You don’t need to win elections to destroy the country


Nice library. Shame if something were to happen to it.

Here’s a great example of the chaos the right wing has brought down upon us, local libraries.

Residents of a small Iowa town criticized their library’s LGBTQ staff and their displaying of LGBTQ-related books until most of the staff quit. Now, the town’s library is closed for the foreseeable future.

After having the same library director for 32 years, the Vinton Public Library can’t seem to keep the position filled anymore. Since summer 2021, the Vinton Public Library has gone through two permanent directors and an interim director who has served in that role twice.

Located about 40 miles northwest of Cedar Rapids, the doors of the Vinton Public Library—housed in a brick and stone Carnegie—have been open to the public since 1904, but were shuttered on Friday, July 8, while the Vinton Library Board tries to sort out staffing issues seemingly brought on by local dalliances with the national culture wars.

It comes after a handful of locals whipped up a controversy first over the library displaying books about prominent Democrats, and later about it displaying LGBTQ books and having LGBTQ people on staff.

See? All it takes is a handful of local assholes to deprive an entire community of a valuable resource. Notice that the incident initially prompting this problem was displaying books about Democrats, which, last I heard, was still a legal political party.

I read through quite a few articles on this subject, and noticed a curious thing: while defenders of the library were named, none of the names of the people are brought up. All it is is librarians and others announcing that they can’t take it anymore, that they have to resign and get out of this sick town. At best we see phrases like “a handful of locals”.

Who are they? There has been an effective policy of harassment and abuse that has decimated the staff and made it impossible to keep the library open. GODDAMN IT, NAME THEM. This is asymmetric warfare where the oppressive forces get to thrive in concealment, an anonymity maintained by the media, while they get to assail the civic infrastructure. There is a serious problem flourishing in Vinton, Iowa, and everyone is pretending that the closure just happened passively. No. It was a targeted attack. Somebody organized it. Someone made harassing phone calls, or wrote abusive letters to the editor of the local paper, or denied employees service at the grocery store or pharmacy or whatever.

In the absence of any clarity here, I guess I’m just going to assume it was some vile conservative church. They’re usually the ones trying to impose their will on small towns. Given that Vinton, Iowa has a population of about 5,000, like Morris, and has at least 14 churches, I think that’s a safe bet.

Comments

  1. hillaryrettig1 says

    Even in a time with lots of horrible things happening, this news story stood out as particularly horrible.

  2. says

    I notice you don’t mention any of those 14 churches speaking out AGAINST the harassment of innocent public servants. So yeah, it’s a pretty safe bet they’re in on the putsch somehow.

  3. raven says

    Sounds like Vinton is a horrible place to live and the librarians just wanted out no matter what.

    Wikipedia population:
    1970 4,845 +1.3%
    1980 5,040 +4.0%
    1990 5,103 +1.2%
    2000 5,102 −0.0%
    2010 5,257 +3.0%
    2020 4,938 −6.1%
    The median age in the city was 40.3 years.
    The median age for the USA is 38 years.

    A lot of rural areas are losing population as people move away and aren’t replaced.
    This isn’t quite happening in Vinton though.
    Population is more or less stable but going nowhere in 50 years even as the US population increased a lot.

  4. says

    Charles Pierce quoting a couple of local newspapers names a couple of them, at least:

    In March, Brooke Kruckenberg of Vinton said the library had a “liberal agenda” based on book choices and the hiring of Greenlee and her staff, as reported by Vinton Newspapers. She and her mother, Deb Hesson, argued for more Christian content. “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,” Kruckenberg said at the March meeting. “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.”

  5. says

    Also:

    Greenlee also stated that after doing a diversity audit of the children’s collection and found the following:

    “Of the 5,779 children’s materials our library holds, three books had a subject heading of ‘LGBT’, two books had a heading of “Gay”…two books had ‘transgender’.”

    Greenlee added that her audit showed that there were 173 books in the collection that were based on Christian life. In addition, Greenlee said that to be truly fair, the library would have to display books on every subject that showed the views of all religions, as well as all groups within those religions.

  6. says

    No discussion was had, no vote was taken. Just straight up bullying by a minority that can’t get its way through fair means.
    The right-wing and the religious have had it in for libraries for decades. I recall hearing some guys on the radio 30 years ago discussing whether or not libraries were necessary at that point (and this is mostly before the internet, remember). “People can go to used bookstores,” was their reasoning.
    I think there are at least two, related, factors at work here–these people are afraid of any sort of public education, the risk that someone might teach their little Jesus bots that their belief systems are antiquated nonsense, and their unwillingness to have their tax money used to help anyone. They take the attitude that “I got mine through my own hard work, no one helped me, no government handouts blah blah blah,” despite, in so many cases, having been educated at public expense themselves, to say nothing of using roads and infrastructure built at public expense.
    Even the rich bastards with private educations get use out of these services, making millions & billions on the labor of employees educated at public expense, using public infrastructure, not to mention getting tax breaks and subsidies. They think they owe nothing back to society.
    No mistake, they will also target libraries. And this, in combination with underfunded school systems infiltrated by religious teachings, will result in the wasting of a lot of good minds that could have contributed something good.
    And they think somehow this will make for a stronger America. Because taxes are evil, and money given to the poor just disappears down a hole never to be seen again, evidently.
    Well, that’s my rant for the morning. Thank you for your indulgence. I’m going to bake a cake now.

  7. consciousness razor says

    The Gazette (in Cedar Rapids):

    In March, Brooke Kruckenberg of Vinton said the library had a “liberal agenda” based on book choices and the hiring of Greenlee and her staff, as reported by Vinton Newspapers. She and her mother, Deb Hesson, argued for more Christian content.

    “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,” Kruckenberg said at the March meeting. ”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.”

    Greenlee at that meeting said of the almost 6,000 children’s materials in the library, seven included headings of LGBT, gay or transgender and 173 were based on Christian life.

    Those are just two names — the same as from Orac above. Maybe there are more records out there from the meeting in March or related to other incidents before that….

    Vinton, a town of around 5,000 and the county seat of Benton County, also saw another director, Janette McMahon, resign in July 2021. She now is director of the DeWitt Public Library in Clinton County.

    McMahon told The Gazette last week she had a good library staff in Vinton, and some library board members who “were utterly fantastic” and others who “were a challenge.”

    “Not everyone was as supportive as others when the library needed to stand up for inclusion and diversity in its materials,” she said.

    So, also some (unnamed) members of the board. Somebody had to be a pushover. It takes two to tango, as they say.

    McMahon said she also received complaints about children’s books on display, including “Joey,” written by First Lady Jill Biden, and “Superheroes Are Everywhere” by Vice President Kamala Harris.

    However, no formal complaint was made about those books.

    “That puts library directors in an interesting position because if no one fills out a reconsideration form, there’s no way for a library to respond,” she said. “I’m a firm believer that everyone can have a right to their own opinion, but they don’t have a right to tell others what they can or cannot read.”

    Instead of filing a formal complaint, some people would check out the books and not return them, McMahon said.

    “Which is theft of materials,” McMahon said. “Then we had to go through a process to get them back. … We know the folks that had them out had been making complaints to other city officials and people around me without going through an actual process.”

    Have their library privileges been revoked?

    What “process” for banning books? Apparently, you don’t have to be the pope to do it at a small public library. So what … do you just complain very loudly?

    Some residents also argued the library should have more books about former President Donald Trump on display, McMahon recalled.

    Of course they did. They apparently didn’t have any to recommend and/or the library didn’t think any were worth putting on the shelves.

  8. consciousness razor says

    I forgot to highlight the “other city officials” (also unnamed) who were compliant.

  9. raven says

    Instead of filing a formal complaint, some people would check out the books and not return them, McMahon said.

    Oh.

    The fundie xians do that at our local library as well.
    They occasionally complain like at Vinton but the kooks are such a small minority with almost no support so they go nowhere.

    So they just steal the books that they don’t like.
    They don’t even check them out, just steal them.
    At one point, the library had 6 copies of Dawkins’s The God Delusion. Usually most of them checked out meaning it was a popular book. Then the copies started disappearing.
    The last copy is behind the counter. You have to ask. Because the library doesn’t want the xians to steal it.

  10. birgerjohansson says

    Enemies of libraries are the slimiest of all maggots. They belong to the same category as Vorbis in “Small Gods”.

  11. Akira MacKenzie says

    We’ve already heard of the Proud Boys harassing and threatening people at library events in several states. Sooner or later these goons are going to kill someone, but what have the Biden’s administration done to shut down these terrorists?

    Jack shit.

  12. Le Chifforobe says

    This happened in my area as well! A local loon went to the library and saw a Pride month display of books. She checked them all out to keep them from being read and was very proud of her accomplishment. The library simply put out more LGBTQ books, and it would probably have gone unnoticed if the loon were not RUNNING FOR OUR SCHOOL BOARD!

  13. dstatton says

    The same is true of a handful of assholes disrupting school board meetings, many of whom are Proud Boys.

  14. says

    Residents of a small Iowa town criticized their library’s LGBTQ staff and their displaying of LGBTQ-related books until most of the staff quit.

    Yeah, I doubt it’s just “criticizing”. The right has been doing this for years, painting their harassment as simply “criticism” or “a different opinion.” GamerGate opened my eyes to this and they’ve kept up this tactic ever since.

  15. magistramarla says

    Our local military Post Exchange has a lovely PRIDE display every June. I commended the manager for it last summer.
    There were some complaints on our local NextDoor platform. At least the loons can’t do much about what is displayed on federal property.
    You might also enjoy reading the email which my husband forwarded to me regarding the military facility’s stance on gender identity. I’m sure that there are those in the ranks who are gnashing their teeth at this.
    Unfortunately, these guidelines could easily change under a different administration. Gotta thank the Biden administration for this one….
    “(Name of military facility) is committed to providing a workplace that is free of discrimination and where all employees are treated with dignity and respect. We would like to share with you some important policy guidance with regard to transgender employees in the workplace.

    The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) identifies the following core concepts with regard to gender identity:
    • Gender identity is an individual’s internal sense of being male or female or an identity other than the traditional definitions of male or female [gender identity may also be a blend of both male and female identities or non-binary. It is how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves].
    • Transgender individuals are people with a gender identity and or expression that is different from the sex assigned to them at birth.
    • Transition: Some individuals will find it necessary to transition from living and working as one gender identity to another [it is the process by which those individuals strive to align their internal knowledge of gender more closely with its outward appearance].
    Please note the following OPM guidance with the above concepts in mind:

    Names and Pronouns:
    • Upon first date of notification, managers, supervisors, and coworkers are required to use the name and pronouns of the gender stipulated by transitioning [or transgender] employees.
    • Managers, supervisors, and employees must not intentionally misuse or make reference to employee’s former gender.
    Access to Restrooms and Related Facilities:
    • Agencies must allow transitioning employees access to restrooms and locker room facilities consistent with their gender identity.
    • Transitioning employees are not required to have undergone or provide proof of any medical procedure to have access to facilities.

    Sick Leave and Other Leave Flexibilities:
    Transitioning employees may use sick leave and other leave flexibilities to receive medical treatment related to their transition. These employees may also qualify to take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for medical care related to their transition.”

  16. says

    Libraries are one of the few ideas humanity has had that’s just plain good. So, obviously, people try to do way with them.

  17. Bruce says

    I’d guess the average voter there would think: good! The kids get bad ideas from libraries, so shut them down. But some of them would not realize that it is also possible to get ideas from your smartphone, and even to buy and read books without using a library. So some kids there will be smart and will move away forever as soon as they can. Kids who totally obey typical parents will not be educated enough to compete for jobs. So the town will die, and this is just evidence of it.

  18. birgerjohansson says

    Next step: the locals re-create the book-burning scene from Indiana Jones And the Last Crusade while the onlookers wear brown shirts and sing ‘Onward Christian soldiers’.

  19. SchreiberBike says

    Libraries are an example of government doing good, therefore, conservatives see them as bad. If the people cooperate to solve one problem, they will believe they can do it again and people will believe that cooperation in the form of government is good. That’s bad news for unfettered capitalism where the only time to do something is when a profit can be made from it.

    They believe that good government is bad government and bad government is good government. Look how they govern.

  20. lochaber says

    I’ve worked at the circulation desk at a couple of public libraries in California. And, while I’m sure some details are different in other areas, I suspect there are more similarities than differences.

    My experiences were surprisingly similar, despite having experience in a pretty rural, conservative area of California, as well as an urban, pretty leftist area.

    But, yeah, there is typical a handful of generally “known”/recognized “problem patrons”. They will frequently come in, and complain about our books, or displays, our programs, paying taxes (because they have some blatantly wrong ideas about arithmetic and finances…), etc. And it’s usually the same damned people. And they almost never file any sort of formal complaint, or anything official, they just come in and harass the staff working the circ desk, until the people at the circ desk get tired of reciting official public library policy at them, and get their supervisor. Sometimes this goes all the way up the chain, until the highest ranking person gets exhausted, and gives them a temporary ban, revokes their priviliges, informs them they are trespassing, have to leave, and ends up calling the cops or siccing security on them.

    The vast majority of library patrons are kind and pleasant, but it only takes one asshole to offset a hundred pleasant routine encounters and ruin your day. And that’s just the ones that try and argue everything. Some of them get violent, some of them will even stalk some employees outside of work. I can’t imagine what it would be like to work in a small community with an organized opposition to the library, that would be a nightmare scenario…

  21. Erp says

    Bit of a mix on the churches in Vinton
    1 Trinity Lutheran – Missouri Synod (conservative)
    1 First Christian Church (unknown, new)
    1 Blessed Hope (conservative, the pastor got his theological training at Liberty Theological Seminary, links to Focus on the Family on their website) – This seems to be the church that at least one of the complainers (who is also the mother of another complainer) attends
    1 Wesley United Methodist (unknown but apparently works closely with the PC(USA) and ELCA church in the town)
    1 Stewart Memorial (also United Methodist, unknown)
    1 Presbyterian Church of Vinton (PC(USA) so on the liberal side relatively speaking)
    1 First Baptist (conservative but doesn’t seem to be Southern Baptist [no SBC church in the town as far as I can see but nothing from the more liberal Baptist groups either])
    1 Cornerstone Baptist (self described “Independent Fundamental”)
    1 Faith Independent Baptist Church (independent is usually a giveaway for conservative in Baptist churches)
    1 Bethlehem Lutheran (ELCA so on the liberal side relatively speaking)
    1 St Mary Catholic
    1 Jehovah’s Witnesses Kingdom Hall

    Nearest openly affirming churches seem to be in Cedar Rapids (about 35 miles away).

  22. opossumboy says

    Homosexuality is genetic. One is born homosexual, it is a part of normal human variation. Yet so many of the poorly educated christians call them sinners.

    In any case, homosexuality is a social construct. Its definition has varied over the centuries, and even today varies across cultures. For example, the Mahu of the south pacific islands are nothing like gays in California.

  23. silvrhalide says

    @6,8 At a guess, the local paper is trying to hang onto solvency (with a potential readership of 5,000, it would have to. Jesus. My high school student roster was 3,000+. That is one tiny town.) and doesn’t want to offend anyone. Hence the lack of names and the spineless (non)stance. The other possibility is that the two crackpots run everything, or at least a significant amount of things, in what is decidedly a one-horse town. (If that. Seems more like a single spavined-mule town but I digress.) Clearly the named two enjoy being big fish is what is a pretty small pond and punching down on the LGTBQ+ community presents an easy target.

    That said, that pond is going to continue to get smaller until it eventually evaporates altogether. As raven in #3 pointed out, the median age in Vinton is above the US median, which tells me that the next generation is checking out and no one wants to move in. (Wonder why? /s) Which means that Vinton is in a slow death spiral. When the libraries and public amenities go, the town goes too. Not immediately, the people who bought homes will hang on, because they’ve already sunk time and money into those homes but the value of those homes will gradually decrease, because who wants to buy a home in a problematic town with no public amenities? People will choose the next town over, the one with the movie theater that shows ALL the movies, the one with the public library or libraries, the one with the town rec center or park, because that’s what you do when you want to raise a family and put down roots. You don’t choose some fading, bitter, sanctimonious, do-nothing, know-nothing, has-been town. You pick the place with the future, not the one with the problem children (the ones who are trapped in aging bodies.)
    That pettiness and means will manifest in other damaging ways as well.
    As the population of Vinton gets older and there’s less of an economy, the residents will start to cut back on public services, like schools and school programs (which will only accelerate the downward spiral.) Home prices will continue to fall, which means that anyone who bought a home there will be effectively trapped there, because they won’t be able to sell a house for enough money to buy another home in a different town/state because who wants to buy a home in a place with a crap school and no library?
    Then it’s only a matter of time.
    Last one out of Vinton, don’t forget to turn out the lights.

  24. silvrhalide says

    @22 Right, because all viewpoints are equally valid. /s
    So if you are going to have books on the Shoah, you clearly need to have books that show the Nazi point of view. Because “there are very fine people on both sides”. Obviously.
    (Spoiler: THERE ARE NO VERY FINE NAZIS. EVER.)

    @11 Is there not some kind of security system that at least makes it harder to steal books in your library? Asking b/c all the books in my local library come with a security chip/RFID. When you check out, the chip has to be logged in as being checked out to [name] library patron, otherwise the security system goes nuts–flashing lights, loud alarm (like car alarm loud), etc. AND the bar at the door whacks you in the stomach. It’s embarrassing, like getting caught shoplifting. (Similar technology, actually.) And while the senior librarians are a little too senior, for the most part, to do any tackling, the local library does hire library pages (usually high school or college students) some of whom are quite large and athletic. All of which means that anyone stealing (or defacing books by tearing them apart and/or removing the chip) will get caught pretty quickly and banned from the library.

  25. raven says

    Is there not some kind of security system that at least makes it harder to steal books in your library?

    The local library (which is well supported and quite good) used to have the RFID system. Those can be defeated if you are determined enough.

    They took it out long ago though.
    Library checkout is self serve with a bar code reader and no one is watching.
    The library is quite popular with the community and heavily used with a bank of very fast internet devices. Theft, except for the fundies, doesn’t seem to be a problem.

  26. lochaber says

    silverhalide@28>

    I can’t speak to their experience/circumstance, but the security systems at the libraries I worked at were pretty meager, and easily bypassed by someone who was capable of googling a few terms. Also, most of the libraries I worked at had really restrictive rules as to how/whether we could charge patrons for lost/damaged books. Oversimplification, but unless we had some sort of airtight, verifiable proof of malicious behaviour on their part, we pretty much had to just write it off as a loss. And I don’t disagree with that. books accumulate damage, and the check-in/check-out protocols are generally reliable, but aren’t absolute. weird shit happens

    Eventually, it gets to the point, where you can’t really assign blame for any particular event unless someone volunteers responsibility for that blame. And, while I respect and admire those individuals who are willing to admit to responsibility of loss/damage, and are willing to shoulder the burden of those losses, ultimately, most of the fine assessment systems I’ve dealt with, don’t have any effective way of addressing random damage or circulation errors, and then if you have a human in the loop, they (hopefully) want to avoid saddling the cost of long term damage on the individual who happened to report it…

    TL;DR: Sneaking stuff out of libraries is probably easier than shoplifting. not that you even need to go that far, most libraries I worked for, you could just check something out, and then claimed you returned it, and get it removed from your record. For the more paranoid, they could just put the offending items in something like a chip bag, or something lined with tin foil or similar. It’s not terribly difficult to block/defeat RFID detectors, and even if they get caught, they can just pretend to apologize, pretend to claim it was an accident, turn the materials over, and try again.

  27. silvrhalide says

    @29, 30 Ah, that explains a few things then. The library in the town where I grew up actually had (and still has) a number of actually valuable collections (original American Revolution stuff, mostly) as well as signed books from notable authors and actual rare books. So they have a vested interest in keeping the good stuff from getting stolen, because people will actually steal the valuable stuff and sell it on the open market, hence the rather vigorous security systems. You can look at the valuable stuff, you just have to do it in a room with only one exit, the valuable things never actually leave the library. In-house only. If you request 6 items, you can look at 6 items and you damn well better return 6 items to the special collections desk.

    And yeah, the RFID is pretty easy to defeat but the librarians are certainly going to keep a close eye on you if you show up with a tinfoil bag of a size sufficient to steal a book.

    They’re also moving towards a electronic library collection. E-books just disappear at the end of the due date. Don’t have an e-reader? You can check one out from the library. (They will chase you down for those, those are expensive.) As much as I love the hardcopy books, the e-books make it virtually impossible for a controversial book to “disappear”.

  28. Snarki, child of Loki says

    @26 sexual orientation seems to be something like “handedness”.

    You don’t get to choose, it’s not genetic, exactly, just something about how brains develop and organize.

    I speak as a proud member of the adextrous faction.

  29. Derek Vandivere says

    The left wing in the US really needs to get its crap together and start organizing like the right wingers do at the school board and other local levels.

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