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Debate over LGBTQ children’s book continues at Floyd County Library meeting

A woman speaks at a microphone during the Floyd County Library board of trustees meeting Monday. Also pictured are many of the more than 100 people also in attendance.
Aprile Rickert
The Floyd County Library has drawn criticism and support after staff recently read an LGBTQ book during a children's story time. Pictured, a woman speaks against the library's decision during a board of trustees meeting Monday at the main branch in New Albany. Of the more than 100 people in attendance, the majority were in support of the book.

The Floyd County Library has drawn criticism and support after staff recently read a book featuring a same-sex couple to 4- to 6-year-olds during a children’s story time.

Most of the more than 100 people who attended the library board of trustees meeting Monday were in favor of the library’s decision, with many saying such books are needed for kids to feel included and represented.

Others voiced concerns that parents and guardians need advance notice before their children are exposed to ideas that don’t align with their families’ beliefs and values.

“Prince & Knight” is an illustrated children’s book by Daniel Haack, which tells the story of a prince and a knight who fall in love and get married after battling a dragon.

The library drew criticism following the reading, and many at the meeting wanted the library board to know how they felt.

Some people who were opposed to the book said parents and guardians should have a better opportunity to make a decision about their children being exposed to LGBTQ-inclusive ideas. Most asked for either 24-hour notice of which books will be read, or for the choices to be published with the library story time calendar.

Floyd County resident Annette Krupski said she felt the book wasn’t age-appropriate for the group of children it was read to. She said her friend had taken her grandchildren to the event.

“She was very disturbed that this subject material was brought up, because it was something that she felt was a private thing that the parents should decide when the children were ready to hear this type of information,” Krupski said during public comment Monday night.

Susan Hunt took her granddaughter to the story time. She said she was shocked when she heard the material.

“I do not want my children or grandchildren to have that pushed upon [them],” she told reporters following the meeting. “Now, if a parent wants to get that book and read it to their child, that's fine. They can choose what they would like to do. But as for our family…we are Christian, we believe in the Bible, that a man and woman should marry. And that was why I came tonight.”

Hunt said she would not have an issue if the book depicted romance between a princess and a knight, but said she felt the characters appeared too young for marriage.

The majority of people who spoke at the meeting were in support of the book and of the topics it covered, saying it is necessary and important for children to feel represented in storytelling.

Karen Bassett, a mental health therapist in New Albany, was among the dozens who spoke during the first hour of the meeting. She told the board that roughly 20% of teens had seriously considered suicide within the past year, a number which is dramatically increased for LGBTQ youth.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Youth Risk Behavior Study shows that in 2019, about 19% of teens surveyed reported seriously contemplating taking their own life. Nearly 50% of LBGTQ youth had considered suicide.

“Inclusion in literature is literally life-saving,” Bassett said. “Children need to be able to see themselves in books that are read.”

Melissa Wiseheart, a former employee of the library, said she’s fully supportive of parents being able to know what is going to be read at story time. Wiseheart identifies as demisexual, a sexual orientation in which a person is attracted to another only after forming an emotional bond. It falls on the asexual spectrum. She said growing up, she had to pretend she felt like others to be accepted.

“If I had read books like that, as a child, I wouldn't have had to pretend,” Wiseheart, who also identifies as straight, said. “And if I had known more about different sexualities as a teenager, I wouldn't have ended up in an abusive relationship, just so that I could fit in with my friends, just so that I didn't fall behind from what I saw all around me. Representation matters.”

Following concerns about the book, the Floyd County Library posted this statement on its homepage from Director Melissa Merida:

“The Floyd County Library recognizes that we serve a community of over 78,000+ individuals representing diverse backgrounds. In creating our Storytimes, we strive to be inclusive to all of our community members. In response to recent Storytime content concerns, the Library will adjust our process to empower parents/guardians to opt out of material that they feel is not suitable for their child. To allow for this parent empowerment, the books for our Storytime will be put on display ten minutes before each Storytime for parents to see the titles included. As always, attendees may quietly come and go at any time during programs. We just ask that everyone is respectful of all participants.

The Library Leadership and staff appreciate and take seriously the concerns of our Library users and work to find a balance in serving all individuals and do not discriminate in our services.”

Following public comment Monday night, the board of trustees paused the meeting to allow those there to speak on the book to leave if they wished.

Board President Roger Whaley told LPM News Tuesday library staff will be discussing possible changes to the way families are notified of upcoming book selections.

But Whaley said those changes won’t apply to the content of books.

“We’re a public library, and inclusivity is part of our mission,” he said. “As far as censoring content, we won’t do that.”

If you or a loved one struggle with mental health or have suicidal thoughts and would like emotional support, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 — or 1-800-273-8255. Para Espanol haz clic aqui, o llame al número 988, o 1-888-628-9454.

Clarification: This story has been updated to reflect the rates at which young people have considered self harm, based on data.

Coverage of Southern Indiana is funded, in part, by Samtec, Inc. and the Hazel & Walter T. Bales Foundation.

Aprile Rickert is LPM's Southern Indiana reporter. Email Aprile at arickert@lpm.org.

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