On June 1, Gov. Spencer Cox signed a proclamation declaring June as Pride Month.
In proclaiming Pride Month, he said, “Here in Utah, we strive to create a culture of hope, love, understanding, and respect by celebrating our common humanity.”
Personnel at the Orem Public Library attempted to carry out that proclamation by creating displays of children’s and teen books that focused on LGBTQ issues.
Some of the book titles included, “Love is Love,” “Teddy’s Favorite Toy” (about a young boy that plays with dolls), “It’s Okay to be a Unicorn,” “Rainbow” and “2 Grooms on a Cake.”
“Highlighting LGBTQ+ items during Pride Month was also reflective of the spirit of inclusion the city recently promoted in its annual Summerfest celebration with the theme, “This is Where You Belong,” said Charlene Crozier, library director.
While the library believed it was reaching out to the greater and diversified community, there were some residents who were less than happy with the displays.
After being contacted by one of those residents on a Sunday evening, Orem City Councilmember Terry Peterson wrote to councilmembers, city leaders and members of the State Board of Education.
The next day, June 14, Peterson said he visited the library to see the Pride displays that were the catalyst for the concerns.
“Walking into the library on June 14th to see for myself, I saw these displays but I saw nothing celebrating Flag Day. Also nothing regarding Father’s Day,” Peterson said. “In addition to the displayed books, the library promotes over 65 books in the children’s section website on Pride Month.”
Peterson said that he read through the titles and descriptions and reached out to the library with his concerns.
“No matter your sexual preference, our public money and platforms should not be used to plant ideas and encourage children to question their sexuality and identity,” Peterson said. “When our public library displays these books in this manner, it appears that we as a community are endorsing these ideas.”
Peterson added, “These sensitive conversations should be happening at home and not being promoted by the public library.”
In the letter, Peterson also noted the teens have a section under Pride Month which is labeled graphic Pride Month books.
Peterson ended his letter by saying, “As a lifelong resident of Orem, I couldn’t be more disgusted or outraged. This is not the role of a tax-funded library.”
The letter was shared on several Facebook pages and has received a wide variety of comments, from “get the matches” to readers showing support for the library.
Natalie Cline, a member of the State Board of Education, received the letter, and with a disclaimer, shared it on her Facebook page. She received 111 comments, nearly all disparaging the library for its displays.
“The goal of the Orem Public Library is to serve all of our diverse community,” Crozier said. “The Orem Library had displays featuring books and movies about LGBTQ+ characters, subjects, and authors.”
Crozier added the Library Advisory Commission was aware of the displays and supports the library’s efforts to serve a traditionally underserved population in the community.
“Even though some were concerned about the displays, the overall response to them was positive. Some parents thanked library staff for offering the selection of materials,” Crozier said.
Other displays in June included a large display about hiking, camping and exploring outdoor Utah, a display about Juneteenth, and many other small displays featuring books from collections throughout the library.
Crozier also mentioned they had many displays for Black History Month in February and will celebrate other months throughout the year with displays around the library.
The animosity toward the displays brings back other times when residents wanted to storm the library or even have a book burning.
Some of the books in question included the “Harry Potter” series, the “Twilight” series and “The Hunger Games” series.
There are books in the current library collection that might also cause a stir.
There are several teen series on dystopian civilizations and books like the “Uglies” series about body modification or Percy Jackson’s series on bringing back Paganism.
Since Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, there has been a war against certain books and the printed word.
The Orem library’s collection has a number of adult books including Adolf Hitler’s, “Mein Kampf,” and the sequel to it. The “Kama Sutra,” “Sex for Dummies,” and “The Better Sex Guide to Extraordinary Lovemaking.”
The library also offers a number of R-rated movies in its video collection.
The Daily Herald reached out to Peterson for additional comment but calls were not returned.
“The idea is love,” said Orem City Councilmember Debby Lauret. “We need to get past the homophobic thing. I’ve never been one to have censorship, I’m open-minded.”
Councilman David Spencer said he has received quite a few emails asking him to do something about the issue.
“I don’t necessarily agree with it, but everybody has a voice because we live in America,” Spencer said. “My dad fought in Vietnam so we can have our freedoms.”
A number of those who spoke out on Facebook pages have taken upon themselves to check out the books at the library so they are at least out of the library for three weeks.
The Orem Public Library’s goal is not to have patrons take home items that they don’t want, Crozier said.
“Library staff members are committed to helping patrons find the items they do want. The city respects parents’ rights to guide their children in selecting library materials. Parents choose whether to have a family library card or let children have their own library cards. Having a family card allows parents to choose their children’s access to all library materials,” Crozier added.
“Our book displays are self-serve, and patrons are free to browse them or ignore them,” Crozier said. “Library staff rotates all displays on a regular basis. Display items are chosen to recognize themes, events or subjects of topical interest.”
A library newsletter introducing Pride Month said, “June is Pride Month, which commemorates the anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion and aims to increase awareness of LGBTQ+ history, identity and community. With rainbow Pride flags flying and virtual events taking place all over the country, it’s likely kids will be curious about the history and significance of this important time. As a parent, you might not know how to answer all of their questions or how to break the information down in a kid-friendly way, but it’s important to talk openly about LGBTQ+ experiences and identity.”
The letter offered these ideas for parents as well as book selections:
The library is a place of education and knowledge and we must make our own decisions about what we read, Lauret added.
For now, it does not appear that any books will be discarded or deleted from the library collection, but will continue to be available for general public use.
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox gave an update on the state’s drought and wildfire status on Thursday and encouraged Utahns to not use personal fireworks ahead of the Pioneer Day holiday.
During a monthly press conference in Salt Lake City, the governor told reporters that 98% of Utah is in either extreme or exceptional drought, and noted that “that number continues to climb.”
Utah reservoirs are at 58% normal water levels, and 26 of Utah’s largest 42 reservoirs are below 55% of available capacity, according to Cox, who also noted that “we are completely done with any runoff, and now we’re relying on, basically, our emergency storage across the state.”
“As a result, our key messages remain the same as they have been since we declared the statewide emergency in March,” he said.
That message includes that businesses and individuals in northern Utah should only be watering twice per week in northern Utah and three times per week in southern Utah.
“That’s what we’re doing at state facilities, and we thank those individuals and businesses who are doing the same,” the governor said.
Cox also encouraged businesses and residents to take other steps toward conserving water, including fixing leaky faucets and sprinklers, prioritizing watering trees over lawns and only watering in the early morning or evening.
When asked about watering restrictions that have been put in place by local water districts and municipalities, Cox said he is “very supportive” of them.
“They know their situation better than anyone else, and they can make those decisions based on their storage capacity and their average usage,” the governor said.
He also said he supports enforcement measures put in place by some cities, including Lehi, which put in place a $500 fine for water users who have three violations.
“Enforcement is going to be key on that,” Cox said. “And a fine is one way to get people’s attention, for sure.”
The governor emphasized that “we have seen a reduction in usage in almost every water district in the state” and thanked residents for doing their part to conserve water.
“So people really are taking this seriously,” he said. “And those types of restrictions will encourage everyone to do it, not just the ones that are paying attention.”
Cox also thanked Utahns who did not using personal fireworks on the 4th of July, noting that there were half as many wildfires over the holiday weekend as there were the previous year, a statistic that he said “shows that people are actually listening and they’re taking the measures that we need them to take.”
With just a week to go until the 24th of July, Cox again urged Utahns to not use personal fireworks.
“So we applaud and appreciate Utahns who are recreating safely, and we just have to keep this up as we go through this, again, very dangerous and dry time in our state,” he said.
Also during the press conference, the governor discussed the state’s increasing COVID-19 case rates and hospitalizations, ways to improve affordable housing options and a recent controversy after Utah Black Lives Matter founder Lex Scott called the American flag a “symbol of hatred.”
Utah County Commissioner Amelia Powers Gardner abstained from voting on a commission staff proposal on Wednesday over concern that it had not been properly vetted.
The proposal, which commissioners Bill Lee and Tom Sakievich passed on a 2-0 vote during Wednesday’s commission meeting, adds two full-time budget administration positions underneath the county commission, while also removing a full-time career service budget manager position from the Utah County Clerk/Auditor’s Office.
Gardner said she was not opposed to the latter change, noting that the eliminated position was a temporary role, funded through CARES Act money, that expired at the end of June.
But Gardner said she was concerned about approving two new staff positions under the county commission, which she said she doesn’t see justification for.
“I do not currently see enough workload to justify even having one full-time position in the commission who is a budget project coordinator, let alone two,” she said. “So I’m just not seeing the workload.”
The “kicker,” added Gardner, is “the fact that the commission used a process to add staff to their staffing plan that is not the same as what they expect from every other department,” noting that “the process has typically taken months, and a lot of it’s done in public meetings.”
As an example, Gardner, formerly Utah County Clerk/Auditor, pointed to a staffing plan change in the Utah County Recorder’s Office that the commission approved last month. Lee postponed a vote on the staffing change on June 9 because he said he wanted more time to look over the proposal.
“So the reason I abstained is because I really just did not appreciate that we make every other department in the county go through an extensive process to add people, yet … the commission was willing to do it expedited for themselves,” said Gardner. “I just didn’t like that it didn’t follow the process that we make every other department in the county follow in order to add a position, but yet when the commission wants to add positions underneath themselves, they’ll cut all the corners and require significantly less.”
The commission’s budget administrators will be responsible for coordinating various projects, including projects involving federal dollars and grants, such as emergency rental assistance grants, according to Gardner.