Utah Library Assn. doubles down on charge of ‘censorship’ involving Orem Library, Orem City Council

Orem Public Library. Photo: Google Streets

OREM, Utah, June 18, 2022 (Gephardt Daily) — The Utah Library Association is defending its letter charging censorship after the Orem Library did not place a Pride Month display in the children’s section, as it had last year.

The ULA’s original statement, issued Monday, attributed the lack of the library children’s section display to instructions from the Orem City Council.

The Utah Library Association became aware of a censorship issue at Orem Public Library through social media posts on May 29 which stated that the Orem City Council is forbidding the library from doing any displays in the children’s area related to Pride Month in Utah,” the initial USA statement says. Read the full statement here.

“The library director has indicated that in spite of the positive reception and thankful comments from parents last year, there will not be a Pride display in the Children’s wing this year, and instead there will be a single display in another location in the Library away from the children’s area.

“In the interest of serving all members of the community, library staff have wide latitude to create or not create displays, and to decide where to locate them. However, it is unacceptable, and a possible infringement of citizen’s First Amendment rights, when politicians intervene and direct staff to eliminate planned displays or have them moved to a less frequented area of the library because those politicians do not like the topic or viewpoint being expressed. 

“Moving a children’s book display to the adult section where materials may not be age appropriate for children is problematic because it actually increases the likelihood of exposing children to material that is unsuitable for their age and makes the materials less accessible for families and harder to discover.”

The ULA letter charging censorship was also signed by Equality UtahPFLAG Provo/Utah County, and the Utah LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce.

Orem Library director response

Gephardt Daily contacted Orem City Council’s six members for response and did not hear back from any of them.

Gephardt Daily did get an email from Orem Library Director Charlene Crozier.

“I wish the ULA leadership who drafted the statement would have reached out to me for clarification, because it contains false information,” Crozier wrote.

“It is not an accurate statement to say the Orem City Council has forbidden the Library to have displays in the Children’s area. Orem residents have access to high-quality facilities, an extensive collection, and considerable resources from the significant ongoing support from the City of Orem.

“The Orem Public Library is an organization that serves a large community, and part of that service requires mindfulness of both community needs and concerns. To support members of the LGBTQ+ community and provide information and resources during Pride month, a centralized display of materials is available.”

Crozier wrote that booklists for all ages can be found in the library and online, “and items with a wide representation of LGBTQ+ topics and themes are available for checkout.

“We have a strong collection designed to help any of our patrons find information that they need and want. We also have an excellent and easy-to-use catalog and a friendly and amazing staff who are ready to serve anyone in our community.”

ULA reaction

Gephardt Daily offered the Utah Library Association a chance to react to Crozier’s letter, and ULA sent the following response:

“Here are the facts:

  • In 2021, in response to Pride displays in the children and teen areas of the library, City Councilmember Terry Peterson said, “I couldn’t be more disgusted or outraged,” and suggested that “we need to protect our children from such materials.” [QSalt Lake article July 21, 2021]
  • This year, there are no displays of age-appropriate materials in the children or teen sections.
  • There was strong public support for the displays. (see change.org petition)
  • On May 29, 2022, staff members reported on Twitter that “The Orem City Council has forbidden the library from doing any Pride or rainbow displays in the children’s area”  [source]
  • In the 2021 QSaltLake article, Ms. Crozier made a number of comments regarding the appropriateness of the displays, and the appreciation she received from community members. Specifically, she commented:
    • ‘Highlighting LGBTQ+ items during Pride Month was also reflective of the spirit of inclusion the city recently promoted in its annual Summerfest celebration with the theme, ‘This is Where You Belong”‘
    • ‘Even though some were concerned about the displays, the overall response to them was positive. Some parents thanked library staff for offering the selection of materials.’
    • ‘The goal of the Orem Public Library is to serve all of our diverse community’
  • The article also reported that, ‘The Library Advisory Commission was aware of the displays and supports the library’s efforts to serve a traditionally underserved population in the community.

“Those are the facts as we know them. We stand by our statement, and we encourage the Orem City Council to publicly state that no member of the Council or City government expressed to the Director, whether directly or indirectly, any thoughts about the appropriateness of any library displays related to LGBTQ+ materials or other observance of Utah LGBTQ+ Pride Month.”

Gephardt Daily will report new developments in this ongoing story.


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