Don’t Hide the Pride — How to Fight Censorship of Pride Month Library Displays

In 2022, I wrote about the emergence of “Hide the Pride.” Started by a Catholic advocacy group, this “movement” encourages people to petition the library to remove LGBTQ books from the collection and to check out all the LGBTQ books on Pride displays, especially children’s books, to keep them out of circulation. Many people go a step further, either hiding queer books within the library, refusing to return the borrowed books, or simply stealing them.

We’re now in the third year of “Hide the Pride,” and libraries are still reporting this behavior. Book bans on LGBTQ books have been on the rise for years, and this is another censorship attempt. I’m not going to spend any time arguing why LGBTQ books should be in the library — it should be a given that queer people belong in public libraries, and that queer families and kids should have representation of themselves in the materials.

In some ways, “Hide the Pride” can backfire: missing books may be bought again, boosting sales of queer books and keeping the same titles in circulation. The increased check out numbers could even be used to show there’s demand for LGBTQ books, which means ordering more of them.

On the other hand, it’s demoralizing for librarians who are already fighting an influx of book challenges, often being harassed for providing diverse books to patrons. It’s all too easy for this to result in quiet censorship, where libraries decide that Pride displays just aren’t worth the hassle. Library budgets also might not allow replacements of a lot of missing books, especially if they are repeatedly stolen.

So what can we do as LGBTQ readers and their allies to fight censorship of Pride displays? Kelly Jensen has a great guide for librarians, so check that out for more information. Here is my boiled-down, just the bullet points version for library users and employees.

How Readers Can Fight Censorship of Pride Displays

If your local library has a Pride display, let them know (in person, through email, by phone) that you appreciate it and support it. This feedback is often recorded and can be used as a defense if someone complains. If your library doesn’t have a Pride display, let them know you would like to see one. All year, attend your library board meetings to show your support. And lastly, you might want to pass along Kelly Jensen’s guide to your library to help them prepare for censorship attempts.

How Library Employees Can Fight Censorship of Pride Displays

Assume you’re going to get pushback and “Hide the Pride”-style responses to displays and plan accordingly, even if it hasn’t happened in previous years. Kelly has great strategies, like including a displayed print-out of each book cover behind the copy on your display, with a QR code that encourages people to place holds on the title. That way, even if the books are all checked out, they’re still displayed. Similarly, you can include bookmarks or pamphlets with recommendations — just make sure to only put out a few at a time. Also keep track of your stats: if all the books on display keep getting checked out, use that as an opportunity to order more LGBTQ books.

Anti-queer, anti-trans book banners are very loud about their opinions, so it’s important for those of us who support LGBTQ people to be just as loud.

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And hey, now that you’re attending library board meetings, be sure to attend your school board meetings as well to fight book bans (and general bigoted nonsense). This shirt (or hoodie, or tank top) is a good reminder. $30+

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