Alaska library board keeps LGBTQ books in youth sections

HOMER, Alaska (AP) — An advisory board overseeing a public library in Alaska has voted to keep scores of books containing supposed LGBTQ themes in the children’s and young adult sections instead of moving them to a separate location after complaints were made.

The Homer Public Library Advisory Board upheld the library director’s decision last week to keep the 55 books where they are currently located, the weekly Homer News reported Wednesday.

Last fall, library Director Dave Berry denied a request to move three titles. A later petition signed by more than 500 people added dozens of books to the list.

The petition asked that books “promoting transgender ideology, drag queens, homosexuality, and all other books which are intended to indoctrinate children in LGBQT+ ideologies” either be removed or not be available to children “to stumble upon these confusing ideas” in the children’s library or in the juvenile section.

Berry consulted with staff at the library and denied the request. Another patron appealed to the advisory board, which has final say.

The board’s four-hour meeting Jan. 17 included public comments and the board considering the fate of each of the books individually.

“The books that some would like to have removed are written for children, recommended by library professionals and selected by our own library professionals as appropriate for our community,” testified Nancy Lord, who said she reviewed many of the books in question and investigated how the books are categorized, organized and arranged.

“They belong in the children’s section of the library,” she said.

Madeline Veldstra, who appealed Berry’s decision, noted the public library removed several Dr. Seuss books in early 2021 due to what the library considered to be racist content.

Veldstra said the library was willing to regulate books based on the possibility that children might not be prepared to encounter racist content.

“We both think that certain topics should be approached with parental guidance,” she said. “So explain to me why sexuality is not one of those.”

Berry said he can relate to parents who visit the library and attempt to protect their children.

“But we do have a responsibility to ensure that every parent has the tool to raise their own children the way that they see fit,” he said.

For the parents who want their children to only read books with heterosexual couples and nuclear families, he said the library has thousands of books for them.

“There are 12,500 titles in the children’s and young adult collections combined,” Berry said. “The 55 titles on this list represent 0.4% of that collection.”

He then asked the board to leave the books where they are, “so that we can continue to serve the entire community.”

Each book was upheld with no opposition from board members. One member noted that some of the books did not appear to even have an LGBTQ aspect to them.

Homer, a fishing and tourist community, is located about 220 miles (354 kilometers) southwest of Anchorage, on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula.