The response from the community was overwhelming, with people donating new copies of the stolen books and contributing over $15,000 to the library system.
In the United States, anti-LGBTQIAP+ sentiments have been a persistent social issue, reflecting discriminatory attitudes and prejudices against the community. In a related incident, a right-wing plot to remove LGBTQ+ titles from a San Diego library resulted in a spectacular backfire. The community united in replacing the books, raising funds for new titles, and establishing an inclusivity program. The library manager, Adrianne Peterson, noticed the missing books and two locals threatened to hold them hostage until they banned certain content.
The incident began when the library manager at the Rancho Peñasquitos branch discovered a significant absence of LGBTQ+ books. Adrianne Peterson received an email from two locals who had checked out the books and threatened to hold them, hostage, until the library agreed to ban what they deemed "inappropriate content."
Peterson reached out to the San Diego Union-Tribune to share the story, aiming to raise awareness and prompt action against the plot. Other library leadership members also joined in, speaking out against homophobic individuals who had targeted Pride displays through complaints and blacking out words and images in books with markers. The goal was to shed light on these actions and prevent similar incidents in other libraries.
Head Librarian Misty Jones said, "Displays such as the one at Rancho Peñasquitos send a powerful message that LGBTQ+ patrons and their allies are respected members of our community. They also serve to encourage conversations and dispel misconceptions and stereotypes that often surround the LGBTQ+ community."
After the story became public, the response was astounding. People generously donated new copies of the stolen books, and approximately 180 neighbors and supporters contributed over $15,000 to the San Diego library system. In a fantastic turn of events, the city matched the donations, resulting in more than $30,000 available for expanding the LGBTQ+ collection, enhancing programming, and further developing the beloved drag queen story hour program.
The overwhelming support has empowered the library to strengthen its commitment to inclusivity and diversity. The scheme to censor LGBTQ+ library content seems to have roots in a far-right group called CatholicVote, which operates independently from the Catholic church but engages in homophobic and transphobic activities. On the CatholicVote website they promote a "Hide the Pride" campaign, encouraging actions similar to what occurred in San Diego.
The email sent to the library manager closely resembled a template readily accessible on CatholicVote's website, indicating their involvement in the plot. The text reads, "To protect our children and the community, we have checked out the books in the pride display. We plan to keep these books checked out until the library agrees to remove the inappropriate content from the shelves."
After two residents checked out every book in the library's Pride Month display to keep others from accessing them, boxes began to arrive containing new copies of the books, and the library received more than $15K in donations.— American Library Association (@ALALibrary) July 24, 2023
Despite the initial unpleasantness of witnessing individuals attempting to hold books, hostage, due to bigotry, the heartwarming turn of events has touched the hearts of countless people who enjoyed the story. The outcome reinforces the overwhelming evidence that the majority of Americans oppose book bans and support the LGBTQ+ community's freedom of expression and right to exist.