Whenever discussion arises anywhere about removing or otherwise limiting access to books in public libraries, we get uncomfortable.
We broach this subject today in the wake of a Feb. 19 meeting of the Orange City (Iowa) Public Library Board of Trustees at which residents spoke for and against a petition circulated within the community calling for the library to separate materials with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning - or LGBTQ - themes. Petitioners also want to halt acquisition of new such materials without public input. No action was taken by the board at the meeting.
We give credit to Orange City residents who circulated and signed the petition for stopping short of demanding a ban on LGBTQ materials from the public library. However, we question even the idea of somehow separating materials with LGBTQ themes from the rest of the library's collection. Exactly what purpose would be served and what message would be sent by implementing what sounds like a quarantine of these materials other than to limit access to them and perhaps create ostracization of patrons who peruse them?
In our view, the library board's best course of action is to treat LGBTQ materials no differently than the rest of the materials on its library shelves.
Occasional exceptions exist (for example, most everyone agrees some books aren't suitable for children in elementary school libraries), but by and large efforts to diminish expression and deny or restrict consumption of information do not serve the greater public good.
It isn't right for one individual or group of individuals to force an opinion about, say, the content of a book in a public library on everyone else. That runs contrary to at least the spirit of our First Amendment. We also believe exposure to different life experiences, points of view and aspects of society form more well-rounded citizens by building knowledge and strengthening understanding.