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Columbia City's Peabody Library draws support for keeping its Pride Month displays

The book display for Pride Month was empty Friday afternoon after patrons checked out all the books in a show of support for the Peabody Public Library's staff.
Rebecca Green
/
WBOI News
The book display for Pride Month was empty Friday afternoon after patrons checked out all the books in a show of support for the Peabody Public Library's staff.

Residents of Columbia City came out to the Peabody Public Library Friday to show support for the library’s two Pride displays, which have caused some controversy in the community.

The two Pride displays, which were erected at the beginning of June, are split between the adult section and the teen section. The displays feature books written by or about LGBTQ+ individuals.

Mike Ashby is the executive director of the Peabody Public Library. He says they decided to put up the displays during Pride month to show the library is a safe inclusive place for everyone in the community.

“Every month we have different displays featuring things throughout the world and social issues and stuff like that.”

Ashby says the library typically follows the national calendar and does displays for Black History Month, Women’s History Month and Autism Awareness Month, among others.

“We don’t have a huge collection and we try to, with our small community, hit as many topics and subject matters as we can.”

On June 22, the Whitley County board of commissioners sent a public letter stating they don’t support “the promotion of sexuality being displayed” at the library.

Patrons for Pride showed up Friday to support the Peabody Public Library's Pride Month display.
Rebecca Green
/
WBOI News
Patrons for Pride showed up Friday to support the Peabody Public Library's Pride Month display.

The letter, signed by all three commissioners, says it is the responsibility of parents to provide their children with sexual education, not libraries or other public entities. They encouraged residents to contact the library’s board of trustees with concerns.

Lori Shipman is a library board trustee for Peabody and attended the demonstration in support of the Pride displays. She says the board received both positive and negative comments, until a social media campaign began.

“And that really prompted a big influx of emails and nasty notes and phone calls and text messages from people that it was very apparent, to me, had never been inside of our library before, had not viewed the displays, had been told to call, had been told to email.”

Shipman says she then began receiving emails from people wanting to support the library and the Pride display. Residents showed up to check out the books in the Pride displays and also cater lunch for the library staff as a show of appreciation.

Ashby came to Peabody Public Library in January. He says he was told by staff that in previous years, when they would try to put up a Pride display, it would be taken down after any complaint.

The July display of Christian fiction is up and ready at the Peabody Public Library.
Rebecca Green
/
WBOI News
The July display of Christian fiction is up and ready at the Peabody Public Library.

“So this is the first time that we did not take down the display. That we said ‘no we’re gonna do something for the community and this portion of the community because they are a part of our community family.’ And we’re not gonna back down.”

Next month, the library will have a display focused on Christian literature, because members of the community have requested it.

Ella Abbott is a multimedia reporter for 89.1 WBOI. She is a strong believer in the ways audio storytelling can engage an audience and create a sensory experience.