GREENVILLE — The Greenville County Library System Board has voted to temporarily rebrand all book clubs in its internal events guide as “book club,” removing any themed branding such as “romance” or ” LGBTQIA+”.
The temporary change — adopted by a 9-2 vote on Oct. 24 — will remain in effect while the board’s operations committee meets to formulate a new policy to govern the system’s uncodified neutrality stance, as well as how and if library-sponsored events contain controversial material. issues need to be promoted. The policy could also look at what is deemed controversial.
At the end of the October meeting, during the New Business portion of the agenda, Board Chairman Allan Hill distributed copies of the September/October issue of the Library Events Guide to each council members. On page 3 of the pamphlet, he drew 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,” reads the club’s description. It is a library-sponsored club run by a county employee.
The four-session book club held its first meeting on September 21 and its second on October 19. Morgan Rogers’ “Honey Girl” and Aidan Thomas’ “Cemetery Boys” were discussed respectively. The book club will hold two more meetings on November 16 and December 14 where Dennis E. Staples’ “This Town Sleeps” and Alison Cochrun’s “Kiss Her Once for Me” will be discussed respectively. Each of the books is currently in the library’s collection.
Hill said he received objections to the ad, saying it appeared the library was promoting the “Rainbow Book Club” and its discussed LGBTQ+ materials.
“It seemed like the library was choosing to promote that etiquette and that lifestyle and the agenda that goes with it,” Hill said.
“As we said last time, what the library intends to be is a place that promotes no 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.”
This statement was disputed by board member Brian Aufmuth, who questioned what policy the brochure violated.
“The way the library has operated in the past has been that it doesn’t take a position on controversial issues,” Hill replied. “We didn’t need to have a written policy on this stuff because that’s how it’s usually been dealt with.”
Hill read a materials policy which stated that “the library will not promote or 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, General Manager Beverly James asked the board for guidance on how to edit the “Rainbow Book Club” advertisement for the November/December events guide to be printed soon. .
Board member Elizabeth Collins proposed that all book clubs be titled “book club” with the addition of the recommended age range and a list of specific titles to be discussed. She added that the change would be temporary until a policy can be suggested by the operations committee. The motion passed with two members in opposition.
The library will still house and sponsor the book club which was formerly called “Rainbow Book Club”.
The Operations Committee was tasked with developing a draft policy to present to the full Board. Library committee meetings do not take place on scheduled days, so the best way to find out when the committee will meet is to monitor the library board website for a postingwhich 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 during full board meetings and not during committee meetings or special convened meetings.
This council meeting comes five months after a debate began on library system materials, particularly those with LGBTQ content. The inciting incident happened in late June when a library official instructed staff to remove Pride month displays at its 12 branches. Postings were quickly restored after the pushback.
Follow Stephanie Mirah on Twitter @stephaniemirah