GREENVILLE – The Greenville County Library System Board of Trustees has voted to temporarily rename all book clubs in its internal event guide to “book club,” dropping any theme tags such as “romance” or “LGBTQIA+.”
The temporary change — approved Oct. 24 by a 9-2 vote — will be in effect until the board’s operations committee meets to formulate a new policy that will govern the system’s uncoded stance of neutrality, along with how and if library-sponsored events include controversial issues should be encouraged. Politics can also examine what is considered controversial.
At the end of the October meeting during the new business portion of the program, Board President Allan Hill distributed copies of the September/October Library Guide to each Board member. On page 3 of the brochure, he directed their attention to the “Rainbow Book Club”, a club for people aged 18 and over at the Anderson Road branch.
“Celebrate LGBTQIA+ literature with the Rainbow Book Club, a welcoming and inclusive community of bookworms,” the club’s description reads. This is a library-sponsored club led by a district employee.
The four-member book club had its first meeting on September 21 and the second on October 19. “Honey Girl” by Morgan Rogers and “Cemetery Boys” by Aidan Thomas were discussed. The book club will hold two more meetings on November 16th and December 14th to discuss “This Town Sleeps” by Dennis E. Staples and “Kiss Her Once for Me” by Alison Cochrun. Each of the books is currently in the library collection.
Hill said he received objections to the ad, saying the library appeared to be promoting the “Rainbow Book Club” and its LGBTQ+ discussion material.
“It seemed like the library decided to promote this brand and the lifestyle and the program that goes with it,” Hill said.
“As we stated last time, the library intends to be a place that does not elevate any agenda over another, especially on controversial issues,” Hill said.
At first, Hill said the use of county funds and materials for the book club “is a departure from the previous policy that has been in place for several years.”
That statement was challenged by board member Brian Aufmuth, who asked what policies the pamphlet violated.
“The way the library operated in the past was that the library didn’t take a stand on controversial issues,” Hill responded. “We didn’t have to have a written policy on this type of thing because that was the way they usually handled it.”
Hill read a materials policy that states “the library will not promote or censor any particular religious, moral, philosophical, or political belief or opinion.”
“We’re not trying to censor books. We’re not trying to ban books. We’re trying to get to an option where we have the neutrality that we’ve been known for in the past,” Hill said.
After a brief discussion with several board members sharing their thoughts and suggestions, Executive Director Beverly James asked the board for guidance on how to edit the “Rainbow Book Club” advertisement for the November/December event guide that will be printed soon. .
Board member Elizabeth Collins suggested that all book clubs be called “book club” with the addition of a recommended age range and a list of specific titles to be discussed. She added that the change will be temporary until the operations committee comes up with a policy. The proposal passed with two opposition MPs.
The library will continue to host and sponsor the book club formerly known as the “Rainbow Book Club”.
The operational committee was tasked with developing a policy proposal to be presented to the full council. Library committee meetings are not held on regularly scheduled days, so the best way to find out when the committee will meet is to watch the library board website for a posting, which is required at least 24 hours before the meeting.
At its meeting on October 24, the board also approved a revised policy on how the public can appear before it. One key change is that the public can only give public comments during full council meetings and not during committee meetings or special called meetings.
This board meeting comes five months into a discussion about the library system’s materials, particularly those with LGBTQ content. The inciting incident occurred at the end of June when someone in library management instructed staff to remove Pride Month displays at its 12 branches. When pushed, the displays were quickly restored.
Follow Stephanie Mirah on Twitter @stephaniemirah