Tag: libraries

Seattle Library Rents Room to Kirk Cameron, Right-Wing Crusader Against “Woke Marxist Librarians”

Poster image from the 2014 movie "Saving Christmas," starring Kirk Cameron.

By Erica C. Barnett

On May 27, the Seattle Public Library will rent a 200-person meeting room to Kirk Cameron, the ‘80s TV star-turned-evangelical Christian activist, who’s promoting his conservative Christian children’s book as part of his publisher Brave Books’ “Freedom Island Tour.”According to Brave Books’ website, the tour—which only includes a handful of stops, including on in San Francisco—provides “a wholesome alternative to the Drag Queen Story Hours promoted by woke Marxist librarians.”

The Seattle Public Library stopped holding Drag Queen Story Time several years ago.

PubliCola broke the news about Cameron’s appearance on Twitter last Friday. On Saturday, the library issued a statement about its decision and invited the public to submit comments and questions about the event.

Contacted about Cameron’s appearance on Friday, a spokeswoman for the library said SPL isn’t “hosting” Cameron or endorsing his views, but providing his group access to a meeting room that’s available for anyone to rent. “We do not choose who gets to use our meeting rooms or what they are allowed to say or believe. That would be government censorship and a violation of the First Amendment. The Library is committed to intellectual freedom,” the spokeswoman, Laura Gentry, said.

“This was a fairly standard procedure meeting room booking request, however the event itself is likely to be more high-profile than most other room bookings and is likely to require additional Library resources due to the anticipated public interest,” a library spokeswoman said. Those resources could include extra security to insulate Cameron from protesters.

This mirrors the American Library Association’s policy on meeting room rentals, which says that banning hate speech in library meeting rooms would be tantamount to banning Drag Queen Story Time (something many libraries across the country have, in fact, been forced to do because of protests by right-wing groups). “If libraries kowtowed to the exclusive tastes of patrons, our cherished institutions would cease to exist,” according to an ALA opinion piece.

Cameron has said homosexuality is “unnatural,” opposes women having jobs outside the home, has called women who get abortions “murderers,” and said he believed that two recent deadly hurricanes were God’s punishment for people’s sins.

He has also said that public schools are “sexualizing” and “grooming” kids, a common trope among right-wing fringe groups.

“This was a fairly standard procedure meeting room booking request, however the event itself is likely to be more high-profile than most other room bookings and is likely to require additional Library resources due to the anticipated public interest,” Gentry said. Those resources could include extra security to insulate Cameron from protesters who may want to disrupt the event.

For public institutions, hosting controversial groups can be costly and sometimes dangerous. In one of the most famous examples, the public library in Wakefield, Massachusetts rented a meeting room to a neo-Nazi group in 2002. In an effort to prevent violence, the town shut down a highway, had staffers work at the library after hours, and paid hundreds of police officers to quell violence that erupted between neo-Nazis and anti-racist protesters.

Closer to home, the University of Washington provided access to Kane Hall, its largest auditorium, to far-right troll Milo Yiannopolous in 2017. Police in riot gear, hired to keep protesters away from the event, did not prevent two people from shooting a protester as Yiannopolous railed against ” hairy dykes,” “trannies,” and “Sasquatch lesbians” inside.

SPL’s policy on meeting rooms was tested most recently in 2020, when the library rented its main auditorium to a group of anti-trans activists engaged in legal efforts to bar trans women from gender-segregated spaces such as women’s restrooms. The library’s decision to provide space to the group sparked protests and a backlash against the library, including from trans and non-gender-conforming library staffers, who said the event was a threat to their safety and ability to do their jobs.

The event—held after hours with extra security, all funded by the public—sparked protests and caused long-term damage to the library’s reputation as a place that’s welcome to LGBTQ+ people, particularly trans and gender-nonconforming patrons and staff.

Afternoon Crank: More Precise Homelessness Exit Numbers, More Library Levy Asks

1. After initially saying it would require a “700-page PowerPoint” to explain how many actual people moved from homelessness into housing last year, the city’s Human Services Department has done just that, producing numbers from 2017 and 2018 that show precisely how many households and how many individual human beings have exited from city-funded homelessness programs.

In her State of the City speech, Mayor Jenny Durkan claimed the city had “helped more than 7,400 households move out of homelessness and into permanent housing”; after I reported that this number actually accounted for exits from programs rather than “households,” resulting in duplication,  HSD’s deputy director suggested that the actual number mattered less than the trajectory; “no matter how you look at it, it’s getting better,” she said. On Tuesday, at a meeting of the council’s human services committee, interim HSD director Jason Johnson confirmed another way households could be duplicated—if someone exits from a shelter with a rapid rehousing voucher, then uses the voucher until it runs out, that person counts as two “exits.”

This number is a far more precise (though still imperfect) way of looking at exits from homelessness. And it actually confirms HSD’s contention that the city’s focus on new strategies such as enhanced shelter, with case management and services, is paying off. In 2018, HSD-funded programs helped move 3,559 households, representing 5,792 individual people, into housing from homelessness. That’s an increase from 2017, when HSD-funded programs moved 3,374 households, representing 4,447 people, into housing. (The numbers in the chart HSD provided when I requested year-over-year data, below, don’t quite add up because 36 households used homeless prevention programs and, at another point in the year, were homeless and then exited from homelessness. And, as Kshama Sawant’s aide Ted Virdone confirmed ) City-funded homeless prevention programs served 71 fewer people last year than in 2017, which HSD spokeswoman Lily Rehrman attributes to the fact that six prevention programs—Chief Seattle Club Prevention, Mother Nation Prevention, Seattle Indian Health Board Prevention, St. Vincent de Paul Prevention, United Indians Prevention, and Somali Youth and Family Club (SYFC) Prevention—were new last year.

HSD’s presentation to the council committee earlier this week also showed that the while the total number of basic shelter beds declined by 296, the total number of shelter beds overall went up by 366, thanks to 662 new enhanced shelter beds—a term that, according to the city, refers to shelters with “extended or 24/7 service” that offer “many services” such as meals, storage, and case management.

2. The city council’s special library levy committee had its first evening hearing on the details of Mayor Jenny Durkan’s proposed $213 million levy renewal Thursday night, and the conversation was almost entirely free from the topic that dominated the committee’s discussion on Monday: Whether the library should do away with fines for late returns, which disproportionately impact people in the city’s most diverse and least wealthy areas.

Despite what certain radio talk-show hosts and the Seattle Times editorial board might have you believe, there was no evidence of public outrage at the idea that kids might no longer punished for failing to return their books on time. Instead, most public commenters spoke about about the importance of the library in general (one speaker, historian Paula Becker, described how important the library was as a refuge for her late son, Hunter, during his active heroin addiction) or in favor of specific programs they used, like a book club for people with sight impairment. (Council president Bruce Harrell, who suggested earlier this week that fines send an important message about civic responsibility, did get in one plug for fines as a way to pay for some of the items his colleagues have suggested adding to the proposal). The bulk of the meeting was about five proposed amendments that would increase the cost of the proposal, and other ideas that aren’t formal amendments but could add millions more to the plan.

Those amendments include:

• A proposal by council member Lorena Gonzalez to fund existing programs for kids under 4  and youth through high school with levy funds, rather than through the Seattle Library Foundation, at a cost of $4.2 million over seven years;

• An amendment by council member Mike O’Brien to keep libraries open one hour later on weeknights throughout the system (on top of the additional hours in Durkan’s proposal, which would add morning and evening hours to three branches and open four libraries on Fridays), at a cost of $6.2 million over seven years;

• An proposal by council member Teresa Mosqueda to study the feasibility of co-locating child care services at library branches, at an unknown cost;

• Another proposal by Mosqueda that would add two more security officers to the library system, bringing the total from 19 to 21, at a cost of $1.3 million over seven years; and

• A final proposal by Mosqueda to fund three more case managers and a youth services support worker from the Downtown Emergency Service Center to connect patrons experiencing homelessness to housing and services, at a cost of $2.1 million over seven years.

In addition, the council will consider adding more funding for digital materials like e-books to reflect their rising cost; adding air conditioning and/or elevators at the Columbia City, Green Lake, and University branches; funding a small new South Lake Union library branch in the new Denny Substation.

Support The C Is for Crank
If you like the work I’m doing here, and would like to support this page financially, please support me by becoming a monthly donor on Patreon or PayPal.  For just $5, $10, or $20 a month (or whatever you can give), you can help keep this site going, and help me continue to dedicate the many hours it takes to bring you stories like this one every week. This site is funded entirely by contributions from readers, which pay for the time I put into reporting and writing for this blog and on social media, as well as reporting-related and office expenses.  If you don’t wish to become a monthly contributor, you can always make a one-time donation via PayPal, Venmo (Erica-Barnett-7) or by mailing your contribution to P.O. Box 14328, Seattle, WA 98104. Thank you for reading, and I’m truly grateful for your support.

City council member Debora Juarez, who chairs the library committee, said the amendments “all make sense and are great, but that “we still have to be mindful that we are in levy mode; we are not in general budget mode. … We don’t want to put a poison pill where [the levy] goes down because taxpayers are not going to be comfortable” with the amount. “We’re not voting on a child care levy. We’re not voting on a public safety levy. We are voting on a library levy. So we have to keep that in mind.”

3. Learn to trust the Crank: As I first reported on Twitter yesterday, council member Juarez is King County Executive Dow Constantine’s pick to replace former council member Rob Johnson (who left the council before the end of his term for a job as the transportation planner for NHL Seattle). The King County Council will have to approve Juarez’s appointment (technically, she will represent North King County on the regional board). One question that will likely come up is whether Juarez, who fought tooth and nail for the N. 130th St. light rail station in her council district, will be able to broaden her horizons as a member of the regional Sound Transit board. Perhaps anticipating such questions, Juarez said in her announcement, “I plan on working as hard for the people of the tri-county Sound Transit service area as I do for my North Seattle district.”