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Last year, I wrote about the conservative group CatholicVote organizing what they called “Hide the Pride,” which encourages people to check out all children’s and teen LGBTQ books in the library, especially on Pride displays, in order to make sure no one else can access them. They’ve now announced the second annual “Hide the Pride” campaign. CatholicVote Communications Director Joshua Mercer explained,
“The public backlash against Bud Light and Target has reminded Christians that they don’t have to sit down and surrender to the radical rainbow cult. Let’s keep up this momentum and prevent kids from being exposed to smut from their local public library by checking out these nasty books and getting them off of displays.”
While the official campaign involves checking out specifically children’s and teen books and leaving a letter with signatures, that isn’t the only form “Hide the Pride” attempts take. Many libraries (and bookstores!) report books being taken off displays and hidden without being checked out, and adult LGBTQ books, especially those on display, are often also targeted.
Libraries across the U.S. need to be ready for this. Even if your area is mostly queer-friendly, it just takes one person to clear the entire Pride display. So what can libraries and supportive library patrons do to fight these threats to patrons’ freedom to read?
How Library Patrons Can Fight “Hide the Pride”
This post on what to do if you see a Pride display in your library offers some tips: let your local library know you are glad to see a Pride display. Talk to them in person, call, email, or write. Those comments can be used as evidence of support from the community if they have to defend Pride displays to the library board.
Also, don’t be afraid to check those books out! That’s what they’re there for! Books being checked out shows that the display is worthwhile. There’s a difference between checking out books you’re interested in versus checking every book out solely to prevent others from being able to have access to them.
The biggest thing you can do to support your library is show up to library board meetings and speak out in support of Pride displays and carrying LGBTQ books. The people opposing these books are not in the majority, but they are loud. We need to show up to show they don’t speak for us. Not sure what to say? Here’s a template you can use.
How Libraries Can Fight “Hide the Pride”
The first thing libraries need to do is make a plan for their Pride displays with “Hide the Pride” in mind. If you’re putting up a Pride display — and I hope you are, to show support for this part of your community — you need to be prepared for opposition. And even if you aren’t, “Hide the Pride” encourages people to check out and hide LGBTQ children’s books even if they aren’t on display: “You don’t have to wait for the Pride display or the drag show… the books are already there.”
Of course, most libraries will have enough LGBTQ books to replace the ones checked out from the display, even if they’re all checked out at once. (And if not, maybe you should start there.) That may not be sustainable, though, if it’s done several times over, and it’s made more difficult if patrons are also taking books from the general collection.
Consider incorporating more permanent aspects of your display. Put up posters or signs with the LGBTQ audiobooks and ebooks available in your collection, with QR codes to check them out. You can also place books in front of a sign with the cover of that book, including a QR code to place a hold on it. That way, it’s still on display even when checked out.
You can also include pamphlets with a list of some of the LGBTQ books available in the collection. You may want to consider only putting out a few at a time, so no one can take the whole batch at once.
Another option is to have some interactive part of the display, like a children’s display that asks, “What are you proud of?” with sticky notes to add their own to a rainbow. These can show that the displays are being used and appreciated.
These are just a few ideas: your strategy will depend on your collection and community. For even more, check out Kelly Jensen’s post on How to Prepare Library Pride Displays with censorship attempts in mind.
Queer and trans people across the U.S. — and the world — are facing increased discrimination in recent years, including life-threatening legislation. For LGBTQ youth, having just one supportive adult in their life makes them 40% less likely to attempt suicide.
I know it’s difficult to face hostile patrons, but your support matters. Having access to queer books can be life-changing, even life-saving for queer kids and adults. Libraries don’t just serve white, straight, cis, allo, conservative patrons. They serve the whole community, and everyone deserves to feel safe and welcome. I am grateful for the library workers who stand up to bigotry in order to represent their entire community.