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Local Voices: Mother writes letter advocating for LGBTQ+ youth and Library Bill of Rights

By Keri Simonet

To Members of the Board of Trustees of The Community Library Network,

I understand there has recently been some concern expressed by Board Member Ottosen as to the materials and meetings made available to the public, specifically those materials and meetings that inform, align, or support LGBTQ+ people and allies.

I would like to ask Board Member Ottosen if she is aware that “A landmark 2011 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report reviewed research on the health of LGBT individuals, including youth.

Although this research is limited, the IOM report found that “the disparities in both mental and physical health that are seen between LGBT and heterosexual and non-gender-variant youth are influenced largely by their experiences of stigma and discrimination during the development of their sexual orientation and gender identity.”

These negative experiences include high rates of physical and emotional bias and violence; rejection by families and peers; and inadequate supports in schools, employment, and communities because of their sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.” (

I wonder if she knows that, “Stress associated with these experiences can put LGBT young people at risk for negative health outcomes. Research shows that due to these environmental challenges, LGBT youth are at risk for negative health outcomes and are more likely to attempt suicide, experience homelessness, and use illegal drugs. These issues may also contribute to anxiety, depressive symptoms, and feelings of isolation. Youth who express their gender in ways that vary from societal expectations for their perceived sex or gender are at risk for high levels of childhood physical, psychological, and sexual abuse. They are also at risk for school victimization. As a result, they may have poorer well-being than lesbian, gay, and bisexual peers whose gender expression is more closely aligned with societal expectations.” (

Does Board Member Ottosen realize that “Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020), with LGBTQ youth being four times more likely to seriously consider suicide, to make a plan for suicide, and to attempt suicide than their peers (Johns et al., 2019; Johns et al., 2020).” Or that “The Trevor Project estimates that at least one LGBTQ youth between the ages 13-24 attempts suicide every 45 seconds in the U.S.”

I suspect Board Member Ottosen will attempt to twist those statistics and facts into some sort of religious argument, something along the lines of the sexuality and gender-fluidness of the child/youth being at fault, as opposed to the lack of support in the home, school system, and community the child receives.

As a parent of a gay son, these numbers scared me when he came out to me in middle school, but thank goodness I listened to him, accepted him, loved him, and celebrated him. Thank goodness he found support in his school (both at Woodland Middle School and Lake City High School), and thank goodness he has found support in the HREI (Human Rights Education Institute) and NIPA (North Idaho Pride Alliance) mentors and youth.

As a mother needing to know how to best support her son as he navigated not just the minefield that is growing up and learning who he is, but also learning that he is part of a unique group of people who will always have to be on guard against people who hate him, simply for existing, thank goodness I had the support of HREI, NIPA, and ALL the books, materials, and support groups available through the public library. Thank goodness HE had access to materials that would allow him to discover how wonderful he was.

This is what I wish to convey… this BOT appointment shouldn’t be an ego project for any member of the Board in order to gain the accolades of their precious KCRCC, but should be an opportunity for a private citizen to make a positive difference in their community for ALL members of society, not just the chosen few. However, I have a feeling that Board Member Ottosen has heard these stories before, has heard the facts regarding LGBTQ+ youth and suicide, and, for whatever reason, has chosen to ignore them.

This is why I am not going to attempt to engage in any sort of debate with Board Member Ottosen, as these facts are easily found and are easily witnessed just by engaging with our LGBTQ+ youth… trust me, they have a lot to say, intelligently.

However, I will directly engage with Board Member Ottosen and ask her… how is her current agenda aligns with the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights?

The American Library Association affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas and that the following basic policies should guide their services:

I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.

II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.

IV. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting the abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.

V. A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.

VI. Libraries which make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.

VII. All people, regardless of origin, age, background, or views, possess a right to privacy and confidentiality in their library use. Libraries should advocate for, educate about, and protect people’s privacy, safeguarding all library use data, including personally identifiable information.

Adopted June 19, 1939, by the ALA Council; amended October 14, 1944; June 18, 1948; February 2, 1961; June 27, 1967; January 23, 1980; January 29, 2019.

Take a look at your personal agenda, Board Member Ottosen, and ask yourself if it aligns with the Library Bill of Rights. If Board Member Ottosen decides to move against the tenets set within, I beg the remaining Board Members - Chair Katie Blank, Clerk Regina McCrea, Vice-Chair Judy Meyer, Board Member Vanessa Robinson, Treasurer, ex officio Michele Veale, and Director Amy Rodda to ensure that her personal religious views and censorship ideals do not become a part of the official library policy.

Thank you,

Keri Simonet

Coeur d'Alene, Idaho



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