Voters may shut down public library in Washington state over its refusal to remove controversial books at residents’ request

Voters in a rural county in Washington state will decide in November whether to shutter a public library after staff refused to remove LGBT books to which the public objected.

The Dayton Memorial…

Voters in a rural county in Washington state will decide in November whether to shutter a public library after staff refused to remove LGBT books to which the public objected.

The Dayton Memorial Library board, located in Columbia County, refused to remove nearly a dozen books “about race and LGBTQ topics” after members of the public objected to the books being marketed to children, according to the local Waitsburg Times.

Especially offensive to those who challenged the books was What’s The T? The Guide to All Things Trans and/or Nonbinary, by Juno Dawson, which was carried in the library’s children’s section.  

The refusal to remove the books triggered a ballot petition to shut down the library.  

That petition qualified in July for the general election ballot in November, said the Waitsburg Times. 

Jessica Ruffcorn, who led the petition drive, first tried to ask for mediation between the library district and members of the public, according to the local Dayton Chronicle 

Opponents of the books, including Ruffcorn, were especially concerned because the books were kept in areas for children.  

“It’s not about LGBT books,” Ruffcorn told Fox News in a written statement. “It’s about highly sexualized books that are downstairs and have been put on display in the children’s section of the library.” 

The mediation proposal, which asked that the books be housed in the adult section, was eventually rejected by the library board chair, said Ruffcorn.  

When asked again to participate in mediation, Columbia County Rural Library District Director Todd Vandenbark refused the meeting and instead submitted his resignation, said the Dayton Chronicle. 

Vanderbark may have resigned because he realized that the vast majority of residents agreed the books were inappropriate.  

Before his resignation Vanderbark told the local Union Bulletin that at a local meeting of the library board called to discuss the issue, “two-thirds of [the members of the public at the meeting] were on the side of challenging the books.” 

Ruffcorn said that it’s unfair that the five unelected people who sit on the board will not listen to the overwhelming complaints of the community.  

“We have no say in who sits on the board. We have no say in their budget or how much they can take each year. We have no say in collection development. The only right we have as voters, is to decide if the library can exist or not,” said Ruffcorn, in a letter to the editor carried in the local Dayton Chronicle. 

And that’s why she started the petition.  

While Washington state is normally considered a progressive state, over 70% of the residents of Columbia County voted for Donald Trump in 2020, said Fox News.  

“[I]t is my opinion our current library is not serving the needs or interests of the majority of our community,” Ruffcorn continued. “They are not being good stewards of our tax funds, and it is time to close it down and look at what is most needed in our community and work towards new goals. The only way to find out the needs of the community is to put it on the ballot which gives everyone a voice, not just five people.” 

Books that were challenged by members of the public were listed by the Union Bulletin and included:   

  • Our Skin: A First Conversation About Race, by Megan Madison 
  • What’s The T? [The Guide to All Things Trans and/or Nonbinary], by Juno Dawson 
  • This Book Is Gay, by Juno Dawson 
  • When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir, by Patrice Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele 
  • This Book is Anti-Racist, by Tiffany Jewel 
  • The Black Friend, by Frederick Joseph 
  • Yes! No! A First Conversation About Consent, by Megan Madison, Jessica Ralli, and Isabel Roxas 
  • Being You: A First Conversation About Gender, by Megan Madison, Jessica Ralli, and Isabel Roxas 
  • Melissa, by Alex Gino 
  • Pink, Blue, and You! – Questions For Kids About Gender Stereotypes, by Elise Gravel 
  • When Aidan Became A Brother, by Kyle Lukoff