26 March 2022
On Friday, March 25, 2022, I received a letter from Landon Boudreaux, Vice President of the Lafayette Public Library Board of Control and Chairman of the Northeast Library Exploratory Committee, of which I was a member. The NE Exploratory Committee is a subcommittee called by former board President Doug Palombo last November, and its purpose is to work to bring a new library to our parish's currently under served Northside, a predominantly and historically POC community. Working on this committee has been an honor and a privilege for me, as making this library a reality has been a focus of my activism almost since the beginning.
The subject of this email was "Removal From NE Steering Committee." In it, Landon praised my "speaking up" for what I believe in, and emphasizing that he would never want to limit my freedom of speech, despite the fact that I was being ejected from the committee for that very thing.
Mr. Boudreaux went on to say that he'd recently read my article in The Current, a local news outlet, which had called out Board members (the board president, specifically, who was also on the subcommittee with us). He accused me of "disparaging" and "mischaracterizing sitting board members." This is patently untrue.
He then issued a vague threat to anyone else who might be considering speaking out, saying "you are not the only member I am reviewing." Those definitely sound like the words of someone who values free speech, don't they?
The problem here is the same as it has always been with this Board of Control. For over a year now they've tried their damndest to take our award-winning library and dismantle it, burn it to the ground. A dedicated and determined group of citizens continues to stand in their way.
First they ignore you
Then they laugh at you
Then they fight you
Then you win.
We will not give up.
Read the Current article HERE.
21 March 2022
See the meeting Agenda HERE.
Listen to the audio of the meeting HERE.
At the March Meeting of the Lafayette Public Library Board of Control, numerous citizens participated in our silent protest, carrying their favorite books with signs that read "Restore Section X." Others brought larger signs protesting book bans. More protested the attempted removal and silencing of LGBTQ books and voices outside of the library. Once again, our community turned out in force to send the message that censorship is neither welcome nor tolerated in Acadiana. Thank you all so much!
Although there was nothing specific about censorship on the official agenda, several people spoke on censorship, and the restoration of Section X, during the "Any Other Topic" portion at the end of the meeting. Calling for a return to the system of two librarians and one board member, the public made it clear that the changes made by the board last month are NOT ACCEPTABLE, and need to be changed back.
Before adjourning the meeting, Board President Robert Judge made a statement in response to these comments, complaining that there was a lot of "misinformation" in the press, "ostensibly to sell newspapers, I suppose." He went on to completely fabricate a newspaper headline, claiming it read, "Lafayette Parish Public Library Votes to Ban Books." This is, of course, a blatant lie. There was no headline with those words, newspaper or otherwise, after last month's meeting.
Next month, we'll have the appeal for the Reconsideration Request for the DVD Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood, as well as our continuing protests to convince the board to reconsider their decision to change Section X. More info on that effort soon.
Read local news coverage of the meeting HERE.
20 March 2022
To see the PRR images, click HERE.
Per correspondence, obtained through a PRR, between Danny Gillane and a citizen (Kathy LaFleur) who challenged the DVD called Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood, this citizen requested that the Library Board of Control view “the section on the orgy” in the challenged movie/DVD at their upcoming April meeting. This is an absurd and unreasonable request for several reasons.
One, it sets a dangerous precedent. If every Lafayette Parish citizen challenged an item in the library and insisted that, during a BoC meeting, the Board and meeting attendees view or read what said citizen found offensive about their particular item, meetings would be exhaustingly long. If Kathy LaFleur, Michael Lunsford or anyone else believes that the Board "must" see or read something relevant to a challenged item, the complainant may follow Board policy and provide the material to the Library Director for dissemination to the Board well in advance of the meeting, in order to give the members time to review the materials ahead of time. As reconsideration appeals are a regular agenda item, the three-minute time limit should apply to the complainant just as it would to any other citizen speaking at the meeting.
Two, the BoC should adhere to their original purpose as stated in La. R.S. 25:215 and prioritize agenda items which help promote a sustainable future for the Library, not allow side shows of material challenges initiated by political operatives to overtake meetings in both longevity and dramatics. Clearly, given the current financial status of the Library, securing adequate funding should be the priority of the BoC, yet when has this topic last appeared on any meeting agenda or been granted adequate discussion? Why have Board Members such as Stephanie Armbruster been so concerned to take up the cause of individuals like Ms. LaFleur and Mr. Lunsford, who are not even Lafayette Parish residents, worrying if the BoC is satisfying their complaints, instead of being out in the community, meeting with stakeholders and elected officials to develop a plan to restore Library funding back to what it was prior to the April 2018 election when Lunsford launched his first attack against the Library?
Three, in the same correspondence, Board Member Landon Boudreaux (who states he is not for or against the idea of the movie section being viewed at the meeting) requests that no children be present for the viewing. Lunsford has employed a similar tactic, rhetorically wondering why people against censorship were so offended when he read a passage from a challenged book. This is a moot point that shouldn’t even be entertained. The issue is not whether something is personally pleasing or acceptable to an individual, or even whether something is appropriate to a specified age group; rather, it is whether something should be removed simply because it is offensive to an individual or inappropriate to some from an age perspective, and the answer to that is a resounding “no.” If everyone challenged everything in a public library that they found offensive, how much of the collection would remain? This is the inherent danger of censorship and why ALA stands firmly against it. As stated in LPL’s Collection Development Policy, the Library adheres to ALA principles.
Judge, Armbruster and others have tried to steer this conversation to issues of “parental rights,” “individual rights” and even child safety, seemingly copying national-level groups who are launching challenges in public libraries and schools at an alarming rate in the country. However, the fallacy of this argument is not hard to see. As a familiar quote, attributed to several historical figures, reads: Your Liberty To Swing Your Fist Ends Just Where My Nose Begins. In other words, one person’s rights end where another’s begins. By removing materials deemed offensive by one parent’s or individual’s standards, they are removing the rights of all other individuals to access said materials if they choose. Much like anything else, it is the decision of the individual parent what their child should access, not the purview of the BoC or other individual citizens. This position is affirmed in the Library’s Collection Development Policy and clearly stated in its Patron Behavior policy that the Library does not act in loco parentis.
We request that all Board Members stand firm against this attempted hijacking by individuals to turn meetings of Library Business into courtroom dramas or media circuses. The most efficient way to do so is to immediately dismiss outlandish requests such as the one proposed by Ms. LaFleur.
16 March 2022
After the February 21st board meeting, local journalists began to look more closely at the Collection Development Policy. Legal experts weighed in and determined that the system of closed committee meetings for reconsideration of materials was likely a violation of Louisiana state Open Meetings laws. Board President Robert Judge consulted with the attorney for Lafayette City-Parish Government, Michael Hebert, and Hebert concurred. Therefore, we are hopeful that all future meetings will be open to the public, though, as of now, the language of the Collection Development Policy has not been changed to reflect that.
Nonetheless this is a very welcome victory, as it ensures we can now attend these meetings and make our voices and opinions heard. We will be able to document the attempts to ban books and other materials from the Lafayette Public Library system in a way that we have not been allowed before. It's not much, but it's something. They may have changed the rules, but they will not carry out these deeds in secret.
On March 9th, a Reconsideration Committee was called to discuss the DVD Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood. Since the paperwork was filed before the February 21st policy change, the committee makeup reflected the old system, with two librarians and one board member. At that meeting, 15 members of the public spoke against censorship, and against removing the DVD from the collection. Only two spoke in support of its removal, and one of those was the patron who had originally filed the request. When a call was made for a motion to remove the DVD from the collection, no motion was made from anyone on the committee, and so the DVD stayed. In an interview after the meeting, however, the patron indicated that she would file an appeal, which could go before the full Board of Control for a vote as soon as the March 21st regular monthly meeting.
Coverage of the Reconsideration Committee meeting can be found here, here, here, and here.