The Ban on Library Displays
FULL PRESS COVERAGE (WITH LINKS) OF THE DISPLAY BAN CONTROVERSY CAN BE FOUND AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE
On May 27, I spoke with library Director Danny Gillane about a new policy he had recently announced to his employees. This policy was in regards to the book displays commonly found throughout public libraries around the world. Last year, in 2021, Danny had gotten complaints from a few Board of Control members over a photo I took of a Pride display in one of the branches:
I thought the display was in good taste, and was a fantastic way to celebrate Pride Month. I loved the mix of fiction and non-fiction titles, carefully curated by the librarians to both entertain and educate. The Board members, however, evidently disagreed, and called Danny demanding the displays be taken down. To his credit, he let the display stand.
This year, however, in order to avoid what he called "controversial" topics, Director Gillane decided to preemptively ban displays such as this one, along with other "political" topics like Black History month, Women's History Month, Cajun & Creole History, Indigenous History, Asian American/Pacific Islander History, etc. Any and all marginalized groups which were highlighted on library displays before will no longer be celebrated in our libraries. Instead, their books will be kept on the shelves, relegated to dusty obscurity until such time as they are uncovered by a patron specifically seeking them out. There will be no more happy surprise of discovering an important author or topic you didn't know about until you saw it on a library display; no more patrons will have their horizons broadened by their exposure to new ideas simply from walking through the front doors and wandering by one of these lovingly built structures.
It's not only outrageous and infuriating; it's a tragedy of the highest order.
News outlets around the world have agreed with us; as of this writing the story has been picked up by The Washington Post, Newsweek, & ABC News. Authors Neil Gaiman & Margaret Atwood have shared our story & our frustration.
On June 10, LA State Senator Gerald Boudreaux, District 24, issued the following statement:
This was quickly followed by statements condemning the ban from Women of Wisdom, The League of Women Voters, Move the Mindset, the NAACP, and nearly a dozen other individuals and organizations.
Prior to the June 22 regular monthly Board of Control meeting, board member James Thomas requested that the issue of the display bans be added to the agenda. As a sitting board member, the board bylaws absolutely gave him the right to do so.
Even so, board President Robert Judge categorically denied Mr. Thomas' request, leaving the matter to be discussed only at the end of the meeting, during the "Any other item, not on the agenda," portion, after most everyone in attendance at the 2+ hour meeting had left, needing, of course, to go home and take care of themselves and their families. As always, we spoke up, and we spoke out, though our efforts came to naught. The display ban was not rescinded.
By the end of the month, we had calls, letters, hundreds of signatures on a petition and, yet again, loads of statewide and national negative publicity for our town. None of that mattered, as the ban has remained in place. There were bright spots, however, as we learned of librarians and patrons pointing out the hypocrisy and ridiculous nature of the ban. Our intrepid manager/librarian at the North Regional Library in Carencro, for example, following the guidelines set forth in the new policy, closed out the month with a display she designed on the Teen Romance Genre.
Now, I can only ask you, are librarians absolute rock stars, or what?
LCAC's Official Statements:
Leaders & Civic Organizations'
Statements on Library Displays:
State Senator Gerald Boudreaux
NAACP - Lafayette Branch
Parish Councilman Kevin Naquin
Lafayette Parish Democratic Party Executive Committee
League of Women Voters of Lafayette
The Advocate Editorial
Women of Wisdom
Move the Mindset
Democratic Socialists of America - SWLA
News Coverage Regarding the Displays Ban:
Pride, Black History Month book displays among those no longer allowed at Lafayette public libraries
Pride Month, Women's History Book Displays Removed From Library System
Lafayette Citizens Against Censorship petitioning against the Lafayette Public Library
Cancel culture? Advocates argue that Lafayette library avoiding Pride, Cajun displays is
Our Views: Lafayette's politically besieged library turns its back on its values
Lafayette library board not responsible for bad publicity, councilman says; he blames residents
Lafayette NAACP protests library’s display ban on certain books