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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) —  The Metropolitan Library Commission heard from an unusually large number of public commenters at their regular meeting Thursday afternoon at the Ronald J. Norick Downtown Library.

Members of the public voiced opinions for and against the Metropolitan Library System’s Pride programming during the month of June.

June is recognized across the United States and around the world as Pride month. Pride celebrates the rich history and cultural legacy of the LGBTQ2S+ community. The Metro Library System had programming for youth and adults relating to Pride throughout the month.

While the overwhelming majority of library patrons showed support for the programming, a vocal minority have criticized the library system, calling the programming “propaganda” and claiming some materials were “sexually explicit.”

Activism

In anticipation of the Commission meeting, local activists rallied support from the community, asking residents and library patrons to call or email Commissioners and Library leadership to voice their support for the Pride programming provided during June. 

The OKC Pride Alliance, the volunteer-run nonprofit organization that brought this year’s Pride Festivities to Scissortail Park in downtown Oklahoma City, posted an open letter of support for the library on their Instagram account that had over 900 likes at the time of the Commission meeting. The Alliance encouraged followers to email the Library System to voice their support.

Public comments

At Thursday’s meeting, ten residents signed up to address the Commission’s 14 members who were present.

The first speaker was Sara Cunningham, a mother of two sons, one of whom is gay. Cunningham talked about the power of sharing some stories with her sons and praised the Library for their service.

“We have seen the power of fear and ignorance. And we have seen the power of love and education,” Cunningham said.

The next resident, a stay-at-home mom and former educator from Bethany claimed that her daughter was exposed to a pop-up while using the library’s website. The pop-up advertised Pride-related activities and books for all ages. The mother declared that the Library System has given itself over to a “sexually explicit” agenda. She declared that the Library has lost her support and — she hopes and prays — her money.

Another resident shared a story about her sister, who passed away from complications due to AIDS. She closed her powerful comments by saying that no party can be the arbiter of what makes a community.

Avid library patron Cacky Poarch explained that her family has been library cardholders for decades. She cited several cultural programs she has experienced through the Metro Library System, saying that these events were opportunities to broaden her perspective. Dynamic programming like the offerings during Pride Month, she said, demonstrates good stewardship of her tax money.

Other residents spoke of the Library system providing a safe space for their families, including family members who are part of the LGBTQ2S+ community.

An Edmond man who said he has a gay son encouraged people who reject their neighbors as part of the community to avail themselves of the programming at the library so their eyes may be opened.

Hannah Royce, Director of OKC Pride Alliance, spoke up to thank the Library System for their support and allyship during the month of June, and especially during the Pride Festival downtown. She added that diminishing the Queer Community to simple sexual preference is an erasure and an insult.

Executive Director response

Larry White, Executive Director of the Metro Library System, addressed the Commissioners after public comment was made. He reported on Library affairs for the month of June. He said that the Library has received many calls and emails about Pride Month programming. 

Approximately 40 residents contacted the Library to share concerns about Pride-themed programming, whereas over 130 messages of support had been received by the time of the meeting.

White said that the purpose of the Library is not advocacy, but to provide information. 

When the Library provides voter information, they don’t encourage membership in any political party. The Library provides information for many celebrations and observances. 

He cited Black History Month, Asian American History Month, and Veterans Day as examples of events commemorated by the Library, all of which reflect parts of our community.

After the Executive Director’s report, the Commission quietly and swiftly handled regular business and then adjourned.

Next month’s Library Commission meeting will be held at the Edmond Public Library on August 26.

Last Updated July 16, 2021, 3:43 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor