The Day – Colchester’s first councilor calls for RuPaul’s book to be removed from the public library

Colchester – First coach Andreas Bisbikos has asked the city’s public library to remove a book about American entertainer and drag queen RuPaul, claiming it contained a sexually provocative image.

According to Colchester Library director Kate Byroade, the book, “Who is RuPaul?”has not been removed from the library but is under review by library staff.

Bisbikos announced Monday morning on Facebook that a parent had “raised a serious concern about a book found in the children’s section of the library”.

“The book contains sexually provocative drawings in which the parent found offensive,” Bisbikos continued. “The book in question was immediately withdrawn from circulation. I have instructed Kate Byroade, our library manager, to begin an inventory of children’s materials. We encourage parents who encounter any material in the children’s section that may be considered questionable to bring it to the attention of library staff immediately.

The post sparked a maelstrom of critical comments from Colchester residents accusing Bisbikos of censorship and homophobia.

Byroade clarified Bisbikos’ statement on Monday, noting that the book had not been removed from the library’s collection but instead, “We checked it internally because we are reviewing it.”

“However, we have not received an official Statement of Concern form regarding library resources,” she said. “I have no idea who brought this to the first coach.”

Byroade explained the process, which neither the first selector nor the complaining parent followed, to request the removal of a book.

“The process is we have a form, a person fills it out, my staff and I review the item, we respond to the person. If they’re not happy with our response, then they can go to the selectors’ council, and the selectors’ council would have the final decision,” Byroade said.

“Who is RuPaul?” is part of a popular series of children’s books of short biographies of past and present public figures, be it Napoleon, Joan of Arc, Oprah Winfrey, Dolly Parton or others.

Byroade said the illustration a parent apparently took issue with “depicts a woman, it could be someone in drag, but it looks like a woman to me, with thigh high boots and a bustier, which is what basically every woman wears superheroes, and some women are dancing.

“It was explained to me as sexually provocative, and I don’t find it sexually provocative, so I said no,” Byroade said. “They said it was a sexually provocative image. That was the complaint. I don’t know what to do about you. We’re going to review the book. Normally we’d wait for a form and then we’d review the book.

“I was really surprised it was this book, and I think we featured it on our Pride exhibit at the children’s department,” Byroade added.

In her more than 12 years as a library manager, she said she can remember only one other instance when someone asked for a book to be removed. “The only other complaint I got about a book was literally that the book was in terrible shape, and when I saw the book I said, ‘Yeah. He is in a terrible state. We will remove it from the collection.'”

Byroade said she was aware of the surrounding national climate censorship and homophobia issues. This month, the Proud Boys, a far-right group, stormed libraries in California and North Carolina during LGBTQIA+ themed children’s storytimesloudly proclaiming their objections to drag queens.

On June 24, the American Library Association issued a statement condemning the threat of violence in libraries across the country and the targeting of LGBTQIA+ material. A spokesperson for the association referred The Day to the statement when asked about the situation in Colchester:

“The American Library Association condemns, in the strongest possible terms, the violence, threats of violence, and other acts of intimidation that increasingly occur in American libraries, especially those acts that are intended to erasing the histories and identities of gay, queer, transgender, Black, Indigenous, people of color, people with disabilities and religious minorities,” the statement read. “ALA stands with our members, all library workers and of those who lead libraries who bravely face threats to their personal and professional well-being as a result of their efforts to celebrate diversity and foster inclusion in their communities, in the belief that every human being deserves respect and dignity . ALA stands with our LGBTQIA+ colleagues and other library workers who are disproportionately affected by these attacks. »

ACLU Connecticut Executive Director David McGuire commented on the situation in Colchester after seeing news reports on the subject, noting that “the book bans are misguided and inappropriate attempts to try to remove our right of access to the information of the First Amendment.”

“The Colchester First Selectman’s attempt to remove a book about RuPaul Charles, an Emmy-winning television producer and black gay man, is the latest example of the kinds of book bans taking place across the country, which specifically aim to remove books that are by and about people of color, LGBTQ people and other marginalized people,” McGuire said in the statement. “These book bans seek to erase the history and lived experiences of women, people of color and LGBTQ people and to censor conversations about race, gender and sexuality that impact the daily lives of young people. We all have the right to read and learn for free from viewpoint-based censorship, and young people have the First Amendment right to read and learn the history and viewpoints of all communities. in our libraries.

About four hours after his initial post, Bisbikos returned to Facebook to clarify his position in response to requests for clarification from townspeople.

“There was never any question of censorship and the First Selectman plays no role in books purchased or displayed in our library,” Bisbikos wrote. “I was just trying to address a concern from a parent in our town. It was never about permanently deleting books, just wondering if they belonged in the children’s section or the section adults; therefore, I contacted our Director of Library Services.

“I have advised the parent that they have five days to file the appropriate documents with the library by submitting their complaint in writing, in which case it will be the Director of Library Services and only the Director of Library Services , who will have the duty to respond,” he added. .

He answered questions from The Day via email on Tuesday morning. He said the issue was age suitability.

The fact that “Who is RuPaul?” Part of a children’s book series is “inconsequential,” Bisbikos said.

“The question was whether a sexually provocative image should be placed in the children’s section of the library and if not, can we find a more age-appropriate location,” he said. writing.

Asked if he still found the book inappropriate after Monday’s public outcry, Bisbikos said his “concerns were with the placement of a book containing a sexually provocative image, not the book itself.”

Bisbikos denied that the original complaint and his supporting action were the result of homophobia. “The decision to review the book has nothing to do with anyone’s sexual orientation or social issues,” he wrote. “None of the other Pride Books have been taken down. If this image had been found in a book about George Washington in the children’s section, there would have been an identical response.

The first elected also rejected the accusations of censorship: “Nothing is prohibited or censored”, he writes. “Books may be examined to determine if they are placed according to their age in the library.”

Bisbikos said he believed the parent would file a formal complaint on Tuesday, if they hadn’t already.

He pushed once again for an inventory of the children’s section of the library.

“Protecting our children is important,” he said. “I think it’s imperative that we review to see if there are other books that may contain sexually suggestive imagery and if we consider placing them in a more age-appropriate location.”

This is a developing story.

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