Sunday, December 10, 2023

Fears drive Cd'A librarian to quit

Hagadone News Network | August 28, 2022 1:00 AM

COEUR d'ALENE — When Delaney Daly began her job at the Coeur d’Alene Public Library on Aug. 23, 2021, as children’s library supervisor, she had high hopes it would be a great chapter in her life.

A little more than 10 months later, she quit.

She said she no longer felt safe after repeated unfriendly encounters with parents over books they believed were inappropriate for children.

“Heartbreaking,” she said during a phone interview with The Press on Tuesday when asked to summarize her time in Coeur d’Alene.

Today, Daly is working as a library branch manager in the Houston area. She described people there as “very nice,” with moderate to liberal viewpoints.

“For me, it’s just a better fit overall,” she said.

Daly said she never quite felt at home in the more conservative Coeur d’Alene after moving here from Florida.

In her first week on the job she had to deal with challenges to material available in the children’s library.

It continued. Parents approached her and her staff several times, and said some of the material was an abomination, pedophilia and an affront to the Bible.

While Daly said she was not physically threatened, the encounters, which she described as aggressive and angry, left her uneasy.

A meeting with several parents to discuss the issue didn’t help, and left her feeling even more defensive.

Daly said she tried to explain there are transgender, LGBTQ and gay parents who appreciate having books available that reflect their lifestyles and that they can share with their children.

It didn't help.

She said there were two moms in particular who were “pretty persistent in raising hell at the library.”

Her situation is similar to that of Boundary County Library Director Kimber Glidden, who recently announced her resignation, effective Sept. 10.

She, too, indicated she didn’t feel safe.

“Nothing in my background could have prepared me for the political atmosphere of extremism, militant Christian fundamentalism, intimidation tactics and threatening behavior currently being employed in the community," Glidden wrote.

In an article published July 22 in the School Library Journal, Daly wrote:

“On a Friday afternoon in June 2022, outside my office stood a mother emphatically and disruptively conveying her concern to me, waving around Melissa by Alex Gino (formerly titled George), winner of the 2016 Stonewall Book Award. She was in my face and hollering at me, “No, actually, I think this is the time and place for this conversation,” and all I could do was stand there and recite my usual script as calmly and politely as I could manage under the circumstances: “Libraries don’t censor materials. Libraries are for everyone. As the children’s librarian, it’s my job to ensure that every child and every family in this community feels seen, heard, and represented. She was having none of it. She snatched our director’s business cards out of my shaking fingers, grabbed her children, and stormed out of the children’s library. I called my director immediately. It was the first time I’d cried to him on the phone. It was also the first time I’d wondered if I was cut out for this."

It reached a breaking point during the Pride in the Park event on June 11 at Coeur d'Alene City Park, of which Daly took part and wore rainbow colors.

She said the nearby arrest that same day of 31 Patriot Front members who might have been headed to Pride in the Park was frightening.

Daly feared people with guns might have made their way to the Coeur d'Alene library.

“I felt my safety was compromised,’ she said.

She turned in her notice, with her last day at the library July 1.

“I knew it was time,” Daly said.

Coeur d’Alene Public Library Director Michael Priest said some members of the community have expressed concerns about certain materials over the past year or so, particularly children’s materials with LGBTQ-related themes.

Some have taken their concerns to the library board.

Priest said he was also contacted directly by people “to share their perspective on the matter.

“Some have called for the sequestering or removal of materials. Just as many, if not more, have expressed their support for maintaining a collection that features a diverse viewpoints," Priest wrote in an email to The Press.

He said people have occasionally been upset, but not to the point of issuing threats.

“At no point have I felt that the library has become an unsafe work environment. This is a dialogue that is currently being held at a national level and has become part of the job," Priest wrote.

The library board did not respond to an email from The Press seeking comment on the issue.

Daly said she went into the Coeur d'Alene library job “with the best of intentions” and “people worked tirelessly to break me down.”

While she understands there are parents who don’t approve of some of the books at the children’s library, she doesn’t believe it’s a reason to cause an uproar and get in a person’s face.

She said the effort by some to ban books “is very concerning and very dangerous."

“If you don’t like something, ignore it,” she said.

Daly also suggested parents should monitor what their children read, talk to them and explain what some books are about, and not expect library staff to do it for them.

“Do not attack people who are public servants," Daly said. "That’s not doing any people any good.”

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