More than two months after state Sen. Josh Kimbrell called on Spartanburg County Public Libraries to remove books about sexual identity from the children’s section, some parents are still upset that books they find offensive remain on the shelves.
“God made two genders, male and female,” Mike Brady of Boiling Springs told County Council members Monday. “Would you have your grandchildren and children read these books that have been shown to you tonight?”
Brady was among a few who wanted County Council to exert pressure on the library. Other residents defended the books and asked that council members let the library system do its job.
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“There is absolutely nothing wrong with the content of these books they want to see banned,” said Sevi Alvarez of Spartanburg. “There’s nothing wrong with being LGBTQ. Being LGBTQ is not immoral. It is also not immoral to teach children that there is nothing wrong with being LGBTQ.”
Council member Monier Abusaft agreed with Alvarez.
“Taking away these books isn’t going to make gay people disappear from our community,” he said. “Destroying these books, moving these books, isn’t going to change that these people exist in the world. And it’s certainly not up to county council to make those determinations.”
In August, Kimbrell held a press conference across the street from the main library in Spartanburg, demanding that County Librarian Todd Stephens be fired if books about sexual identity aren’t removed from children’s sections.
“I’m not trying to ban any books,” Kimbrell said at the conference. “I’m trying to stop an indoctrination campaign against kids.”
In front of the library were dozens of counter-protesters, Among the protesters’ signs were: “No Censorship,” “Ban Hate, Not Books,” “Your Hate Has No Place Here,” and “Ban Josh Kimbrell, Not Books.”
Stephens said his staff would undertake a full review of all children’s books in the library system and that he would either remove or move to an adult section any books he deemed inappropriate for young children.
Stephens said Thursday “about 60 different books for children 12 and under have been identified for review,” and that “five or six titles with explicit imagery” have been moved from the children’s section to other sections geared toward adults.
Council Chairman Manning Lynch defended Stephens, saying he has “full confidence” from the county council.
“We don’t run the library,” Lynch said. “We do appoint the board. The board deals with Todd. Todd Stephens is a treasure for Spartanburg County, the things he’s done. He’s doing the best he can to work on the books. It’s a big library system with lots of books.”
Stephens said the library receives roughly $760,000 a year in state funding, all of which is used to buy books and learning materials, and library services.
The bulk of its budget is funded by the county through a 10.4-mill library fund tax, which this year is expected to yield roughly $18.2 million. The library also receives private support for programs, collection, and capital improvements.
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At Monday’s meeting, Pamela Lyda of Spartanburg said one book, “Sex is a Funny Word,” is meant to teach children about their bodies but contains diagrams of the male and female anatomy.
“I would certainly not want my son to look at this picture of the female parts,” she said.
The book also addresses “gender confusion,” she said.
Kirsty Schenkel of Spartanburg said young children should not be exposed to any books that contain images of gender identity or anatomy.
“These books are an extremely small percentage of books available in the children’s section of the library, so removing them should not affect the overall quality or quality of the literature available,” she said. “We are not condemning anyone’s gender identity. But material needs to be presented in an age-appropriate way.”
Tyler Prescott of Greer said the attacks on children’s books are an attack on the LGBTQ community.
“We are not trying to turn your children gay,” he said. “We exist here. We live here, work here and pay our taxes here. And we deserve to be represented not just in the materials in the library. I’m asking you to trust the good work of Spartanburg County Library.”
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Alvarez, who has defended the library system at previous city and county meetings, said, “book banning or even restricting access to books is not the way we do things in the United States of America.
“These books are not going to harm anyone. They are not pornography as some try to claim. The content these folks really want to ban is the picture books that teach children it’s OK to have two moms or two dads, that it’s OK to want to wear dresses and play with dolls even if it might not be what other people expect you to do.”
Of the explicit books shown to council members Monday, Lynch said, “Nobody in Spartanburg County or South Carolina thinks those books should be available for young children. Todd is doing what he can.”
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