Board stands by library

Trustee members reaffirm approval of programming
John L. Moore
Thursday, June 27, 2019

Taylor County Public Library’s Board of Trustees met on June 20 to, in the words of a comment they posted on Facebook, “discuss the controversy in response to the library’s recent LBGTQ Pride Panel” which had happened two days prior.

Taylor County Public Library’s board members, from left: President Leigh Ann Sadler, Vice President Christina Shively, Secretary Donna Gaddis, Treasurer Eddie Hazelwood and member Dave DeBrot, stand in the young adult room, listening to public comments. (Photo: John L. Moore)

To understand that meeting, though, it’s necessary to understand the timeline leading up to it.

Buzz surrounding the panel started June 13, when LGBTQ news outlet Queer Kentucky published a story about young adult librarian Dalton Bennett’s experience coming out as gay while living in Taylor County.

The article, which was widely shared on Facebook, discussed Bennett’s seven years working with TCPL and mentioned he was organizing a Pride Panel “to provide [his] community with an opportunity for education, insight and storytelling from LGBTQ identifiers across the Bluegrass, a voice that has long been muffled in Campbellsville.”

Queer Kentucky posted a flyer for the event on their Facebook page on June 17, where some commenters criticized the panel for lacking racial diversity, as it featured only white speakers, though the big issue TCPL’s board sought to address began a day before the flyer was posted.

Taylor County Judge-Executive Barry Smith made a Facebook post on his personal page regarding the event: “While it is my sworn duty as your County Judge Executive to represent all Taylor Countians regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation,” Smith wrote, “my religious beliefs as a Christian teach me that homosexuality is both immoral and a sin.”

Members of the community took to Facebook to weigh in on the statement, with some concerned declaring public opposition to the panel would further isolate Taylor County residents who are LGBTQ, while others agreed with Smith and objected to the panel on religious grounds.

The Facebook post was deleted within a day, but pictures of it continued to circulate, eventually making their way to various news outlets in Lexington and Louisville.

Taylor County’s Fiscal Court had scheduled a special-called meeting with a closed agenda for June 18, the same night as the LGBTQ panel. 

While a full house attended the panel, making it standing room only, Taylor County resident Mary Clark spoke to the fiscal court.

She compared the Pride Panel to theoretical situations ranging from the Ku Klux Klan teaching “Lessons in White Supremacy,” to people advocating for the legalization of pedophilia or offering a “DIY: At-Home Meth Lab” craft session.

Clark went on to suggest the LGBTQ Pride Panel was a “political” event and said a group of residents were ready to petition for the repeal of the library tax. 

District 4 Magistrate Zuel Yarberry agreed “100 percent.”

District 5 Magistrate Derrick Bright suggested Smith look into changing the library’s board members, which Smith promised to do.

Because the Pride Panel and fiscal court meeting took place simultaneously, those attending the meeting at the courthouse were unaware that TCPL Director Tammy Snyder had begun by telling panel members and attendees that political discussion, derogatory remarks and raised voices were punishable with a warning, with a second offense grounds for removal from the discussion.

Bennett reinforced this in his introduction, saying he had planned the event to “simply be a conversation between respected human beings” regardless of “politics, religion or persuasion.”

The panel consisted of five LGBTQ adults from Kentucky, two of them former residents of Campbellsville.

Bennett organized the panel to help the LGBTQ teens who frequent the library (and their families) after hearing about issues they faced growing up in Taylor County, which he felt mirrored his own.

Attendees were invited to ask panelists questions about issues they dealt with, such as being shunned by parents, disrespected by school faculty or bullied by their peers.

The two panelists originally from Camp-bellsville, McKenzie Cox and Jeremy McFarland, spoke candidly about the ways in which they were mistreated growing up in Taylor County and how moving to friendlier places improved their quality of life.

The treatment of LGBTQ people in Campbellsville became a focal point during the public comment portion of TCPL’s special-called meeting, as 11 individuals spoke to members of the board. The library’s supporters filled the young adult library room where the meeting was being held and lined the walls outside, watching through windows as people spoke.

Matt Wolford, of Campbellsville, called out Clark, who was not in attendance, for her comment comparing attendees of the LGBTQ panel to advocates for pedophilia. 

“The reason this comparison pains me so much is because I am a victim of pedophilia,” he said. “And as a victim of pedophilia, being compared to [a pedophile], or even just someone who is advocating for the legalization of such an abhorrent, indefensible, disgusting, abominable act … does not even begin to acknowledge how despicable not just rape, but pedophilic rape, is.”

Wolford went on to say that since coming out he had been dealing with negative comments from the people around him for nearly a decade.

“If I had an opportunity to attend this panel at 12 or 13, perhaps I would have seen the support a community could have given me. Perhaps I would have seen LGBT people could grow up to be successful and be happy, and maybe I wouldn’t have attempted suicide at 15.”

Susanne Grubesic, a mother who attended the Pride Panel out of curiosity, noted there are children in the community who “don’t have anywhere else to go” other than the library and applauded the facility for its programming. 

“I wanted to write a thank you note to Tammy Snyder because if we don’t provide that as a community … they’re going to turn to drugs, they’re going to turn to unsafe partners, they’re going to kill themselves … and that’s not something I want to be a part of,” Grubesic said. “I want to be there to listen, be there to give a hug and be there to just say ‘You’re safe.’ So thank you, Taylor County Public Library, for providing that. I hope we can always provide that.”

Dawn Webster, who is Bennett’s mother, spoke through tears about what he went through growing up.

“I look back and it breaks my heart to think what he went through in high school, the hell he endured day after day at the hands of his peers and how much different his life would’ve been if he had a place like Taylor County Public Library to offer support,” she said. “Dalton had love and support from his family, but not all LGBTQ children have that support.”

She spoke of watching her son “break down in tears” from the stories teen patrons of the library have told him about their lives.

“No child should feel like less than the human being they are,” Webster said. “They are entitled to the same respect and equalities as any other human being. I always told my son, ‘Home is a place where you are loved,’ and Taylor County Public Library should always be that place for all who are interested, including LGBTQ youth.”

The board entered into closed session after a half hour of public comment to discuss a personnel matter — whether or not they would continue support of the library’s director — and exited approximately 10 minutes later.

Christina Shively, vice president of the library’s board, told the crowd that the they had voted unanimously to stand behind Snyder and the other library employees involved in planning the event.

(This article won a first place KPA Award for Best General News Story in 2020.)

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