Long Island library reverses removal of Pride displays, books

The Long Island Library, which decided to demolish Pride shows and remove books from children’s departments, reversed its decision at an emergency meeting Thursday night.

The Smithtown Library Board of Trustees voted 4-2 to overturn its controversial decision Tuesday night. One of the seven secretaries abstained from voting.

The initial decision led to a massive response from advocates and a strong statement from the governor, which led to the emergency meeting.

On Tuesday, the board voted 4-2 in favor of “a motion to remove all Pride displays, as well as the removal of all books on the same subject on display, from all children’s departments in all Smithtown Library buildings.” One member was absent Tuesday.

The move — which came as LGBTQ Pride celebrations kicked off in cities across the country — has been condemned by several prominent voices, including the New York Library Association. best-selling writer and former librarian Jodi Picoult, who said she was “disgusted by the trustees who voted for this”; and Governor Hochhol, who instructed the state’s human rights department to “immediately open an investigation” into the reports.

“Public spaces are prohibited by law from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Everyone — especially young people in our state — deserves to feel welcome in the library,” Hochhol told the Daily News in a statement, saying she was “horrified” by the reports.

“For many LGBTQ+ children, libraries are a place of refuge and information where they can be welcomed and their identity confirmed,” she said. The governor added that New York “will not tolerate the ‘don’t say Jay’ philosophy,” referring to a newly signed Florida law that prohibits schools from discussing LGBT issues with younger children.

The reaction seemed to have an effect.

At a Thursday night meeting, Board Chair Brianna Baker Staines argued that the committee overdid it in its initial decision. She noted that Smithtown librarians have never conducted a government human rights investigation, but the board has.

Earlier, the decision prompted immediate action by the LGBT Network, a non-profit organization that campaigns for the rights of gays and their families in Queens and Long Island. He criticized the library’s “bigotry move” and announced measures aimed at protecting local LGBTQ youth.

“It’s unrealistic,” David Kilmnik, the organization’s president and CEO, told The News. “It’s as if we’re in the Bible Belt,” he added, speaking of the “dangerous rhetoric and actions people take, right here in the backyard of our home in Queens and Long Island.”

Late Thursday morning, the organization held a press conference to explain how it plans to act against the library’s “really scary” decision, which Kilmnik referred to as an “attack on LGBT youth in our community.”

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The actions, which were due to be launched in the fall, will be officially announced Monday in a virtual town hall — after the library’s decision forced the group to “fast track and accelerate.”

It involves creating “LGBT Network Ambassadors” in each school district – parents, students, teachers and other community members who will work to ensure that the LGBTQ curriculum is taught “and that our history is recognized, represented, and not erased.”

After the reversal, LGBT Network Vice President and COO Robert Vitelli said the group plans to move forward with its plans anyway.

“Reflection in general is good because it brings those books back and shows them back to the libraries,” Vitelli said. But “the commentary accompanying the vote shows that there is still much to be done.”

With short- and long-term thinking, the LGBT network will also launch a “leadership and coaching academy,” according to Kelmenek. The effort will encourage parents and concerned members of the community to run for their local school boards, “and now their library board seats as well.”

Vitelli was also at the press conference on Thursday and told The News that the library’s move was “completely unexpected” noting that removing such books was an “act of hate”. [designed] To keep gay guys in the closet [a community that is] Already underrepresented. “

More than 400 people registered to city council in less than 12 hours, Kilmenk said.

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