Anoka County is coming under fire for not allowing Black Lives Matter or LGBTQ pride posters and messaging to be displayed in its libraries.
A memo regarding display guidelines from the Anoka County Library communications manager was made public on Facebook by an employee and quickly garnered attention and criticism.
The memo’s purpose was to clarify themes and ideas for library displays throughout the summer and expressed that county libraries would not display public messaging surrounding Pride Month or Black Lives Matter. However, the announcement said, employees could “do a display celebrating diversity in our community in honor of one or both of these themes [by] celebrating diversity on a broader spectrum.”
“County guidance is that we will not have public messaging around Pride Month or Black Lives Matter month,” the announcement said.
Anoka County Commissioner Mandy Meisner responded to the memo, writing that the library is “hid[ing] relevant issues under the guise of neutrality.” Meisner is pushing for the county commissioners to discuss the issue in a “work session.”
On the other hand, Anoka County agreed with the library’s decision, saying in a statement that libraries are meant to be “content neutral” spaces, and promoting “one political or social cause over another would undermine that goal of content neutrality.” The county also cited the library’s vast collection of “titles that represent the experiences of minority groups” and noted that the library did not remove any titles having to do with Pride Month or Black History Month.
“Libraries are open places designed to provide education and enlightenment to the public, not a platform for individuals within the library system to promote their own social beliefs or ideologies,” the county said.
Josiah Cox, the employee who exposed the memo, posted on Facebook that he is now “scared of the immediate future and what it may bring.” He described the county’s response as “tone deaf and incredibly bad optics.”
The Library Bill of Rights, which is posted on the Anoka County Library website, affirms that as a member of the American Library Association, it “should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues” and “cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.”
Anoka County concluded its statement by noting that library employees have not contacted management about their concerns.
“The team members who have been the most vocal have never reached out to the director or management team to discuss ways to move forward,” the statement said.
Megan Olson is a 2020 graduate of the University of Minnesota with degrees in political science and history. She works in public affairs in addition to serving on the Legislative Advisory Council for School District 196. She is also on the school board for FIT academy, a charter school in Apple Valley.