A request to remove a DVD from Lafayette Parish public libraries will be considered in public on Wednesday.
This will be the third time since November that the library review committee has met to consider banning materials from the public library system. This will be the first time that the committee will deliberate in public.
Committee to consider request from undisclosed library patron to ban ‘Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood’ DVD, a 2017 documentary film based on the memoir of Scotty Bowers, who acted as an escort and pimp unpaid for gay hollywood actors.
A change in the composition of the review committee by the library board of control at a meeting on February 21 prompted several people, including The Acadiana Lawyerto question whether committee meetings must be held in public under Louisiana’s open meeting law.
Library director Danny Gillane said Monday he had sought advice from council counsel, former Lafayette City-Parish attorney Mike Hebert. Gillane said it was copied in an email from board chairman Robert Judge to board member James Thomas that the reconsideration committee will meet in open session at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Main Library, 301 W. Congress St. in downtown Lafayette.
The judge appointed Thomas to sit on the reconsideration committee along with two library workers named by Gillane.
The February 21 board changed the composition of the committee to two board members and a librarian, but the committee will meet on Wednesday under the old composition because the DVD challenge was launched before the rule be changed, Gillane said.
It is important to hold committee meetings in public, as only the person challenging a book or DVD has the right to appeal the committee’s decision to the full board. If the complainant is satisfied with the decision of a committee that meets behind closed doors, the committee could ban books without public debate or input.
The composition of the committee is also important because the committee can be stacked with board members who favor the banning of books and DVDs that they personally deem inappropriate.
Twice since November, the two librarians on the review committee have voted against removing the books and the committee’s board member has voted to ban the books.
In the future, the chairman of the board, the judge, could appoint two conservative board members who could vote against the sole librarian and ban the books. The person requesting the ban would obviously be happy with this decision and no one else being allowed to appeal to the full library board, two conservative board members of the three-person reconsideration committee would decide whether books and other materials are off-limits to the Lafayette public. libraries.
In November, the committee voted 2 to 1 not to ban “This book is gay”. The plaintiff appealed to the full board, with only the judge and Stephanie Armbruster voting to ban the book. Instead, teen non-fiction books have been moved to the adult non-fiction section.
Michael Lunsford, a St. Martin Parish resident and executive director of Citizens for a New Louisiana, a conservative anti-tax group whose supporters are secretive and which Lunsford describes as a local government watchdog group, sought to ban “This Book is Gay” and “The V Word.”
The review board voted 2 to 1 not to remove “The V Word” from libraries. Lunsford did not appeal the decision to the full board.
If the two meetings the reconsideration committee conducted in private are violations of Louisiana’s open meeting law, Lunsford had 60 days to challenge the committee’s decisions, Lafayette attorney Gary McGoffin said. Either way, it’s too late to address these challenges, Gillane said Monday.
The judge served on one of the review panels and Armbruster was on the other. Both voted to ban the books, but the committee librarians outnumbered them and voted not to remove the books.
The judge failed in his attempt at the February 21 library board meeting to change the composition of the review committee to three board members and no librarians.
There is a national movement to ban books, especially books on LGBTQ topics, from public and school libraries. The two books Lunsford objected to are on a list of publications Lunsford said he obtained from MassResistance, an anti-LGBTQ group.
Over the past 18 months, the library board has become considerably more conservative. Judge and Armbruster openly opposed in 2018 a decision by the library to host Drag Queen Story Time.
Judge was appointed to the board about a year ago and immediately attempted to change the library system’s mission statement to remove recreational and cultural offerings. He failed twice, but at the February 21 board meeting, he announced he was appointing a committee to review the revised mission statement.