‘The V-Word’ survived an attempted ban but two copies of the book were removed from Lafayette Parish libraries anyway | Entertainment/Life

Two copies of a book that a Lafayette Public Library patron wanted banned were removed anyway, one as part of a routine discard process, the other for unknown reasons, the library director said Friday.

A single copy of “The V-Word,” a collection of stories by women about losing their virginity when they were teenagers, remains in the parish public library system.

“The V-Word” is one of two books targeted for censorship by Michael Lunsford, a resident of St. Martin Parish who is executive director of the conservative group Citizens for a New Louisiana based in Lafayette.

Lunsford, in October, filed a request for reconsideration with the library system seeking to have “This Book is Gay” removed. He quickly followed that up with a challenge to “The V-Word.”

In reviewing library book discard lists created Nov. 9, Jan. 12 and June 1, The Acadiana Advocate discovered two copies of “The V-Word” were removed from the libraries around the time of Lunsford’s challenge. One copy was removed from South Regional Library before Nov. 9, possibly several months earlier. The other was removed from the Main Library in downtown Lafayette by Jan. 12.

The only remaining copy is at the North Regional Library in Carencro, library records show.

Library Director Danny Gillane said the South Regional branch librarian placed the book on the discard list before Lunsford’s challenge. He said he doesn’t know why the second version of “The V-Word” was removed from the Main Library, and he said there’s no way to find out.

“The timing seems unfortunate,” Lynette Mejia, a library patron and anti-censorship activist, said Friday.

If the books were discarded for lack of use, Mejia said she’d like to see data showing that. If they were discarded because of poor condition, they should be replaced with new copies, she said.

The Library Board of Control periodically votes to discard materials including books, magazines, DVDs and games identified by library workers as damaged, outdated or no longer used.

Gillane said the board does not see the names of books and other materials discarded unless a member requests it. Nor do board members ask that certain books be discarded, he said.

“Even if a board member or a staff person or an elected official wanted me to get rid of a book,” Gillane said, “they would have to go through the reconsideration process.”

Board member Stephanie Armbruster, he said, has questioned and voted against the removal of so many books because they were bought with taxpayer dollars. Gillane said the library system is always buying new books so it has to make space on shelves by discarding books that are in poor condition, that haven’t been checked out in years or that have multiple copies available.

“This Book is Gay” did not appear on any of the three discard lists.

But a book upon which a challenged documentary film is based was discarded before November.

“Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Lives of the Stars” by Scotty Bowers is no longer available in print in the library system. A patron challenged a documentary film based on the book about Bowers’ life, which included secretly providing same-sex partners to some of Hollywood’s stars.

The Library Board voted in April to keep the film in the library, but only patrons 17 and older are allowed to check it out.

Gillane said he wasn’t aware there was a book version of the film and wasn’t aware the book was discarded.

“At this point,” Mejia said, “I’m more concerned about the library self-censoring than I am about the board. I’m more concerned about the library doing things preemptively based on what we saw with the displays this summer. It really worries me that we’re seeing these ‘V-Word’ books disappear.”

In the summer, Gillane ordered librarians to discontinue book displays highlighting specific segments of the population, such as those for Pride Month, Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Native American history and Cajun heritage.

In October, Lunsford tried to present Gillane with a list of books he wanted censored, but Gillane said he told Lunsford to file requests for reconsideration forms for each book. The books, Lunsford said, were from a list he got from MassResistance, an anti-LGBTQ group.

Reconsideration committees consisting of two librarians and a Library Board member rejected both of Lunsford’s requests. He appealed the decision on “This Book is Gay” to the Library Board but did not appeal the decision on “The V-Word.”

The board has since changed the composition of the reconsideration committee to include only one librarian and two board members.

Before the board voted on “This Book is Gay,” Gillane decided to move the book and entire nonfiction teen section to the adult nonfiction section.

The Lafayette Parish Council appoints all but one person to the Library Board, with the mayor-president appointing one person. Appointees in the past 1½ years lean conservative and Christian. Armbruster and board President Robert Judge protested the Drag Queen Story Time at the library in 2018, before they were appointed to the board.

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