The Tyler Public Library invited author Lou Anne Smoot to talk as part of the library’s summer reading program. Smoot, who’s from Tyler, wrote A Christian Coming Out: A Journal of the Darkest Period In My Life.
Tyler City Manager Edward Broussard, however, canceled the appearance and ordered the PFLAG display that Smoot and Brenda McWilliams just put up in the library removed.
“The reasons given to us for these actions were that the talk and display were political and that children might see the display or attend the talk.” McWilliams said. “I suppose taking the display down is not political.”
McWilliams pointed out in a letter to Broussard that PFLAG is a non-political 501(c)(3) organization that provides support and education, mostly to parents of LGBT children. However, the actions of a political appointee to block a library from distributing information and stopping an author — one whose book appears in the library’s collection — from speaking certainly is political.
Keeping the level of discussion appropriate shouldn’t have been very difficult for Smoot, who taught Sunday School class at Tyler’s First Baptist Church.
Tyler’s head librarian invited Smoot to speak as part of its summer reading series. In conjunction with the talk, she invited PFLAG to put up a display that consisted of pamphlets, books and other informational resources. After all, libraries are usually places where you find information.
The display was up on Monday (June 1) along with posters advertising Smoot’s appearance. By Wednesday, the display case was down along with the fliers about the author’s upcoming talk.
The librarian said one of the calls she received complained that taxpayer money shouldn’t be going to promote events like this. The librarian explained no taxpayer money was being used — Smoot was not charging for her appearance and the library would already be staffed with the lights on, whether or not Smoot spoke.
McWilliams said another complaint was that the display was too close to the children’s section.
McWilliams wondered why the display wasn’t just moved then. But she also commented that if the display caused children to ask their parents questions, that would give parents the opportunity to give their children the answer they wanted them to have. She called that “parenting.”
On Thursday, Smoot was told the talk can go on, but the library can’t promote it and the PFLAG display remains off the library floor, by order of the city manager. How does the library have an author speak without telling anyone that author is going to be there?
UPDATE: PFLAG got word this afternoon that the display can go back out.
Seems the whole thing was “a big misunderstanding.” In fact, now the city is allowing the library to give Smoot the auditorium to speak in. (That way, it’s behind closed doors).
The city’s still not a sponsor as they are for every other author coming to the library to speak.