Gay Librarian Reads Banned Books with Bullhorn


Kathleen writes "Hillsborough County (Tampa, FL) commissioners without discussion quashed an effort to revisit Gay Pride displays in area libraries. And they did so out of agenda order, while scores who showed up to speak on the issue were temporarily distracted by a gay rights rally outside.
Commissioner Kathy Castor, the only member to vote against the ban, opened the door for the board to ditch the policy. She said the board violated state statutes with the ban. That's because it prompted the director of the county library system to strip displays of gay-authored books, even though it didn't specifically target libraries, Castor said.

She quoted Florida statutes, approved in 1984, that created a volunteer library advisory board and gave it sole authority to select books and make its own policies.

Outside, Bart Birdsall, a Greco Middle School librarian who is gay, used a bullhorn to read from books on a gay pride display that was taken down at the West Gate Library. As Birdsall read, about a dozen people carrying rainbow flags and antiban signs marched in a circle around him.

Equality Florida has a website with details of future actions."


We all exist, yes, and we all have to live among one another peacefully so I'm not naive to the consideration that saying nothing is oftentimes easier for many people: less draining, less polarizing, and less political. Negative rhetoric, divisive policy, myths, and the blame-and-shame game diminish, de-humanize, deny, and distance people to cause harm (many of us experience related depression and my partner has self-inflicted burns on his arms from his youth). This is what discrimination does; racism, as an example, is much more than an unpopular view because it harms people. I wonder if the same arguments were ever used against Black History Month--that having it would lead to evangelicals or White Supremacists having to have their say as well--maybe even a White History Month. I'm not saying anti-Black and anti-gay are the same things, but we do share discrimination and can learn from one another's experiences.

As for pro-life advocates and John Birch society followers, they aren't systematically condemned as people. They are not asking to be recognized, they are asking for policies to restrict citizen actions. They say that without these actions people are harmed absolutely, but these are views that are debated and not people.

This is why I could understand if the library display was "Support gay marriage," or "Repeal the Florida gay adoption ban"--these are political views about citizen freedoms/limitations and try to influence people to take a stance. This is wholly different from a "June is Gay Pride Month" display, with gay/lesbian books below.

If pro-lifers and John Birch followers want to have their “June is Pro-life Believers Month� or “June is John Birch Followers Month,� then following that logic they can sign up to be added to what our local libraries also recognize, along with the anti of everything on this list (in parentheses). This is a slippery-slope argument that can go on and on and on, basically saying that if you open the door, everything becomes chaos and there’ll be no structure and we should just give up. I don’t buy this because what’s come before hasn’t had that effect.

  • (Anti-) Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month
  • (Anti-) America’s Walk for Diabetes Day
  • (Anti-) American Rivers Month
  • (Anti-) Black History Month
  • (Anti-) Burn Awareness Week
  • (Anti-) Child Abuse Prevention Month
  • (Anti-) Civic Participation Week
  • (Anti-) Civil Air Patrol Week
  • (Anti-) Civility Month
  • (Anti-) Clean Air Month
  • (Anti-) Code Enforcement Officers Appreciation Week
  • (Anti-) Community and Regional Planning Day
  • (Anti-) Commuter Choices Week
  • (Anti-) Correctional Officers Week
  • (Anti-) Cover the Uninsured Week
  • (Anti-) Disability Mentoring Day
  • (Anti-) Emergency Medical Services Week
  • (Anti-) Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) Awareness Week
  • (Anti-) Energy Awareness Month
  • (Anti-) Epilepsy Awareness Month
  • (Anti-) Fair Housing Month
  • (Anti-) Family Day
  • (Anti-) Farm City Week
  • (Anti-) Fire Prevention Week
  • (Anti-) Firearm Safety Day
  • (Anti-) Firefighter Appreciation Week
  • (Anti-) Florida Prostate Cancer Network Month
  • (Anti-) Hispanic Heritage Month
  • (Anti-) Good Customer Service Week
  • (Anti-) Law Week
  • (Anti-) Library Appreciation Month
  • (Anti-) Library Card Sign-up Month
  • (Anti-) Literacy Day
  • (Anti-) Literacy Month
  • (Anti-) Manatee Appreciation Month
  • (Anti-) Mediation Week
  • (Anti-) Millennium Peace Day
  • (Anti-) National American Diabetes Month
  • (Anti-) National Ballroom Dance Week
  • (Anti-) National Dog Bite Prevention Week
  • (Anti-) National County Government Week
  • (Anti-) National Correctional Officers Week
  • (Anti-) National Correctional Officers Memorial Day
  • (Anti-) National 4-H Week
  • (Anti-) National Hispanic Heritage Month
  • (Anti-) National Library Week
  • (Anti-) National Parks and Recreation Month
  • (Anti-) National Police Appreciation Week
  • (Anti-) National Public Works Week
  • (Anti-) National Records and Information Management Week
  • (Anti-) National Safe Boating Week
  • (Anti-) National Safe Place Week
  • (Anti-) National Victim Rights Week
  • (Anti-) National Volunteer Week
  • (Anti-) Older Americans Month
  • (Anti-) One Community, One Book: Tampa-Hillsborough Reads Month
  • (Anti-) Parks and Recreation Month
  • (Anti-) Patriot's Day
  • (Anti-) Purchasing Month
  • (Anti-) Resort Casual Week
  • (Anti-) Selective Service Registration Awareness Month
  • (Anti-) Serve Our Schools Month
  • (Anti-) Sexual Assault Awareness Month
  • (Anti-) Shaken Baby Syndrome Awareness Week
  • (Anti-) Southern Heritage Month and Confederate Memorial Day
  • (Anti-) Spay and Neuter Day
  • (Anti-) Storytelling Week
  • (Anti-) Strategic Information Management Month
  • (Anti-) Teen Read Week
  • (Anti-) Tourism Week
  • (Anti-) Victims’ Rights Week
  • (Anti-) Water Conservation Month
  • (Anti-) White Cane Safety Month
  • Turn back the clock and apply that statement to every group that's had to fight for their equality, and nothing could be more true.

    pedantic piffle on steroids

    I'll take that as an admission that my statement is irrefutable.

    I guess at the end of the day, it does boil down to who pays the piper, as the saying goes. Was interesting reading the other comments. I think they have said in various ways some of the things I would have said, only better, so I will just leave it there. Best.

    A few questions while not directly related to the subject matter of the post are related to the post itself.

    Should we be posting entire articles? Where does fair use end? Would it not be better to post a link?

    Should one person be posting under two names, would it not be more equitable to use simply one: e.g. not Robert and BobSmith?

    It seems the stupid policy prohibiting acknowledging, promoting or participating in gay pride has more people reading and using the library. Lets exclude children and shut-ins from pride next!

    Jul 22, 2005
    Librarians Hit The Books To Oppose County's Ban On Gay-Pride Display
    The Tampa Tribune

    TAMPA - Meagan Albright went to WestGate Library on Thursday night to read - and to protest.
    She silently paged through a book while sitting next to a sign that said, ``Let Librarians Display All Kinds of Books.''
    Albright was joined by about 20 others who protested equally quietly.
    Last month, a display of gay literature designed by Albright, a part-time librarian and graduate student in library science, prompted the Hillsborough County Commission to adopt a policy banning county-sponsored acknowledgment of gay pride.
    Also Thursday, in an e-mail to its 1,500 members, the Florida Library Association declared the county off-limits for its members' meetings, conferences and workshops until the commission rescinds its policy.
    It's a stepped-up response to the commission's policy, which prompted the director of the county library system to take down Albright's display, as well as two other library displays of gay-themed and gay- authored books. Earlier, the association voiced objections in a letter to the county commission and asked the board to reconsider its action.
    The boycott is a ``more powerful tool than just expressing concern,'' said Nancy Pike, president of the association and director of the Sarasota County library system.
    ``As small as our economic impact might be, it's what we have,'' Pike said.
    The association's board approved the resolution in an e-mail vote last week.
    The association immediately canceled a two-day meeting of its executive board, which was set for Aug. 25-26 at a library in New Tampa. The 30 to 35 attendees instead will report to Sarasota, where some will stay overnight at a local hotel there, Pike said.
    Librarians who belong to the association meet about once a month in Hillsborough County. The association holds its annual conference in a rotating cast of cities, but no conventions will be set for Tampa until the policy is rescinded, Pike said. The conference draws about 900 librarians and staffers for 3 1/2 days.
    County Commissioner Kathy Castor, the only board member to vote against the policy last month, said: ``That's what happens when you pass a discriminatory policy without giving much thought to it.''
    Commissioner Thomas Scott said he hadn't heard about the boycott. He said the responses he's heard are evenly split for and against the policy.
    At Thursday's protest, Martin Sicard, a Hillsborough school librarian, said he expects more groups to support the boycott.
    ``This is just the beginning,'' Sicard said. ``Economics is really the only way you're going to get anything to change.''
    Sicard organized the silent protest of librarians and educators at WestGate. They gathered to read the books that were taken down from Albright's display. Sicard said he got permission from the library staff to reserve the meeting room for the protest.
    One of the participants was Mel Pace, associate director of the school of library science at USF, who said the county's policy is a threat to the future of libraries.
    ``This is about the mission of the library system, which is a uniquely American system,'' Pace said.
    The county's policy, which bans county departments from ``acknowledging, promoting and participating'' in gay pride events, has drawn the ire of librarians nationwide, who say it jeopardizes their freedom to choose books they supply and promote.
    On Wednesday, the commission heard from about 20 residents who object to the policy. Without commenting, the commission declined to reconsider it.
    Reporter Mark Holan contributed to this story. Reporter Gretchen Parker can be reached at (813) 259-7562. Reporter Julie Pace can be reached at (813) 865-1505.

    This story can be found at:

    A belief that is a popular consensus of reality is categorized as such because it is not an accurate reflection of physical reality. The most egregious samples of such are terrocentrism, the vast left-wing conspiracy, and the Gay Agenda. Just because some stuffed shirt frames the demand for respect of human dignity as a political issue, that does not necessarily make it one.

    Well now, how is that for pedantic piffle on steroids?

    Definitely a keeper for posting to your fridge.

    I would hope there are. I would hope librarians would put up what they feel is relevent, timely and topical the county commission should not be dictating library policy.

    The library policy should be made by the librarians (or the library board in consultation with the library board). When Commissioner Rhonda Storms gets her MLS I'll listen to her opinions about collection development, until then she is just any other patron who can challenge an item if it offends her.

    The librarians are paid if they put up displays or why not let them do what they went to school for rather than worrying about semantics.

    "Gay Pride" is considered by a political issue by mainstream America.

    A belief that is a popular consensus of reality is categorized as such because it is not an accurate reflection of physical reality. The most egregious samples of such are terrocentrism, the vast left-wing conspiracy, and the Gay Agenda. Just because some stuffed shirt frames the demand for respect of human dignity as a political issue, that does not necessarily make it one.

    Pete I'm not questioning the contributions of homosexual men and women. "Gay Pride" is considered by a political issue by mainstream America. This is a reality. That said, you've convinced yourself otherwise.

    I wish you well.

    The purpose of categorization is so that people who are looking for something can find it. I think politics might be more appropriate, but censorship is a logical place for it to be put.

    My threshold isn't changing, your subject is.
    I described Gay Pride and our contributions as wholly different from white supremacists and other egregious groups, a library display "about" Gay Pride reflecting existence as opposed to your assertion of advocacy (a different subject), and citizen freedoms/limitations as defining political views as opposed to people. Your all-or-none/indistinguishable/universal logic is perceptually different from my "nuances," because you're equating different topics. I'm conscientiously aware of the difficulty of blanketed policy when it comes to exceptions and considerations, but Gay Pride in terms of policy is not "politically affiliated," nor does "June is Gay Pride Month" constitute advocacy.

    The list I gave is the exact list of what Hillsborough County does promote, and it includes Black History Month, National Hispanic Heritage Month, Older Americans Month, etc. Adding Gay Pride Month, and this is where we will apparently never cross the divide, is not anywhere near the political organizations you listed. In terms of the "perception of public advocacy," this is an open term since perceptions can be attached to any group just mentioned. The threshold of what advocacy is and who it is attached to, can again be seen in its definition "The act of pleading or arguing in favor of something, such as a cause, idea, or policy; active support."

    Advocacy: "Support Gay Marriage"
    Not Advocacy: "June is Gay Pride Month"

    Politically affiliated: "PETA believes that animals have rights and deserve to have their best interests taken into consideration, regardless of whether they are useful to humans. Like you, they are capable of suffering and have an interest in leading their own lives; therefore, they are not ours to use—for food, clothing, entertainment, experimentation, or any other reason."
    Not politically affiliated: gay people

    You don't think there aren't libraries that put up books reflecting the Irish Experience in both Ireland and America on Saint Patrick's Day? Wanna bet that there aren't books on the Black Experience during Black History Month. Or displays during Women's History Month?

    Pete you keep changing your threshold. Societal contributions to existence to now "citizen freedoms/limitations".

    These nuances may seem clear to you, but they are hardly universal and impossible to consistently distinguish much less enforce. As a pro-life advocate I happen to consider abortion the ultimate discrimination. You would disagree I presume, leaving the issue left in the hapless lap of a public library.

    But I'm not here to discuss "Gay Pride" in and of itself. The issue here is within the context of perceived public library advocacy. Again, it's imperative public libraries steer clear of supposed stumping with these issues.

    This is a slippery-slope argument that can go on and on and on, basically saying that if you open the door, everything becomes chaos and there’ll be no structure and we should just give up. I don’t buy this because what’s come before hasn’t had that effect.

    That's because many public libraries expressly prohibit such organizations from using the library for these reasons. Again, my example with the white supremacist group as a board member. (Our state public library statutes allow public libraries to create their own local policies with respect to issues such as this, provided they are consistent, e.g. any politically affiliated organization)Your long list is fine but conspicuously benign. No PETA, assisted suicide, World Trade Organization, genetically modified food, racial profiling, NORML, Planned Parenthood, Family Research Council, NOW, NAMBLA, ....

    Here we are a day later, all of us continuing to share the ignorant southerner stereotype. Some people are just fine with it, reveling in their affirmed idiocy. Discrimination divides and divides like scorched earth, and this policy continually affirms that. I’m still seeing the same framework (the Pillars of Discrimination) at play in today’s articles–diminishing, de-humanizing, denying, and distancing.

    White racists, pro-life advocates, John Birchers all "exist" too Pete. Many as upstanding citizens albeit some with unpopular views on social issues. Would you apply your criterion if we were discussing a local Catholic pro-life league about their societal contributions in saving the lives of children? "Existence" is a poor, and ultimately disastrous threshold for public libraries to use here.

    My point again. It is crucial that libraries not be perceived as a political mouthpiece for any particular group or cause. It's not in our tradition nor should it begin to be. Do not confuse this with collection development. Two different issues completely. My experience as a public library board member tells me that once the barn door is open you better be ready to accomodate those "evangelicals" and their pro-hetero display. Now you have a library taffy pull.

    The reality. Our society is much more politically charged today. Library funding is increasing tenuous as watchdog groups maintain vigilance over anything perceived as biased from public institutions. Consider the accerlation of home/private schooling. Libraries drawn into political frays assisting with advocacy will only> in the long run.


    "Know Nothings"; a political party from the mid-19th century or so whose policies were founded on the ideology of hatred and intolerance.

    I wasn't framing, I was stating my point of view
    having had public health advocacy experience for the homeless, immigrants, people with disabilities, people with AIDS, etc. Advocacy is "The act of pleading or arguing in favor of something, such as a cause, idea, or policy; active support."

    A library display "about" Gay Pride is about its existence "The fact or state of existing; being; The fact or state of continued being; life."

    I wasn't characterizing your point as homophobic or anti-gay, either--this is your interpretation. I absolutely resist seeing my group of people in a listing or in a discussion of advocacy for white supremecists or other egregious groups because there is already an intention to associate us with, for example, necrophiliacs, pedophiles, bestiality, etc. This is where I was coming from.

    Well since the county is not funding Catholic Pride, or Irish Pride or Heterosexual Pride I really don't have a problem of them not funding Poodle Owner Pride, or Gay Pride, or Fire Hydrant Painter Pride.

    They didn't say you can't be proud, they just said they won't pay for your party.

    Of course that has nothing to do with library book displays and the county commission has no control over those as the legislature set it up with the library board being in control when it created the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library many years ago.

    So the librarians can still put up a display of books by gay authors as there is no extra cost to the county if they do that or sit around looking off into space.

    Lets all get our knickers unknotted. The action the board took is largely symbolic pandering to their constituents so they will re-elect them. It serves no real purpose nor does it actually redirect or restrict the spending of county funds.

    Did you mean "wrong topic? as is this shouldn't be in the censorship topic?
    (Stories get a title, department, topic, section, introtext and bodytext)

    If that's what you meant, I did wrestle with that when I posted it. It was submitted under censorship, which I changed to politics, then people, then publics, and then back to censorship, which didn't feel 100% correct, for exactly the reasons you listed, but it was close enough for me at the time.

    It might be better under politics, or even people, but feels about right where it is.

    Don't twist my words Pete. And please don't frame your argument by trying to characterize my points as "homophobic" or "anti-gay" in some way. They are not and this only obfuscates the real issue here, that being advocacy of all stripes within public libraries.

    Existence does not equate to advocacy, and it is absoltely applied to censorship.

    Gay Pride is about contributions to society and our acceptance of who we are after years of denial. We are a group of people who contribute every day, and the association of us being a group "similar" to white supremacists or any other egregious group is deeply insulting.

    Yeah, I've had the "why is it such a big deal?" question as well. The big deal is how it all started and the context. Statements on the news, quotes from residents, articles, and all forms of media have shown that this really isn't just about a policy, but discrimination and how it negatively affects our lives directly and/or indirectly. The framing and re-framing is unbelievable, showing how different takes on it are reflective of the same supporting Pillars of Discrimination I kept noticing.

    This was a public library, an educational institution by its very definition and purpose, and having a display is not a promotion despite the framing of that word. The issue of taxpayer funds is another interesting one, since WE are taxpayers as well. If the Commission had actually held a forum to receive public input, they would have found that any materials or staff time would be supplanted completely by volunteers and donations. The policy has nothing to do with taxpayer funds, or it would have been stated as such. The policy states that the county will "abstain from acknowledging, promoting, and participating in Gay Pride recognition and events.� Central to Pride is how we contribute to society, and saying that it can't be recognized is a personal affront.

    I constantly envision what exactly took place when the library patrons originally complained about this. I see their eyes seeing the words Gay and Lesbian and immediately condemning the very presence of those words in the public sphere. I do not see these people flipping through the materials, checking out one of the books, or evaluating anything beyond seeing words across a lobby and thinking, "Not in my public!" This acknowledgement condemnation, reflected by the policy language in addition to the "save the children" rhetoric, is one source of why this is a big deal for me.

    As someone who works in public health (research, advocacy, nursing) and has seen how condemnation of groups of people, be they homeless, immigrants, with genetic or communicable diseases, with mental or physical disabilities, or any minority group quite literally suffer and even die (depression, poverty, suicide, etc.) from discrimination, the second part of why this is a big deal is because it infuriates me to see these unnecessary effects of people's consistent attachment to diminishing, de-humanizing, denying, and distancing from others.

    If they deny this particular group, they should be denying display access to everyone else (religious, cultural, social services, and so on).

    I don't necessarily disagree.

    As much as I would personally like to see my local public library used to advocate Pro Life issues, I wouldn't want them doing it. Unless funding is moved to state, federal, or better ALA level, public libraries serve at the pleasure of their local stakeholders. Being used to advocate (not to be confused with collection development)abortion, Gay Pride, gun control, capital punishment, white supremacy, organic farming, welfare reform, Pepsi not Coke, et al. are all sure losers come levy time. Never alienate a sizeable part of any funding constituency. A Gay Pride display will most certainly do this.

    FWIW I have practiced this message personally as a public library board member with a white supremacist group wanting to use our library for something very similar here to the Gay Pride folks in this story.

    I just love the idea of that person reading with a bullhorn, nice and defiant. On the responder asking why is this a big deal, for it is about advocacy, all I will say is the library is a public space, a community space. As such, it should give space to everyone or deny it to everyone. If they deny this particular group, they should be denying display access to everyone else (religious, cultural, social services, and so on). It is not a mere matter of advocacy; the library is providing a part of the community space and it is also providing information on a topic that is clearly important and significant. If this not part of what a public library should be doing, I am not sure what is.

    I am making a note of those Four Pillars, something sadly we see not only in the articles today, but in so many stories of challenges to libraries or their texts. Nice editorial by the way.

    Best to all.

    Help me here. Where are patrons being denied gay books? Examples of these books being withdrawn? Changes exempting gay materials from purchase?

    This issue is about using the library for advocacy, not censorship.

    Your Op-Ed, Don't stand for> on the Four Pillars of Discrimination lends strong rationalization to fight against the Hillsborough, Florida 'NO NOTHINGS' on the County Commission--especially Ronda>.