more about assholes and libraries

In my last post, I wrote about assholes and Carnegie libraries. I didn’t expect this to be a theme. But this is the United States in 2022, and Comrade Trump has turned the Republican Party into a smug nationwide collective of aggressively stupid, hate-fueled, authoritarian bullies.

So, there’s a Carnegie library in the small Iowa town of Vinton, population of about 5000. Dedicated in 1908, it’s one of the smallest Carnegie libraries in the US. It operated to the benefit of the community for over a century.

That pretty much ended last week, when the library was closed. Why?

Because of assholes.

It began in May of 2020 when, Virginia Holsten, the Director of the Vinton Public Library for 35 years, resigned. She was replaced by Janette McMahon, who’d been a librarian in both Iowa and Wyoming.

You may remember that 2020 was an election year. Some library patrons complained about books written by Kamala Harris (who, by the way, had visited the Vinton Library and read from her children’s book) and Dr. Jill Biden being on display. They also complained that there weren’t enough books about Comrade Donald Trump. McMahon explained the rigorous process by which books are selected for the library. She said, “I can’t buy what doesn’t exist, and there weren’t quality books about Trump. We pay attention to reviews and publishers and our collection needs as a whole. We don’t just say what looks good on Amazon.”

Library patrons who objected to the Biden and Harris books began checking them out, then refusing to return them. In effect, they stole the books.

Eventually the attacks against the library became personal attacks against McMahon. She resigned.

In November 2021, Renee Greenlee was hired as Director. She had a long, respected career as a librarian in Iowa. She was one of the librarians given the 2022 I Love My Librarian award, which is bestowed by the American Library Association. Only ten librarians in the country win the award each year.

Vinton library patrons objected to the fact that she hired some LGBTQ staff and that there were book dealing with LGBTQ topics on display in the library. At a library board meeting, one of the patrons read a statement, saying:

It appears that there is a slow, quiet agenda moving into our local library culture through the staff hiring decisions and the books that have crept in our children’s section of the library. I don’t believe the library is representing our town well with hiring a majority of staff who are openly a part of the LGBTQ community.

Another said,

We would like to see more balance in the offerings of books for children. For each book promoting the LGBTQ lifestyle, there should be a book on display that discusses how God created and designed people as either male or female from birth, for life.

Greenlee reported that of the 5,779 children’s materials the library holds, only three books had a subject heading of ‘LGBT’, only two books had a heading of ‘Gay’ and only two books referenced ‘transgender’ issues. In addition, there were 173 books in the library collection that were based on Christian life.

Following the next library board meeting, which was apparently a repetition of the previous one, Greenlee resigned. The interim Director, a gay man, resigned shortly afterward, leaving the Vinton Public Library without any full-time staff.

This is NOT to say that Vinton, Iowa is a town full of assholes. It’s to say that the people of Vinton allowed their local assholes to disrupt a public service that’s been supporting their community for over a century. They’ve turned a lovely gift–a Carnegie library–into an open, festering wound of resentment and hate.

This is happening all over the United States. It happens because the assholes show up while decent people stay home and watch television. In small towns throughout the nation, a minority of bitter, ignorant, self-righteous religious bigots terrified of imaginary enemies have begun to impose their mean-spirited agenda on the rest of us.

And we’ve let them do it. We can’t expect them to be better. We have to DO better ourselves.

12 thoughts on “more about assholes and libraries

  1. I can no longer imagine what the future will hold. Never in a million years would I have thought the US would end up like this. It is beyond my comprehension to understand such bigotry hate and poisonous religion that have taken hold in America. This is going to end up far worse than we can imagine. I’m glad I’m old.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s the willful, deliberate cruelty of alleged Christians that I find most difficult to accept–that desire to punish. It’s not enough for them to disagree; they have a perverse need to publicly scold and impose their notion of discipline. I just don’t understand.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Their arrogance and absolute need to feel superior to others. It’s a sickness within.


  2. If you don’t want your kids to read a specific book, be a parent and work with your children to reach your parenting goal.

    But don’t tell other peoples’ kidswhat they can or can’t read. That’s none of your business.

    And for those who claim “parents’ rights”, if you can’t monitor your kids’ books, hire a nanny.

    But don’t bemoan it when your local library declines to actually and literally become an arm of the “nanny state” that so disturbs you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: more about assholes and libraries – Dreamer9177's Blog

  4. Mixed emotions here:
    1. Sadness at the astonishing small minded vindictiveness and entitlement of right-wing orange clown supporters in your neck of the woods (US).
    2. LOLs at “asshole culture, awful people, burn the patriarchy, republican fuckwittery, stuff that pisses me off, stuff that’s just fucking stupid, stupid fucking people”

    Liked by 2 people

  5. It’s true that far too often, decent people stay home and watch television. Should decent people also resign their jobs when pressured by obnoxious patrons? The librarians in question clearly didn’t do anything wrong — and should not have felt the need to back down. Bad people aren’t going away and one of our responsibilities in the 21st century is to faithfully do our work patiently and professionally even when faced with criticism.


    • I have mixed feelings about the notion that “one of our responsibilities in the 21st century is to faithfully do our work patiently and professionally even when faced with criticism.” In theory, I agree. In practice, I can’t blame anybody for not wanting to work in a hostile environment. I can’t blame anybody who feels unwanted for leaving to go work in a more supportive situation.

      Hate is corrosive.


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