human (A Graphic Novel)” as an example in the DCPL.

“I must express my concern over the materials and agenda being pushed by this library. I want to emphasize that I’m here to protect the innocence of our children,” Crowe said. “Pornographic materials are now available for all library audiences whether it be adults, students, children.”

Crowe was also among the group who showed up at the library to protest. Last week she said she was there representing a group called Daviess County Citizens for Decency. 

A statement was sent to OT from the Daviess County Citizens for Decency on Wednesday evening. In part, it noted that “after threats of violence made by the other side last week,” their board made a decision not to be at the library for the board meeting, so anyone speaking in opposition of the library’s actions was doing so as an individual. 

The statement also said “we are not and never have protested ‘pride celebrations.’” According to the statement, the group is “opposed to the distribution of pornographic materials to underaged children” and “opposed to the sexual grooming of underaged children. All of this is being done by our publicly funded library and must stop.”

Meanwhile, 10 people spoke in support of the library’s celebration, programming, and books related to Pride Month and the LGBTQ+ community. 

Dennis Bunton, a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, said the material is important for representation.

“It is not easy for a person who is LGBT to pick a magazine or turn on a television and see themselves. They have to look somewhere special,” Bunton said. 

He also encouraged people to exercise freedom of choice.

“If you don’t wish for your children to read these things, don’t check them out. If you don’t believe in gay marriage, don’t have one. All of these things are choices, very simple,” Bunton said. “It’s a free country, this is a public library. I pay taxes for my children to go to this library to learn things — all things — and these people do too.”

Jion Xe talked about the word “indoctrination,” which has been frequently used by those who oppose the library’s LGBTQ+ materials and their celebration of Pride Month.

“Is taking your kids to church indoctrination? Is taking them to school indoctrination? Is the pledge of allegiance indoctrination?” Xe said. “Historically we have seen the (definition of indoctrination) intentionally blurred to encourage fascistic, violent, oppressive behavior.”

Arkay Ussery said that the library acts as a refuge for those in the LGBTQ+ community.

“I was able to check out books that answered my questions. I was able to check out books that made me feel less alone,” Ussery said. “We’re trying to give them freedom of visibility and we’re trying to let them know that they aren’t alone.”

Molly Ward echoed that sentiment.

“What is wrong with (LGBTQ+ people) feeling secure, safe, seen, heard and loved?” Ward questioned. “Because I promise you that God loves them.”

After the meeting, Library Director Erin Waller said that the turnout was as she expected. 

Waller also asked people to refrain from approaching library staff to express their opinions outside of a professional setting.

As for the future, Waller said that the library is sticking to its defined mission and goals.  

“Our goals and our mission is the same as it’s always been, so unless the board makes a decision to change that, we’re going to continue having the same collections and programming,” Waller said.

June 22, 2023 | 12:10 am

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