Lawmakers recently cut nearly $4 million from the Idaho Commission for Libraries (ICFL) because it provided sexually explicit material to K-12 schools. This effort is a significant step towards greater accountability in public institutions. However, lawmakers also need to pay more attention to federal education grants.
Part of the ICFL budget cut was for the commission’s Idaho Digital E-Book Alliance (IDEA), a project that provides K-12 students with independent access to digital books through their public school accounts.
The IDEA collection included obscene and pornographic material, such as “Gender Queer”, and books promoting transgenderism to children, such as “George” and “Julian is a Mermaid”.
Project IDEA was originally funded in 2020 by $179,279 in federal grants from the Library Services and Technology Act and the CARES Act. Both grants were awarded to states through the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), a federal agency dedicated to integrating diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) into all agency stakeholders and initiatives. IMLS states that its grants are designed to, among other things, “serve” diverse individuals and “develop and implement equitable and inclusive staff recruitment and retention programs.”
ICFL received in 2021 a “Welcoming Libraries” grant funded in part by IMLS to increase DEI resources in Idaho schools and public libraries by providing grants to them. Up to 70% of each grant could be spent on DEI books for the library’s collection, while the remaining 30% could be used for things like promotional materials or DEI professional development. The ICFL provided DEI resources to participating libraries, including tools, guides, websites, articles, and webinars.
Types of resources shared with libraries included “A Guide to Selecting Anti-Bias Children’s Books,” which argues that children need to read books about “diversity, power relations between different groups of people and diverse social identities (for example, race, ethnicity, gender, economic class, sexual orientation, and disability). The guide also argues that “classic or beloved children’s books…often convey values of sexism, racism, ableism or even colonialism.” He says social justice books should replace classic literature.
Another collection development resource provided to schools and public libraries by the ICFL is “Putting the L,G,B,T, I and Q in Collection Development: Resources on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.” The resource features the “gender unicorn”, a deceptively purple cartoon image intended to be endearing to young children while encouraging children to choose their own gender identity, gender expression and the gender that appeals to them. .
Libraries participating in the grant program are being transformed. For example, the Coeur d’Alene Public Library used the grant to conduct a “diversity audit” of materials and promote DEI by creating the “Mirrors and Windows Book Club.” The club reads a different Own Voices children’s book each month. According to the library, “each book club participant will receive their own copy of the book to keep.”
Own Voices includes books such as “Call Me Tree” by Maya Christian Gonzalez. This is significant “not to use gendered pronouns”. Another example is “Sparkle Boy” by Leslea Newmans, which is about a little boy who cross-dresses in a sparkly skirt.
The Coeur d’Alene High School Library used the grant to create the Vikings for Diversity and Inclusion book club.
Nampa Public Library has agreed to conduct a diversity and inclusion audit of its collection.
Even libraries in rural areas are changing. Gooding Public Library conducted a community audit and updated its collections to include more DEI books. The library said staff members will take “two courses/webinars on diversity and inclusion.” Emmett Public Library created a “Welcome to the Library” area to “include a display of diverse and inclusive children’s books.”
In short, federal funding given to state agencies is used to advance a progressive political agenda in local libraries. The current administration encourages institutions to use taxpayers’ money to promote a pernicious ideology among young children. As a first step toward reform, the legislature can reject federal library grants and prevent more channels from being linked to the education system.