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Smithtown Library removing Pride books is 'devastating', Long Island LGBTQ community says

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Smithtown library trustees have voted to remove pride month displays from children’s sections.

The vote was met with uproar from New York’s LGBTQ community and its allies, including Governor Kathy Hochul.

“For many LGBTQ+ kids, libraries are one of the few spaces where they can be welcomed and affirmed for who they are,” Hochul tweeted. “Our public spaces should be accepting our young people — not rejecting them.”

A screenshot of the memo to Smithtown Library building heads that has been circling social media.
A screenshot of the memo to Smithtown Library building heads that has been circling social media.

In a release Thursday, Hochul said she had directed the New York State Division of Human rights to investigate the board's removal of LGBTQ displays. The Smithtown library board is scheduled Thursday night to vote on rescinding a decision made earlier this week.

Jodi Picoult, an author and Long Island native, said on social media that working at the Smithtown library was her first job. Picoult said the decision “disgusted her.”

“Libraries are for all, and representation matters,” Picoult said. “Smithtown folks, how do you feel about being a place where books are banned?”

Robert Vitelli, vice president and chief operating officer at the Long Island-based LGBT Network, said LGBTQ children will suffer if they lose access to material about their identity.

“Something like this has an incredible long-term devastating impact on the long-term health outcomes of LGBTQ young people,” Vitelli said. “And what the Smithtown library board has done is institutionalize hate.”

The LGBT Network is planning a town hall in response to the decision.

“It is refreshing to see so many people upset about it, both LGBT identifying and non-LGBT identifying,” Vitelli said. “However, we want to focus on long-term sustainable, institutional and systemic change.”

Vitelli said the town hall will focus on training community members to run for library and school boards.

Four of the six library trustees supported removing the displays. Library Director Robert Lusak said the books remain in the library and displays in other sections will not be removed.

Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.