Virginia Library to Remain Open After County Leaders Resolve LGBTQ+ Book Spat

Author: Christopher Wiggins

Citizens of a northwest Virginia town will continue to have a beloved library after elected leaders voted to fund the institution after months of debate around access to books came to an end. The long-standing discord surrounding including LGBTQ-related books at Samuels Public Library reached a resolution on Tuesday as Warren County officials and library leaders signed a collaborative agreement.

This new memorandum of understanding marks a significant moment following months of fervent debates that mirrored a larger national discourse on LGBTQ+ representation in public spaces.

The dispute ignited when the conservative group Clean Up Samuels advocated for removing LGBTQ+ books aimed at young readers, prompting the county to withhold crucial funding from the library. The group claimed that the books were pornographic and wanted them taken out of circulation.

Samuels Public Library, which has been autonomous as a nonprofit, had been targeted by the county for a takeover. That’s something the library’s trustees flat out rejected.

This spurred a robust community reaction, with groups like Save Samuels vehemently campaigning to maintain the library’s operational autonomy and the inclusivity of its collection.

Related: This Small Virginia Town Could Lose Its Library Over LGBTQ+ Book Brawl

A notable moment in this debate transpired in a September Warren County Board of Supervisors meeting, where local real estate agent and community activist Stevi Hubbard passionately defended LGBTQ+ representation in library materials. Unveiling a petition with around 5,000 names, Hubbard underscored the fiscal irresponsibility and potential legal repercussions of extracting the contested books.

Charles “Chip” Stewart of Save Samuels shared a reflection on the community’s response to the controversy with The Advocate, stating, “In response to the homophobic demands of a tiny but very vocal minority, the Warren County Board of Supervisors attempted to illegally deprive citizens of their civil rights… Save Samuels shows a community can rise up against hatred and intolerance to protect our rights and the rights of all community members.”

Stewart noted the significant loss of three cherished library employees amid the controversy but highlighted the silver lining of increased patronage and donations to the library, attributing it to the community’s rallying support.

This week’s agreement looks to create a collaborative plan for the library going forward. The new arrangement includes a county supervisor joining the library’s executive committee, among other measures.

Melody Hotek, the president of the library’s board of trustees, lauded the agreement as a “positive outcome for all Warren County residents” in a news release on Wednesday.

The library has witnessed a surge in visitor numbers and donations amid the controversy, underlining the community’s strong backing despite the earlier resignation of its director over the summer. The library’s visitors are up 15 percent, according to The Washington Post. Its donors are up a quarter since last year.

Hubbard’s earlier words resonate as the community navigates the contentious intersection of public service, representation, and inclusivity. During her impassioned speech, she encapsulated the fiscal implications and the broader societal message tied to the library’s content dispute, challenging the board with a poignant question.

“How much are you willing to pay for their bigotry?” she asked. “How much are you willing to pay?”

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Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Christopher Wiggins

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