VINTON, Iowa — Vinton, Iowa is home to just less than 5,000 Iowans, but its library has stood the test of time. Its doors opened in 1904. However, right now, those doors are closed to the public.
Following the resignation of the interim director, the Vinton Public Library was left with no full-time employees.
"We felt that in the best interest of the library, and in order for us as a board to have a little bit of time to develop a plan moving forward, that we would close for this week," said Jimmy Kelly, chair of the Vinton Library Board.
The closure comes after Vinton community members expressed concerns about the books the library had on display.
"If there are books highlighting the LGBTQ lifestyle on display, we also believe that there should equally be books on display representing the more traditional lifestyle of a man portrayed as dad, and a woman being portrayed as mom on display, as well as books that have the Christian view that God is the creator of male and female at conception," said Vinton resident Deb Hesson at the board's April meeting.
This mirrors a trend we're seeing across the country. According to the American Library Association, over 330 challenges to library books were recorded in 2021—more than double the number of reports from the previous year.
Among their list of the 10 most-challenged books, five of them were challenged for containing LGBTQ content.
"Government institutions, like public schools and public community libraries, have a legal obligation under the First Amendment to not censor materials simply because some community members don't agree with the viewpoints in those materials. Free societies read freely," said Mark Stringer, executive director of ACLU of Iowa, in a statement.
Yet, despite the library's troubles, Kelly believes there's been a silver lining. He said that a time when the political climate leads to less discussions between people who disagree, he's been happy to see community members wanting to be involved in the library's future.
"You have a lot of spaces where people who agree on things can meet and talk, but not a lot of those forums where you can kind of discuss or consider points from other people's perspectives. So I think what it created and what the situation has actually done, has created some positives," Kelly said.
The Vinton Library Board is meeting on Wednesday to discuss plans to partially re-open. Board members have been training to help fulfill basic operations. More information will be available later this week.
Additional programming at the Vinton Library is postponed, but patrons are encouraged to continue participating in the self-guided reading program.