Kansas Library Removes LGBTQ+ Books in Order to Keep Lease
Author: Christopher Wiggins
In an alarming development for the LGBTQ+ community in Kansas, the public library in St. Marys has removed all youth-oriented LGBTQ+ books from its shelves to secure its lease for another year.
City commissioner Gerard Kleinsmith had been particularly vocal in this debate, expressing his desire to terminate the library’s lease due to the inclusion of transgender-inclusive literature, which he derogatively refers to as “garbage,” according to the publication.
Despite claiming to oppose censorship, Kleinsmith and other commissioners, all members of the Society of St. Pius X, have made it clear that their religious views heavily influence their decisions regarding the library’s content.
Moreover, St. Marys mayor Matthew Childs, known for formulating a “morals clause” for the city’s public library lease and his opposition to LGBTQ+ materials in the library, recently lost his bid for a seat on the USD 321 Kaw Valley School Board. His defeat in the school board election, where he campaigned against the inclusion of LGBTQ+ content in educational settings, reflects the ongoing cultural and political tensions in the region.
The Society of St. Pius X, to which these city officials are affiliated, holds strong views against LGBTQ+ issues, as reflected in their statements from 2015. They consider acts of homosexuality as grave disorders and against natural and divine law, viewing them as sins that “cry out to heaven.” This perspective from the Society undoubtedly influences the stance of the city officials associated with it, further complicating the library’s efforts to provide inclusive resources.
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Library director Judith Cremer has noted that the adult section retains some LGBTQ+ books, but the junior collection has been virtually cleared of such materials. This move reflects the library’s effort to maintain its presence in St. Marys, where the Society of St. Pius X has a significant influence. The Kansas Reflector reports that half of the library committee members are connected to this group, and all five city commissioners who have expressed religious objections to LGBTQ+ literature are also linked to it.
“I’m not real proud of that. … I feel bad because I think that there should be a variety of things for everybody, but like I say, we do have eight locations and I can get anything for anybody within about a day,” Cremer told the Reflector. “So that’s a compromise I have to make.”
Serving as a hub for branches in Pottawatomie and Wabaunsee counties, the St. Marys library was threatened with lease termination over including LGBTQ+ books.
The removal of about a dozen books, including titles like Squad, Blood Countess, and The Great American Whatever, was overseen by a six-person library advisory committee. This committee identified these books by searching terms such as “gay,” “transgender,” and “lesbian” in the library’s catalog.
“We need to protect all of our areas of information, so that when people need that information to make decisions about their life, we have that information available,” Cremer said. “I know that and that’s what I’m striving for. But I do have to compromise to keep the doors open.”
She explained: “I’m just trying to be realistic in the fact that we do have a precarious position here.”
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Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Christopher Wiggins