Pushback about LGBTQ book display leads to library director resigning

COLUMBIA, Tenn. (WSMV) – The Maury County Public Library is searching for a new leader after its director resigned due to community pushback over a LGBTQ Pride Month book display.

On Wednesday night, the board approved Zachary Fox’s resignation with regret. Library leaders said Fox decided to step aside because of the mounting pressure from Maury County community members. A group of people spoke out on social media starting in June against the books they deemed inappropriate for included LGBTQ topics.

Debate over the issue got heated during Wednesday’s meeting as people on both sides argued if the books should be in a place children can see them. The Pride Month book display was put on a table near the main entrance that is used to feature different book themes each month.

Library board chairman Joel Friddell said people started getting upset because the controversial materials were located next to the table for the child summer feeding program. Although, he said the books were all closed, and no one was directly encouraging the children to read them.

“If you go to the library right now, you will see another display like that,” Friddell said. “It’s the library. If there is a book in there that offends you, then we are doing our job because, honestly, with more than 110,000 titles, there is going to be something that you object to.”

Friddell said people have voiced their opposition online and at board meetings, but no one has filed a formal complaint about any LGBTQ books in the library. If a complaint is submitted, the board is required to review the book for possible removal.

Only 423 books of the more than 110,000 books in the library’s collection include LGBTQ topics, Friddell said. The library already has policies to prevent anyone under the age of 13 from reading a young adult book without their parent’s approval.

“The library is not a parent. The parent has to play a role,” Friddell said. “We do our part in that we have policies that say, ‘This is what a young adult is, and this is how books are.’ We have a very good staff. They are working hard to make sure that books are age appropriate and are handled that way.

“People need to understand that there is some common ground here, and that is that no one is really against the library,” Friddell said. “There are some concerns, not necessarily against the books that are in the library, but where they are displayed and making sure that age-appropriate material stays in an area that it is age appropriate and there are safeguards in place.”

The library has added extra steps to make sure the monthly book displays are now approved by the director. Every book in the display will also be logged and a photo of the display will be entered into the library computer system for anyone to access at any time.

Friddell said it’s unfortunate the community pressure got Fox to step down after only three years in the position. He described Fox as overly qualified and someone who pushed to constantly grow the library’s programming to help the community.

“Social media, baseless allegations, putting pressure on somebody, trying to paint somebody in a certain way to where they leave a position. That doesn’t seem to me like a democratic process,” Friddell said. “That seems more like mob rule and bullying, and I don’t like that.”

The Maury County Public Library is searching for an interim director to help run the library until a new director can be hired. Friddell said there is no timeline on when the position will be permanently filled.

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