Patrons at Talcott Library object to Pride Month books, board member reappointed


Books in the teen room at Rockton's Talcott Free Library, July 10, 2023

Only a few members of the public attended the Talcott Free Library's board meeting on July 17, 2023, compared to the hundreds protesting at the June 26 meeting. Several objected to "suggestive" books on display during Pride Month. The youth drag Q&A event, held virtually on July 14 along with protests and celebrations, was still on the minds of many. Spurred by the opposition to the drag Q&A, a new non-profit organization, Rockton Pride, was founded by Rockton residents, with the stated goal of "creating a safe place for the LGBTQ+ community." One of the leaders of the group presented the library with a $1,000 check at the board meeting.

Talcott Library director Megan Gove reported, “During the Q&A with Krystal Ball, 74 people registered, 49 logged in and a total of 60 viewed the presentation, which was well done.” Director Gove reported, “We had 725 adults, teens and kids signed up for this year's summer reading program." A successful pool party welcomed around 200. Gove also spoke of a three part Strategic Plan Class and of the library getting new computers.

Another order of business was board emails. Talcott Library Board Vice President Bob Geddeis stated that because of the drag controversy, 150 emails had been forwarded to the board from a group email box. Someone pointed to the example of the Winnebago County board members, who each have a personal email. Gove offered to look into the email process.

Geddeis asked that the board look into the possibility of splitting the ages of children on the Teen Advisory Board, the group which suggested the drag event. “There is a difference between 6th and 12th graders. Perhaps have one group of high school students, some who are younger,” Geddies said.

Geddeis has started the process of reviewing the board bylaws. “This should be done every two to three years, and it has never been done,” he said.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, patrons of Talcott Free Library and parents requested that books that were on display at Talcott Library during Pride Month be moved to a different part of the library.

Ten people signed up to speak in a time period that was extended by the Talcott board.

Katie Littlefield was first to address the board, “I am a former member of the Hononegah High School Board and am the mother of four,” Littlefield said.

Littlefield inquired what it cost the Village of Rockton to hire extra police, sheriff department help, and their staff during the Monday evening library board meeting on June 26.

Littlefield read an excerpt from the book, “This Book is Gay” which explains in detail about sexual relations. During June 2023, the book, which was written for queer young adults, was prominently displayed in the Teen Room of the Talcott Library.

“What is the benefit of children ages 12-18 in reading this book? MIT defines the age of adults from 18-26 years of age. I am asking that this book be moved from the young adult or teen section of the library.”

Mary Katherine Lindt is wife and mom of two young boys and said that the library had inappropriate information that was geared toward kids and teens.

Lindt added, “I grew up here... If I came across this at that age, it would be emotionally terrible for young children. These types of books make easy targets for young predators. I am concerned for my young children.”

Editor's note: many parents fear that sharing explicit information about sexual activity and identity could lower their children's resistance to abusers or make them more likely to identify as LGBTQ+.

Michael Lind said, “Content is something that affects the way you think. There can be a negative aspect.” One example Lind used was social media. “The content we expose our kids to matters. It is really good to teach technology with a step by step instructor.” He also asked that the books be moved to an adult section of the library.

Lifelong resident Laurie Miller said, “It is a good thing that this has come from this exposure, matched to underage children. The theme for this year's summer reading is 'Find your Voice' - well, I have found my voice to protect the innocence of children. This is what I want attached to my name.”

Father of six William Landerholm referred to the movie “Sound of Freedom,” which is about the international trafficking of children.

“Children deserve to be protected and the library is using children as pawns for their own tyrannical ideas. We cannot debate the fact that they are targeting young minds. It is a sad day when drag queen etiquette is the subject of a presentation. We will not be leered at the trafficking ideals.”

Landerholm also expressed concern for library directors.

Steve Bjork of Roscoe referred to a leader of Rockton Pride who posted on a GoFundMe page, “In hateful honor of Kevin Rilott.” (Rilott is the director of the Rockford Family Initiative, which led the anti-drag protests. One slogan of Rockton Pride is Love Always Wins.) Bjork referred to a verbal assault where a woman called him every letter of the alphabet.

“I stopped a man who is twice my size from harassing the pride group... You can find a bad apple in every bunch,” Bjork said.

Some speakers at the meeting had a different perspective on the controversy. Jessica Green, a Hononegah graduate and co-founder of the newly chartered Rockton Pride, presented a check to Talcott Library from the group for $1,000. “Talcott Library is a strong community partner and we want to say thank you. It is not lost on us what you went through to get this program through. This gift comes with no stipulation. We hope that in the future we will see more inclusive, educational programming.” Rockton Pride had previously been accused by some, including Kevin Rilott, of bringing cookies and flowers to the librarians in order to sway the library's decisions.

Rev. Carolyn Lukasick of Rockton United Methodist Church said, “I am also a mother of seven, a pastor, and a resident. I am devoted to the right to free speech, including those of which I disagree.”

“There also needs to be diversity. I would like to apologize publicly for the rhetoric by those claiming to be Christians.”

“How was so much voice given to outside agitators? The queer people that I know aren't a danger to your children. That is not what the pride community is about.”

Following the public comment portion of the meeting, the board moved to give Alicia Ragaller the seat she had vacated on the library board. Ragaller didn't run for reelection in April, as she thought her family might be moving out of the area.

Talcott Library Board Vice President Bob Geddeis disagreed with the motion, saying that a few other individuals are interested in the open seat and that the library board should interview all who are interested. “We made a motion without any input from the community. This is against the standing rules and against the State of Illinois statutes of how this should be done.”

“After 90 days the State Librarian and Secretary of State work with us on the vacant position process. The questions are the same for every applicant.”

Board member Terrie Garlow asked, “Why haven't people come forward?

Ragaller said, “This is grandstanding.” Ragaller followed by explaining her position.

It was noted that no information has been made available to the public on how to apply for a library board position.

Talcott Board President Gary Kovanda said, “I am at fault and we will have to address this in the future. People have expressed interest."

Kovanda added, “I am not convinced that Alicia had left the board. She never said that she didn't want to stay on. Alicia should have been at the last two meetings. An incumbent serves until the next person is elected.”

Geddeis suggested drafting a letter to the State Librarian, report the data on record, and ask for an extension of 30 days.

The board set a time to hold a special meeting to further discuss the seating process.

Terrie Garlow asked why if there was so much interest, why did nobody run for the board previously? “I have a really full plate and I do a lot in the community. People say that my husband is on the board, yes he is. If you want to run in the next election, I will happily run opposed.”

The board voted 4-1 with Geddeis casting a no vote to reappoint Alicia Ragaller to the vacant seat.

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