Library board chair says they’re ‘not here to promote LGBTQ things’

Published: Sep. 26, 2022 at 7:05 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) -The Greenville Library was anything but quiet Monday.

As calls to challenge books around the country grow, multiple employees and members of the public called upon the Board of Trustees to take a hard stance against efforts to restrict reading material.

“We want to know that as we face challenges from people who want to silence voices that are different from theirs, that we, as library staff, can stand up for diversity and love and difference and that you, the board, will have our backs,” said Jed Cridland-Hughes, the Greenville County Library discovery manager.

Last week, the Greenville County Republican Party called on the library system to remove certain LGBTQ books from the children’s section and asked for the matter to go before the county board.

Councilman Joe Dill told us at a public hearing session on Sept. 22 that he was having a legal team look at making an official proposal for the board.

“Everybody has gotten out over their skis on all of this,” said Library Board of Trustees chair Allan Hill to the crowd at Monday’s monthly meeting.

The topic has been contentious between staff and the board since the summer when some branches were asked to remove Pride Month displays.

Communications director Daneen Schatzle said those requests are still happening.

Just 40 minutes before Monday’s meeting, Schatzle said she was told to change the slideshow that plays on TVs throughout the system.

“We were asked to remove a tv slide that was promoting the LGBTQ book club, that is a new book series, that is at one of our branches,” she said. “This is the first time that I’ve ever been asked in my 12 years in the library system to remove a TV slide, which is a normal part of our publicity and marketing.”

Last week, staff members said another incident happened.

Chairman Allan Hill went to the Travelers Rest library branch after he said some people complained about a flyer promoting banned books and where to find them.

The flyer was supposidly put up during the American Library Association’s 40th Banned Books Week.

Stephen Shelato, a former Greenville County library employee and one of the speakers, brought up the incident saying the staff there felt bullied and berated.

Hill said he did go to the branch but did not berate anyone. Later in the meeting, he called on Travelers Rest library branch manager Nathan Schmaltz and asked, “Nathan, did I threaten anybody?”

Schmaltz replied, “your position on this board and your actions and your words toward our staff were interpreted and felt as threatening,”

Hill then asked again, “Just to be clear, did I threaten or did I bully anybody?”

Schmaltz once again replied, “your presence and your position with your actions and your behavior and your words were threatening and intimidating.”

No official motions were made, and no votes were taken, but Hill ended the meeting by saying that in the future, the library would not promote “LGBTQ themed things.”

“A library is not here to promote LGBTQ things, and it’s not here to be against LGBTQ things,” Hill said. “The best that everybody in this room can hope for is for it to be neutral.”

Hill and Library director Beverley James declined an interview after the meeting.