Earlier this month, a Lancaster County public library was hit with news that one of the communities it services plans to cut off its share of funding because of the presence of LGBTQ+ material on the library’s shelves. However, almost immediately, a Quarryville native, out Olympian figure skater Johnny Weir, announced that he would personally make up the shortfall.
At the Fulton Township Board of Supervisors meeting announcing the library’s defunding, Board President Scott Osborne said, “We will not be giving them any money. That’s the long and short of that.” However, when asked for details about the material that sparked the board’s action, Osborne could neither remember any book titles nor any information about what lead to the board’s concern.
In a statement quoted by Lancaster Online, Quarryville Public Library Board Vice President Jewell Shivery expressed support for Fulton Township’s stance. She assured the county that the library would implement new policies and protections in order to withhold LGBTQ+ materials from young readers. Shivery sent a letter to every community the library serves stating that “we are not doing a good enough job at protecting the innocence of the children in our community,” and “We want you to know that we are committed to addressing this issue and implementing policies that will keep books of LGTBQ [sic] content out of the hands of children unless their parents wish to put them there.”
However, in a subsequent letter authored by the Quarryville Library’s full board, it was made clear that Shivery did not speak for the whole library, and that she overstepped her authority by stating that the library would defer to the Fulton supervisors’ anti-LGBTQ+ demands. In the follow-up letter, the board explained that library policies, the American Library Association, and the Library System of Lancaster County enforced censorship laws and would not allow books to be pulled from the library over individual objections. One board member was quoted saying the follow-up letter was their “preferred” letter response, not the one that came from Shivery.
“I think everyone is a little bit surprised. We are in a conservative area so everyone has their own beliefs but as the public library we are here to serve everyone,” interim director of the library Sarah Bower said.
Like many Pennsylvania suburban or rural libraries, the Quarryville Public Library serves several small communities. Its annual budget is $329,000, $53,000 of which comes from municipal donations. Fulton Township’s annual share came to $1,000. Though it might not seem significant, that $1,000 for the library looms large when it comes to buy books or funding programs for marginalized communities.
Weir — who is currently semi-retired and lives in Greenville, Delaware — then took to Instagram to announce that he will match the township’s annual donation for as long as he can.
“Just to help save a community that raised me and to make sure that the library represents everyone, not just the few,” Weir said in his post.
He also urged his followers to consider donating to the library to show support for everyone who needs access to books pertaining to their ways of life.
According to Bower, response to Weir’s call for support has been extremely positive.
“We have been receiving a lot of donations through our website. We’ve had lots of patrons and community members coming in. We’ve been contacted from people all across the country,” Bower told ABC27.
Bower says the library will continue to keep a good relationship with the township.
“Just because they have stopped funding doesn’t mean that we aren’t serving the people of Fulton Township,” Bower said. “Honestly, we are encouraging them to come to the library come see what we are about. We are more than just books.”
Weir is a multiple Olympic and U.S. National champion in figure skating who publicly came out in 2012. Since retiring from skating, he has been active in LGBTQ+ politics, winning several honors from the Human Rights Campaign and the Delaware Valley Legacy Fund, among others. He was inducted into the National Gay & Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame in 2013 and the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 2021.
At presstime, the Fulton Township board of supervisors has not returned requests for comment.