November 27, 2019
By now, many of you have heard about the controversy surrounding a program Mid-Continent Public Library recently offered called Trans 101. After two teen suicides in the MCPL District, a broad community conversation started to explore how to support our LGBTQ+ citizens. The library developed a program where a transgender person could share information on his life experiences. The program, and the public debate over it, have been discussed in multiple venues and news reports. This post is not meant to rehash those conversations, but to share with you the current position of the MCPL Board.
First and foremost, it bears repeating that MCPL’s formal mission statement is, “to enrich our citizens and communities through expanding access to innovation, information, ideas, and inspiration.” This mission can, and always will be, challenging to achieve given the divergent views, needs, and interests of a library district that serves over 816,000 individuals across a wide range of communities. That is why we adopted a set of values to support the mission statement. Two of those values, intellectual freedom and inclusion, help to define MCPL’s commitment to providing valuable information to every member of our community.
In January, the Library Board reaffirmed its commitment to both the Freedom to Read statement and the Library Bill of Rights. We also reapproved a set of policies that direct staff to make decisions around the collection we provide. Staff, in turn, have a set of policies and procedures they follow in selecting materials and programs for their communities. Staff followed those policies and procedures in developing the Trans 101 program in response to a community request and will continue to follow them as they select future materials and programs.
Some have expressed discomfort with the subject matter of this program, including a member of the MCPL Board of Trustees who expressed her opinions in a letter that was published in two local newspapers. Personal opinions of individual board members should not be confused with the position of the Board, nor the position of Library leadership and staff. Opinions of the board come via formal action, and no action has been taken at this time.
Public libraries are no stranger to controversy—opinions have always been, and will always be, expressed about materials in the Library’s collection. One person’s “innovation, information, ideas, and inspiration” is not the same as another’s. This is why a Library’s mission is so important.
Mid-Continent Public Library is here to serve our entire community. Our inclusion value states that “the Library believes in the right of every individual to access library services regardless of income, education, beliefs, identity, abilities, age, or race.” Everyone is welcome at the Library, including members of the LGBTQ+ community, and we look forward to serving each and every one of you.
President of MCPL Board of Trustees