GREENVILLE – The Greenville County Library System Board of Trustees voted to temporarily rename all book clubs in its internal event guide to “book club,” removing any themed branding such as “romance” or “LGBTQIA+.” .
The temporary change — approved by a 9-2 vote on Oct. 24 — will stay in place while the board’s operations committee meets to formulate a new policy to govern the uncodified position of the net neutrality system, along with how and if library-sponsored events that contain controversial issues should be promoted. The policy may also consider what is considered controversial.
At the end of the October meeting, during the new business portion of the agenda, board president Allan Hill distributed copies of the September/October edition of the library’s event guide to each of the board members. 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 read. It is a club sponsored by the library, run by a county employee.
The four-session book club held its first meeting on September 21 and its second on October 19. Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers and Graveyard Boys by Aidan Thomas were discussed respectively. 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, respectively. Each of the books is currently in the library’s collection.
Hill said she received objections to the ad, saying the library was promoting the Rainbow Book Club and its LGBTQ+-discussed materials.
“It seemed like the library was choosing to promote that label and that lifestyle and agenda that goes along with it,” Hill said.
“As we said last time, what the library aims to be is a place that doesn’t promote one agenda over another, especially on controversial issues,” Hill said.
Hill initially said the use of county funds and materials for the book club “is a departure from previous policy that has been in place for several years.”
That statement was disputed by board member Brian Aufmuth, who asked what policy the pamphlet violated.
“The way the library has operated in the past has been that the library doesn’t take a stand on controversial issues,” Hill responded. “We haven’t had to have a written policy about this kind of thing because that’s how it’s usually taken care of.”
Hill read a material policy that stated, “The library will neither promote nor 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 the 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 to guide her on how to edit the Rainbow Book Club advertisement for the upcoming November/December event guide. in print soon. .
Board member Elizabeth Collins called for all book clubs to be titled “book club” with the recommended age group adding a list of specific titles to be discussed. She added that the change will be temporary until a policy can be suggested by the operations committee. The motion passed with two members in opposition.
The library will continue to host and sponsor the book club formerly known as the Rainbow Book Club.
The operations committee was tasked with developing a draft policy to be presented to the full board. Library committee meetings do not occur on routinely scheduled days, so the best way to track when the committee will meet is by monitoring 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 adopted a revised policy on how the public can appear before it. One of the main changes is that the public can only make public comments during full board meetings and not during committee or special called meetings.
This board meeting comes five months after a debate about the library system’s materials, particularly those with LGBTQ content. The inciting incident occurred in late June when someone in library leadership instructed staff to remove Pride Month displays at its 12 branches. The screens reset quickly after the push.
Follow Stephanie Mirah on Twitter @stephaniemirah