Letter: Library problem ‘swept under the rug’
I am assuming that there are many people in Gloucester County who are curious about the contents of the Gay Pride display in the Gloucester Library that the library director removed after receiving complaints. I have recently discovered the details of the display after an article was published in Veer magazine’s Aug. 15 issue, "Teaching Tolerance: Learning Gays’ Role in History Could Reduce Anti-Gay Bullying"; to quote:
"The anti-gay mindset of CRI is not limited to California as was recently revealed in Gloucester County, Virginia in an incident that arose out of a "Pride Month" display in the Gloucester Public Library. As reported by the Daily Press, as a result of the display, an anti-gay witch hunt was touched off and spearheaded by County Supervisor Gregory Woodard—a fundamentalist pastor when not on the Board of Supervisors—who objected to the library promoting homosexual and gay rights …
"The only sign on the display read, "June is Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Month" with a graphic of a person in rainbow colors, a copy of the Rainbow flag and a graphic that said "Gay Pride" and "Be Yourself." The materials in the display included works by Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Rita Mae Brown, Langston Hughes, Walt Whitman and Alice Walker; music CDs by Sir Elton John, Melissa Etheridge and Indigo Girls; a movie DVD, "Milk" … about Harvey Milk, and biographies on Andy Warhol, T.E. Lawrence, Alexander the Great, and Michelangelo, together with non-fiction books about LGBT …
"Whether Supervisor Woodard … likes it or not, LGBT individuals not only DO exist—even in Gloucester—but many have played major roles in history."
The article goes on to add some 21 other people from all walks of life plus many English aristocrats including James I, "who commissioned the King James Version of the Bible so adored by Christian fundamentalists."
The Gay Pride display at our library should never have been prematurely removed. However, when asked why this happened, the chair of the Library Board of Trustees was quoted as saying that the director "has the authority to install and take down exhibits." This does not answer the question of why Director Diane Rebertus acted as she did and why procedure about complaints was not handled as it has been for years in our library. They have circled the wagons to defend the director’s knee-jerk reaction when she received a call in the late afternoon of June 20, hurriedly left her office for the public area and was seen to reappear in the back room with an armload of books, CDs, DVDs, etc. She caved to someone, but no one has admitted making the call. Director Rebertus works for Gloucester County and County Administrator Brenda Garton has said that she did not make the call but will not say anything further to clear up this conundrum. So, a problem ignored and swept under the rug will eventually be forgotten.
But, one more point. When I resigned from the Gloucester Library Board of Trustees on July 15, the revised Library Policy Manual to be submitted to the state library by Aug. 1 had been amended and approved by the board chair to include specific information so that displays, whether put on by the library or by the public, be handled in the same way as general materials complaints. These requirements were subsequently removed after July 15 so that the approved Policy Manual may in the future be interpreted in any way that the director wishes regarding complaints. One would like to feel that our public library is going forward as I know it did under the past directors, but under the present leadership and watered-down policy, I am fearful that this is not the case, as everyone in control is in denial and the library director will not take responsibility for the mistake she made by removing the Gay Pride display.