Greenville library board plans ‘neutrality’ policy, drops book club names in the meantime | Greenville News

GREENVILLE – The Greenville County Library System Board of Trustees has voted to temporarily name all book clubs “book club” in its internal event guide, dropping any theme branding such as “romance” or “LGBTQIA+.”

The temporary change — passed in a 9-2 vote on Oct. 24 — will remain in place while the board’s steering committee meets to craft a new policy to govern the system’s unencrypted neutral stance with library-sponsored events that contain controversial content. Issues should be promoted. The policy may also examine what is considered controversial.

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At the end of the October meeting during the new business portion of the agenda, Board President Alan Hill distributed copies of the September/October issue of the Library Events Guide to each board member. On page 3 of the brochure, he drew their attention to the “Rainbow Book Club” for people aged 18 and over at the Anderson Road branch.

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“Celebrate LGBTQIA+ literature with the Rainbow Book Club, a welcoming and inclusive community of bookworms,” read the description of the club, a library-sponsored club run by a county employee.

GCLS Board of Trustees

Greenville County Library System Board of Trustees at its October 24, 2022 meeting. Stephanie Mira / Staff

The four-session book club held its first meeting on September 21 and its second meeting on October 19. “Honey Girl” by Morgan Rogers and “Cemetery Boys” by Aidan Thomas were discussed respectively. The book club will hold two more meetings on November 16 and December 14, where they will discuss “This Town Sleeps” by Dennis E. Staples and “Kiss Her Once for Me” by Alison Cochrun, respectively. Each book is currently in the library’s collection.

Hill said he received objections to the ad, saying it appeared the library was promoting the “Rainbow Book Club” and the LGBTQ+ material discussed there.

“It seemed like the library was choosing to promote that label and that lifestyle and the agenda that goes with it,” Hill said.

“As we stated last time, the library is meant to be a place where one agenda is not promoted over another, especially when it comes to controversial issues,” Hill said.

Hill first said the use of county funds and materials for the book club was “a departure from the prior policy that has been in place for years.”

That statement was challenged by board member Brian Aufmuth, who asked what policy the brochure violated.

“The way the library operated in the past was that the library didn’t take a stand on controversial issues,” Hill responded. “We don’t have to have a written policy on this sort of thing, because that’s how it’s generally taken care of.”

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Hill read a material 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 go back to the option of moderation that we’ve known in the past,” Hill said.

After a brief discussion with several board members sharing their ideas and suggestions, Executive Director Beverly James asked the board to guide her on how to edit the ad for the “Rainbow Book Club” for the November/December event guide. .

Board member Elizabeth Collins suggested naming all book clubs a “book club,” adding a recommended age range along with a list of specific topics to be discussed. She added that the change will be temporary until the steering committee proposes a policy. The motion was passed by two members of the opposition.

The library still hosts and sponsors the book club formerly known as the “Rainbow Book Club”.

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The Steering Committee is tasked with preparing a draft policy for submission to the full Board. Library committee meetings are not usually held on set dates, so the best way to find out when the committee will meet is to monitor the library board website for a posting, which is required at least 24 hours before a meeting.

During the Oct. 24 meeting, the board also approved a revised policy on public appearances. One major difference is that the public can only make public comments at full board meetings and not at committee or specially called meetings.

The board meeting comes five months into a debate about library system materials, particularly LGBTQ content. The exciting event came in late June when someone in the library’s leadership instructed staff to scrap the monthly pride displays at its 12 branches. The displays quickly recovered after the push.

Follow Stephanie Mirah on Twitter @stephaniemirah


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