A Northern Virginia public library removed a holiday-themed display this week that featured the Bible alongside two sexually explicit books at the center of a furious debate between school officials and parents who see the material as inappropriate for children.
The glass-enclosed display at McLean’s Dolley Madison Library included a copy of the Bible and copies of “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison and “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe.
The two controversial books are available to students in Fairfax County Public Schools. Their graphic depictions of fellatio and other sexual acts involving children have created a furor. One of the books includes an image of a man masturbating a boy.
Librarians at Dolley Madison declined to comment, and the Fairfax County Public Library system said it would take no questions about the display.
“The Dolley Madison Library holiday reading display was intended to highlight the freedom to read and the fact that many library patrons have more time during the holidays to do so,” said a statement by Fairfax County Public Library Director Jessica Hudson. “It was not the intention of staff to create a display that could be construed as offensive. The display has been removed.”
Stacy Langton, a parent of Fairfax County students, said the library’s response was preposterous given the controversy. She first complained about the books in September.
Ms. Langton and other concerned parents spoke last week at a county school board meeting after officials rejected complaints about “Lawn Boy” and “Gender Queer” and announced during the Thanksgiving break that they would return the books to school library shelves.
The fight drew national coverage.
Ms. Langton said it was hardly coincidental that Dolley Madison librarians chose “Lawn Boy” and “Gender Queer” to be among books to feature this week.
“It is 100% a slap in the face to the parents in Fairfax County who are concerned about these two books,” Ms. Langton said.
The display was in a glass case and featured 11 small gnomes with pointed wizard hats clutching books. A gnome with a rainbow-hued hat was holding the Bible.
Behind the gnomes were pinned pieces of paper with handwritten quotes from Salman Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses” and other books, according to witnesses and photographs.
“Did they think about including the Quran or The Talmud in the display?” Ms. Langton said. “They are clearly mocking the Bible by saying these other books somehow equate with it.”
Ms. Langton learned about the display Tuesday and posted photos on Twitter at about 10 a.m. She said she went to the library around 12:30 p.m. and staff told her the display had come down 30 minutes earlier.
A staffer told Ms. Langton that the head librarian would speak with her after finishing a phone call. The staffer then told her that the librarian had left for the day.