June 3, 2019
The following is a statement from the Ohio Library Council Board of Directors to address recent comments and questions surrounding LGBTQ events at public libraries.
A significant amount of misinformation has been distributed regarding recent LGBTQ events at public libraries in Ohio. Libraries are open to all and dedicated to serving the needs of everyone in the community, including Ohio’s children. The content of library programs and events are based on the needs of local communities and requests made by library users, which often reflect the diverse experiences of Ohioans. With such a wide spectrum of information and ideas available, it is not surprising that some programs may not align with everyone’s personal values or perspectives. However, under federal law, public libraries do not discriminate nor regulate the content of speech.
Two recent events in central Ohio were requested by individuals and groups within their local communities and in conjunction with Pride Month. The hour-long “Drag 101” program at the Delaware County District Library was to focus on the theatrical elements of drag, but was canceled due to hostile threats against the library from individuals outside of the community. After consulting local law enforcement, the program was canceled to ensure the safety of all patrons and staff. The “LGBTQ+ Galaxy of Diversity” program at the Licking County Library was scheduled after the library was closed to the public and was fully-funded by an outside organization (the Newark Pride Coalition) in preparation for the Newark Pride Festival the following day. This event was canceled following public distribution of inaccurate information about the content of the program.
As public institutions, Ohio’s libraries are guided by federal law and are content neutral when it comes to freedom of speech in their facilities. With more than 8.4 million cardholders and over 71 million library visits last year, Ohio’s libraries have the highest use per capita in the nation and a long track record of being good stewards of taxpayer dollars. Above all, Ohio’s public libraries are open to everyone and provide many essential programs and services, including:
- Summer reading programs and meals for children
- Access to computers and the internet
- Resume and job application assistance
- After-school homework help and early literacy programs
- Technology training and online educational courses
- and much more