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Meridian residents overwhelmingly testify in support of their library

Meridian Library District.jpg
James Dawson
/
Boise State Public Radio
More than 100 people crammed themselves into an overflowing room Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022, to testify on how the Meridian Library District handles its collection. Most supported the district, while a few accused them of peddling pornography to minors.

More than 100 people crammed into an overflowing room at the Meridian Library District Wednesday – the vast majority of which pushed back against an effort to purge books largely featuring LGBTQ themes and characters.

A group referring to themselves as “Concerned Citizens of Meridian” accused the library’s staff of “grooming” children to be more receptive to being molested by adults.

“Even the briefest of scans will make it clear that these books have but one purpose: to introduce children to sex and make them more susceptible to manipulation,” said Phil Reynolds, a founding member of Concerned Citizens of Meridian.

Those include books like “Gender Queer,” the sexual education resource “It’s Perfectly Normal” and the wildly popular “Captain Underpants” children’s series.

Library officials said most of those books are not available in the children’s section.

At one point, a woman shouted at a line of people filing out of the room, calling the LGBTQ community “groomers” before being led out by Meridian Police officers.

Multiple members of the group said they would not seek to defund or dissolve the library district, which could be done through a public vote.

Out of the nearly 100 people who testified in-person Wednesday or submitted comments to the board directly, just 15 demanded these books be pulled from shelves.

The rest said parents should make individual decisions about what their children read and to not make those choices for others.

Some added a little flourish to their testimony.

Eric Gironda, who said he lived in the South during segregation, accused the library’s opponents as coming to “lynch minds” with their testimony – comparing their complaints to the Ku Klux Klan.

Gironda then sang a few bars from “You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught,” a song from the 1949 Broadway musical, “South Pacific.” The song outlines how people must be taught to hate and fear others who look differently than they do.

He ended his testimony by slapping a $20 bill in front of Meridian Library District Board Chair Megan Larsen, urging others to give as well. By the end of the night, it appeared she had collected at least $80 in support of the library from those who attended.

Larry Etter later floated what he called “a modest proposal” modeled off the satirical essay of the same name by Irish author Jonathan Swift.

“The children and the juvenile’s section of this library should be permanently closed and the books destroyed,” Etter said, tongue-in-cheek.

“The public needs to be aware that there are books on these shelves that portray animals walking, talking, dressing like human beings,” he joked. “Some of them don’t even have pants on and are exposing their lower extremities.”

No action was taken Wednesday night during the nearly three-hour meeting, though the board plans to have further discussions about the legal risks it could take on by trying to segregate certain books.

The movement comes just a few months after the Nampa School Board banned nearly two dozen books from its libraries and Idaho legislative Republicans attempted to criminalize librarians who lend "harmful materials" to minors.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

Copyright 2022 Boise State Public Radio

I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!