April 22, 2024

The Save Samuels group continues its efforts to ensure that the public library remains open. The Warren BOS voted in June to allocate just the first quarter of the facility's annual budget.

Controversy has swirled in the community since the Warren County Board of Supervisors voted June 13th to approve its fiscal year 2024 budget with a provision to withhold 75 percent of Samuels Public Library’s budget appropriation until a fall vote. Funds released by the BOS will only cover expenses through the end of September.

If defunded by Warren County, Samuels would have to use funds in its checking and savings accounts–typically used for materials purchases– to maintain operations for several months.

Chairwoman Vicky L. Cook and supervisors Butler, Oates, and Walter J. “Walt” Mabe voted in favor of the motion. Vice Chairwoman Cheryl L. Cullers voted against the motion.

At issue is a list of 134 books submitted by 53 individuals of the group, Clean Up Samuels (CUP), who complained that LGBTQ themes, sexual content and profanity had no place in the public library. The group has flooded library staff with over 800 forms requesting removal of books that many complainers state they have not even read. In fact, Supervisor Butler himself submitted book removal requests while admitting later that he had not read the books he requested be removed.

Save Samuels, started this spring by Warren County residents Kelsey Johnson Lawrence and Sydney Patton, is a coalition of over 500 citizens committed to keeping Samuels Public Library open, and as “a place for everyone without censorship or discrimination,” according to the group’s website.

Members of Save Samuels say that removing books from circulation because they portray LGBTQ people in a positive light is discriminatory and a violation of civil rights. Moreover, removing the materials could put Warren County in legal hot water.

Group members have organized petitions and sold t-shirts to fund their efforts and also reached out to media outlets across the country to share the story of Samuels Public Library and its effort to keep the facility open.

Save Samuels member Chuck Williams, who was born and raised in Warren County, stated in a Labor Day Save Samuels Facebook posting that “it would be helpful and beneficial to our cause to start a list of local businesses that align with Clean Up Samuels (CUS) and those that are neutral or pro Save Samuels. Our economic vote is one of the most powerful messages we can send. So far, we know of two coffee shops and a “market” that should be included.”

Williams, who is gay, said in a Tuesday afternoon phone interview that “Books don’t make us gay, other gays don’t make us gay, it’s nature. And as long as heterosexuals are reproducing, gays are going to exist.”

Williams also mused, “If books could change a human being, why haven’t all these years of studying the Bible made them compassionate, loving and kind?”

Members of Save Samuels encouraged its members to show up at the Warren County Government Center for a Tuesday, Sept. 5 Board of Supervisors meeting. Many showed up prior to 5 p.m. to secure a place in line; a sign-up sheet for public speakers, who are each limited to three minutes, was scheduled to open at 6 p.m.

The BOS allots one hour for public comments, though the number of citizens wishing to speak lately has been greater than the time slots available.

This issue is sure to remain in the forefront, as a 2017 Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the County and Samuels expired during the Covid pandemic. Though a local government can fund a nonprofit library without an MOA, Warren County had indicated that it will require one prior to releasing the remaining 75 percent of the library’s $1.02 million funding allocation.

About The Author