‘We trust our librarians’: Demonstration shows support for libraries

By Zach Hagadone
Reader Staff

About 70 people gathered July 1 at the Sandpoint branch of the East Bonner County Library to express their support for the library and opposition to House Bill 710, which went into effect on that date as Idaho Code 18-1517B. 

The new law enables lawsuits against Idaho school and public libraries if minors are found to have accessed materials deemed “harmful” under a set of definitions that many critics on both sides of the political spectrum have described as overly vague.

Idaho Democrats organized similar demonstrations of support around the state on July 1. Karen Mathee, who is running for Idaho House Seat 1A as a Democrat against incumbent Rep. Mark Sauter, R-Dover, helped organize the local event and spoke to the crowd, saying, “There is nothing good about H.B. 710.”

About 70 people gathered at the Sandpoint branch of the East Bonner Library District to oppose House Bill 710. Photos by Zach Hagadone.

Specifically, Mathee referred to the definitions in the law that regard depictions or homosexuality and homosexual relationships as “obscene.” 

“I find that obscene,” she said.

She asked attendees, “Do you trust our librarians?” To which they responded “yes” in unison, followed by chants of, “We trust our librarians.”

Steve Johnson announced his bid for a seat on the Bonner County board of commissioners, said H.B. 710 “has this chilling effect. We don’t know what’s going to come next.”

“All of us — especially librarians — are sensitive to young people … They are the best guardians we could have,” Johnson added, going on to say that his hope is for the law to be overturned.

Writer and activist Adrian Murillo also spoke, delivering a message about “the bullying of libraries and librarians” and what it means for LGBTQ people who have for decades suffered hostility and neglect, and find opportunities for self-discovery and understanding in the books made available by libraries.

He said that while “the far-right is toning down its racism,” it is “ramping up its homophobia.” 

“Their tactic of pathologizing queer and trans lives, loves, relationships, sexuality, is not just an outright lie but a dog whistle message to justify harming LGBTQ people — particularly youth, often under the guise of protecting youth.”

Murillo stressed the importance of LGBTQ literature and nonfiction writing, describing its power as “emotional learning, how to deal with hopelessness and despair, and libraries offer sources for that. Stories are instructions for agency.”

About 70 people gathered at the Sandpoint branch of the East Bonner Library District to oppose House Bill 710. Photos by Zach Hagadone.

A number of other attendees also took the mic to express their solidarity with the library and librarians. 

Following the gathering, which included participants holding signs on the sidewalk along Division Avenue, the Bonner County Democrats stated that the party “is proud to support our libraries in Sandpoint and in Boundary County, today and every day. Libraries across the state fill vital roles teaching, fostering curiosity, growing empathy and creating connections in communities just like ours. 

“We know we’re a bit biased, but we think that East Bonner County Library is one of the best of them, and we’re thrilled to be able to stand with them today and cheer on the important work they do.”

In a statement emailed to the Reader, House 1B Democratic candidate Kathryn Larson wrote, “H.B. 710 has put an artificial spotlight on the library that implies a real problem. Anyone who frequents the library knows this is not true.”

Meanwhile, the “Library Love Letters” initiative seeks to solicit stories from residents in Bonner and Boundary counties about what their local libraries have meant to them.

Go to bit.ly/SendALibraryLoveLetter and submit a written story and post a picture.

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