February LPL Board of Control Meeting
Current LPL Collection Development Policy (with adopted changes) HERE
On the one hand, I'm incredibly proud of the community members who show up month after month to protest the destruction of our library at the hands of Robert Judge and his cronies on the LPL Board of Control. The meetings, held at an inconvenient time for working folks, are frequently packed with people opposed to the censoring of materials and the imposition of an exclusively far-right, evangelical Christian worldview on the library collections. On the other hand, it's pathetic and heartbreaking that in just a couple of years this library has devolved from one in which staff and patrons took pride to one in which the President of the Board of Control gleefully presides over chaotic meetings and has members of the public removed by armed sheriff's deputies.
The February, 2023 meeting, held on Wednesday, February 15 to account for Mardi Gras the following week, was no exception. On the agenda was yet another attempt by Judge (outlined below), along with his ever-willing accomplice Stephanie Armbruster, and "straight man" David Pitre, whose appointed role seems to be offering "compromises" composed of little more than repackaged versions of the same proposals, to restrict access to materials at LPL. As usual, of course, Judge's proposals weren't well thought out, were poorly written, and either never passed in front of the board's attorney or ignored their suggestions altogether.
Luckily board member Joan Wingate bravely stood up for what was right, even though Judge repeatedly cut her off and tried to verbally intimidate her. In fact, his attempt to insert "community standards" into the language of the Collection Development policy failed altogether.
On the matter of the creation of cards for minors, and their restriction of all materials falling under the Attorney General's definition of "sexually explicit," new board member (and Mayor-President ex-officio appointee) Marquise Watson proposed an amendment to Judge's motion which created an "Opt-In" minor card only, meaning that if parents want their children to have their library reading curtailed, they are able to obtain a library card which does that. This amended motion passed, with even Judge voting for it when he saw he did not have the votes to pass his original blanket ban.
Unfortunately, the changes to the policy were SO badly written, and the motion SO badly worded, that the amendment, votes, and even the final version of the Collection Development policy are a confusing MESS of unenforceable, conflicting phrases that are barely legible, much less comprehensible as library policy. At one point Stephanie admitted she had no idea what she'd just vote on. Even though the policy currently states, for example, that the minor card is OPT-IN (meaning it is the parents' choice as to whether their children should not be exposed to the supposedly "explicit" materials), it also states, "the library restricts R and NC-17 classified DVDs/movies, and any sexually explicit material to adult users only to view or to check out to those patrons 17 years of age or older" - meaning ALL minors.
Without an update, the policy as currently written BOTH restricts everything with sexual content to anyone 17 and under (Judge's original plan) AND only restricts that content for minors whose parents designate that on their library card. In other words, the LPL Collection Development Policy fixes nothing, angers everyone, and creates utter chaos.
This, in addition to the incident at the meeting when Judge calmly rose to his feet (right in the middle of a public speaker - so much for respectful discourse) and instructed a library employee to project graphic sexual images from Alison Bechdel's Fun Home and Maia Kobabe's Gender Queer onto the giant screen at the front of the room. When the packed meeting erupted in enough yelling and screaming to force him to call a 10-minute recess, Judge actually stood back and smiled at the work he had done. If that's not evidence of an individual who thrives on divisiveness and destruction, I don't know what is. This is not a person who is striving to build our library into something stronger and better - it's clear evidence of someone who's only goal is to tear it down.
You can watch the full meeting below:
As always, we'll be there in the coming month, working to get this new, awful development reversed. Stay tuned.
Proposed Changes to Collection Development HERE
Proposed Changes to Discards Policy HERE
The agenda has been released for the 15 February meeting of the LPL Board of Control, and, as expected, it's packed full of proposals to censor books and materials in Lafayette Parish. Using as a blueprint AG Jeff Landry's "Protecting Innocence" report and the bill prefiled by Senator Heather Cloud (R-Turkey Creek) last week, board President Robert Judge is leaping to put Lafayette in compliance with a law that hasn't even been read in committee yet, much less been through the legislative process. The bill itself is riddled with problems--the chief ones being A) it does nothing to define "community standards" and B) the "sexually explicit" materials it defines will never live up to judicial review vis-à-vis the Miller Test. Judge's proposals for Lafayette's libraries fall prey to those same flaws, opening up the parish to immediate and expensive lawsuits the government can ill afford.
So let's get to it.
Agenda Item IX.A.1. New Business - Changes to Collection Development Policy
Paragraph 3 currently reads: The library’s goal is to provide a diverse Lafayette Parish community with materials that reflect a wide range of views, expressions, opinions and interests. Proposed changes would add: in accordance with community standards. The question becomes, whose community standards are we talking about here? Do we mean the board of control's? Because based on the fact that we've watched the Parish Council, over the past three years, pack the board with far-right evangelical activists over the objections of citizens from all walks of life time and time again means that they DO NOT represent our community standards. Adding this phrase to the end of a sentence that begins with "a wide range of views, expressions, opinions, and interests" turns it into a sad joke and an oxymoron at best, a potential lawsuit at worst.
Paragraph 4 currently reads: Responsibility for a child’s use of library materials lies with his or her parent or guardian. To assist parents or guardians in this regard, the library restricts R and NC-17 classified DVDs/movies to check out to those patrons 17 years of age or older. Proposed changes would add:
Responsibility for a minor’s use of library materials lies with his or her parent or guardian. To assist parents or guardians in this regard, the library restricts R, and NC-17 classified DVD/movies, and any sexually explicit material1 to adult users only, to view or check out. 1. Definitions of Sexually Explicit Materials Sexually Explicit Materials – includes textual, visual, or audio materials or material accessed via any other medium that depict or describe sexual conduct. Sexual Conduct – any of the following: (a) Masturbation or lewd exhibition, actual, simulated, or animated, of the genitals, pubic hair, anus, vulva, or female breast nipples; (b) Sadomasochistic abuse, meaning actual, simulated or animated, flagellation, or torture by or upon a person who is nude or clad in undergarments or in a costume that reveals the pubic hair, anus, vulva, genitals, or female breast nipples, or in the condition of being fettered, bound, or otherwise physically restrained, on the part of one so clothed; (c) Actual, simulated, or animated touching, caressing, or fondling of, or other similar physical contact with a pubic area, anus, female breast nipple, covered or exposed, whether alone or between humans, animals, or a human and an animal, of the same or opposite sex, in an act of apparent sexual stimulation or gratification; (d) Actual, simulated, or animated stimulation of a human genital organ by any device whether or not the device is designed, manufactured, or marketed for such purpose; or (e) Actual, simulated, or animated ultimate sexual acts, whether between human beings, animals, or an animal and a human being.
Note at the top it says "to view or check out." This means that no one under 18 may view anything in the library with ANY sexual content (review the "definition") addendum above. Some may say, that's a good thing! but let's walk through that logically. I don't know if any of us really have stopped to think about how many books in the library have written depictions of sex in them. It literally numbers in the thousands. We're talking about popular fiction novels (like those of Stephen King, John Grisham, etc), soooo many genre novels such as romance, horror, science fiction and fantasy, and many, many classic works of fiction.
This means high school students cannot look at books they may need for summer reading (much less check them out), or books they may need for school projects.
We're talking about non-fiction books too, books about sexual health, as well as biology and zoology books (read it! sex between animals counts!)
So on the face of it, we're talking about restricting literally thousands of titles. And if we're not, if we're only talking about books that depict LGBT sex or sex some people consider "deviant," or sex where (lord forbid) the participants are ENJOYING themselves, who gets to decide that?? The library board? Are THEY going to go book by book through the collection? Will they require the librarians to do so? Will the library be subject to the whims of any parent who presents a book at the circulation desk they find offensive? Are we really prepared to say THOSE are our community values?
And here's the corollary to a policy like this - who's going to enforce it? Who's going to go through each and every book in the library's collection to determine whether or not it has ANY reference to sex that fits the definitions above? Even worse, if teens are prohibited from "viewing" any of these materials, who is going to patrol the stacks, watching to see if anyone under the age of 18 is looking at a horse breeding book? Will they be checking ID for fans of the romance genre?
It would be funny if it weren't tragic. This board is attempting an absolutely horrific, and certainly unlawful, encroachment upon the rights of young people to read, and upon the rights of families to decide what is appropriate for them.
And it won't stand up to a lawsuit in court.
Agenda Item IX.A.2. New Business - Library Card Policy
Children's cards, currently considered birth to 8th grade, will be changed to "persons under 18 years of age, in accordance with Louisiana State Law," and adult cards will now be "defined as those 18 years of age an older, in accordance with Louisiana State Law." This change was necessary, presumably, in order to implement the total ban on the viewing of any sexual material whatsoever by anyone under 18. It's unnecessary, obviously, because the entire proposed new system is awful and wrong. Enough said.
Agenda Item IX.C New Business - Discards Policy
Board member Stephanie Armbruster has been strangely obsessed with the discard process almost from the moment she book her board seat back in 2020. Every month, when the Director announces discards during his report, she questions him about the need for discards, where they go, how they're chosen for weeding, etc. The process has been explained to her repeatedly, ad nauseum. There's always been a vague sense that she's suspicious of the library "getting rid" of books "unnecessarily," as if it's some kind of waste or conspiracy. So now she wants the policy changed to discard a MAXIMUM of 1700 books (which she's worked out is the average purchased in a year) must get PRIOR APPROVAL from the board.
She's got absolutely no idea how libraries work, but she's gonna clamp down on that waste, y'all.
February's Censorship News
Chaos at Lafayette Library Board could violate open meetings law (Louisiana Illuminator)
Editorial: Library board, mired in mayhem, keeps kids safe from cartoon images (Advocate)
Lafayette library changes may keep classic novels out of teens' hands (Advocate)
Lafayette Public Library new sexual content policy for minors (KLFY)
Parents of Lafayette library's minor patrons may block access to sexually explicit material (Advocate)
Lafayette library board to consider restricting teen access to sexually explicit books (Advocate)
Lafayette librarian who survived attempted firing appeals 7-day suspension (Advocate)
Attorney general, legislators call for restricting minors’ access to library materials (LA Illuminator)
Jeff Landry wants controls on kids' library cards; free speech group calls it 'political stunt' (Advocate)