ENID, Okla. (KFOR) – A new library board policy for Enid Public Library has booted a book club for romance readers in the area.
The club was nixed after the Enid library board voted on April 11th to ban displays or programs that feature content related to sexuality.
“The policy was definitely a shock to the program,” said Francesca Leuquire, who leads the Shameless Book Club.
The contemporary romance book club was originally set to meet on the third Thursday of every month and was specifically geared to adults ages 18 and up.
In an email to KFOR, Theri Ray, MLIS, who serves as Enid’s Interim Library Director, released a statement confirming that the library’s board adopted the policy to prohibit the display of books and/or programs that “make as their primary subject the study of sex, sexual activity, sexual perversion, sex-based classifications, sexual preferences, sexual identity, gender identity, or that are of a sexual nature.”
According to the library’s website, the Library Board reviews, develops, and adopts library policies that affect patrons, public service, and the availability of services for residents throughout Garfield County.
In the same email, Ray also confirmed that the decision to cancel The Shameless Romance book club was made by library staff and city officials in according to that aforementioned policy, adding that the library director is “tasked with implementing the policy as it is written.”
If the Shameless Book Club had been directed by the library, copies of the book would have been made available for pickup at the first-floor service desk and featured as an event on the library’s website.
Leuquire added that the group was still able to use a meeting room at the library’s location at 120 W Maine Ave. as a public group, instead of as a library-run group.
“I know that there were a lot of people that were really excited about meeting, and they wanted to read the book and be a part of a community that was open and accepting,” she added. “The policy is hurting people that felt like they belonged to the library.”
Library patrons opposed to the policy told KFOR Monday that the board moved forward with the changes using language that was limiting to free speech. t“It is absolutely censorship,” said library patron Stephanie Ezzell. “[And] they’re taking away the ability of the library director to make these kinds of decisions on her own.”
“The library should be for everyone,” she said, adding that programming and promotion should represent everyone in the community.
However, supporters of the language in the new guidance emphasized that they hoped the policy would be successful in preventing children from being exposed to sexually explicit material (not necessarily related to the romance book club).
“I am not a prude. I’m just saying we need to keep sex in its proper place and not expose our children to things that they can’t handle,” said Enid resident and marriage and family therapist, Lacy Crowell.
“That’s why I feel like these new policies are important,” she added. “Not that they’re getting rid of any material. It’s not censorship. They’re just not putting it out where our kids can walk up and grab a book that’s being displayed and ‘boom’, they’re sexually explicit material there.”
“We are placing responsibility in the wrong hands by placing this responsibility on the library board and not in the hands of parents,” countered Ezell. “I tell my child what they can and cannot do because I’m their parent.”
Cindy Nguyen, who serves as policy director for the ACLU of Oklahoma, told KFOR that the broad language in the guidance from the board could also have unexpected implications.
“[The policy] bans programs and displays related to not only gender identity, but also sex-based classifications and anything talking about gender,” said Nguyen. “So [based on what] they were talking about, are we even allowed to post displays about mother’s days or father’s days?,” she questioned.
Regardless of the policy, Francie said seven romance readers showed up to discuss the chosen title last Thursday, and they have no intention to stop gathering, at the library or elsewhere.
“We are not going anywhere. It doesn’t mean that we’re going to stop reading romance novels,” she stated, referring back to the policy.
“It doesn’t mean that we’re going to stop discussing quote unquote taboo topics that the library board has deemed inappropriate to advertise,” she said.
Enid Public Library confirmed that no titles are being removed from the shelves in accordance to the policy; however, any future displays and programs will reflect the current policy as it is written. The next meeting for Enid Library and the Garfield County Board of Directors will be on May 9th at noon.