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Letter to the Editor regarding Library
As a child growing up in Screven County, I recall the excitement that my brothers, cousins, and I had when the bookmobile would visit, providing us access to a world of literature that was otherwise not available to a family that struggled financially. I have always had an appreciation for both school libraries and public libraries and have served to support them on both the Effingham Library Board and the Live Oak Regional Library Board. Therefore, I am dismayed that our libraries would be held hostage by our County Commission.

I do not consider myself an advocate for the LGBTQ+ movement, but while my beliefs do not align with this movement, they are just that, MY beliefs. However,  as a Christian I am called to love my brothers and sisters as we are all children of God. I don’t, therefore, attempt to force my beliefs on others, but rather I attempt to live a life that may be an example to others.

So, let’s examine the issue at hand. Some on our county commission have found the LGBTQ+ material and programming promoted by the American Library Association (ALA) and included in libraries across the nation to be quite objectionable, so much so that they are willing to remove funding from the libraries in Effingham County, unless the libraries remove LGBTQ+ material and disassociate with the ALA. Basically, this would remove Effingham libraries from the Live Oak Regional Library (LOPL) system. This, in turn, would cost the libraries access to a vast collection of materials in the Georgia Public Library Service and its electronic system (PINES), online resources available through this collaboration and numerous other benefits available to library patrons. In addition, this action would open Effingham County as a target for litigation from any number of organizations who champion the rights of this federally protected class of individuals. Moreover, if this occurs, we would have libraries with limited resources. Would our local libraries even be able to survive?

Let’s also consider the ramifications of removing objectionable content. We begin with the material and programming in support of LGBTQ+ individuals because it is deemed by the governing authority as objectionable. Do we then examine the materials in our libraries and determine that materials that chronicle the actions of serial killers as objectionable? Would they then be removed? What about materials that address the atrocity of the Holocaust–a truly objectionable act? Then, too, the Bible itself, depicting Saul as the killer of thousands and David as the killer of tens of thousands, not to mention the persecution and crucifixion of Christ and the many disciples of Christ who were persecuted and killed for their belief and their sharing of the Gospel. Would these works be deemed objectionable and be removed? I am certain that many atheists and/or agnostics would consider these objectionable works.

Let’s go a step further and outside the realm of our libraries. Consider that an employee of the county identifies as transgender and begins dressing and otherwise represents himself/herself as the opposite gender. Will the Commission then take action against this individual because they find this behavior objectionable?

Next, let’s review the citizenry served by the library. According to the most recent information available (2022), individuals who identify as being in one of the LGBTQ+ groups comprise 7.1 percent of the population, nationally. I am sure that number is different locally, but I personally know numerous fine individuals who would be in this group. I am fairly certain that a number of these voted for many of the current county commissioners, and they look to them to represent their interests, as well. Furthermore, the libraries are public libraries, not public libraries with the exception of certain groups. Consider a young child, who may be in a situation where they have two moms or two dads. Where do they find material to help them understand their family situation, other than the library that their family tax dollars helped fund?

Finally, let’s examine the message that the commission is sending to parents, guardians, and families they represent. The message is simple: “We do not trust you to provide appropriate guidance to your children, where material in the library is concerned.” The commission, if it takes this action, is attempting to legislate morality from the commission chambers. Parents and guardians are responsible for shaping the belief systems of their children. Additionally, the LGBTQ+ movement is something children will encounter at some point, whether at the library or some other public space. Perhaps the library, open to all, would be an excellent starting point for parents to discuss these topics with their children, when questions arise.

Respectfully submitted,

Jeff Lariscy