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

GREENVILLE – The board of the Greenville County Library System voted to temporarily rename all book clubs in its internal event manual to “book club” and drop any thematic labels such as “romance” or “LGBTQIA+.”

The temporary change — approved by a 9-2 vote Oct. 24 — will stand while the board’s operations committee meets to craft a new policy to govern the system’s undocumented stance on net neutrality, along with how and whether library-sponsored events that contain controversial hype should be addressed. The policy could also look at what is considered controversial.

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At the end of the October meeting on the new business portion of the agenda, Board Chair Allan Hill distributed copies of the September/October issue of the Library Events 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.

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“Celebrate LGBTQIA+ literature with the Rainbow Book Club, a welcoming and inclusive community of bookworms,” ​​reads the club’s description. This is a library sponsored club, run by a county employee.

Board of GCLS

Greenville County Library System Board of Directors at their meeting on October 24, 2022. Stephanie Mirah/Staff

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

Hill said she received objections to the ad, saying it appeared the library was promoting the “Rainbow Book Club” and its controversial LGBTQ+ content.

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

“As we reported last time, what the library is going to be is a place that doesn’t promote one agenda over another, especially on controversial issues,” Hill said.

Hill first 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 challenged 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 in relation to this type of thing because it’s been the way it’s been handled.”

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Hill read a content policy that said, “the library will not promote or censor any specific religious, moral, philosophical, or political beliefs or opinions.”

“We’re not trying to censor the books. We’re not trying to ban the books. We’re trying to find an alternative 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 modify the “Rainbow Book Club” ad for the November/December event guide that will be going to print soon. .

Board member Elizabeth Collins suggested that all book clubs be titled “book club” by adding to the recommended age range a list of specific titles to be discussed. She added that the change would be temporary until the action committee could come up with a policy. The proposal was approved by two board members.

The library will continue to host and sponsor the book club formerly known as the “Rainbow Book Club”.

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The executive committee was tasked with formulating a draft policy for presentation to the full board. Library Board meetings are not on regular dates, so the best way to keep track of when the Board meets is to monitor the Library Board website for a posting, which is required at least 24 hours before a meeting.

At the October 24 meeting, the board also approved a revised policy on how the public can appear before it. One of the key changes is that the public can only make public comments at full board meetings and not at committee or special called meetings.

This board meeting comes five months into a discussion about library system topics, especially those involving LGBTQ topics. The inciting incident occurred in late June when someone in the library’s leadership instructed staff to remove Pride Month displays at its 12 branches. The screens were quickly put back up after a push.

Follow Stephanie Mirah on Twitter @stephaniemirah


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