Eric Head

Eric Head

Library Services Director Eric Head said he has no plans to put up an LGBTQ Pride Month display this June.

He said that gives staff time to work up a comprehensive library policy going forward and allows for a cooling off period while emotions are running hot in the community.

Head told the Chronicle Editorial Board Wednesday he doesn’t want to add more fuel to an already incendiary issue.

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Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) month occurs nationwide in June. Last year, two local libraries had displays designed to educate people and bring awareness to the month.

Those displays prompted a firestorm of controversy from people who believed the library was using taxpayer dollars to promote an inappropriate sexual lifestyle and was indoctrinating children.

Leading the charge is John Labriola of Inverness, who has lobbied against using taxpayer dollars to promote what he calls a sexualized political agenda being promoted at taxpayers’ expense.

Head has said repeatedly the public library doesn’t promote anything. The display, as with all displays, is only meant to be informative, he said.

As of Wednesday, Head has received an unprecedented 45 applicants to the five open positions on the nine-member advisory board. Typically, he said he’s lucky to get two or three. Head said he’s fairly sure the Pride Month display is driving up interest.

County commissioners will discuss the applications at their April 26 meeting.

Head said he and his 49-member staff’s attention has been somewhat diverted the past several months over the display flap.

But there are many things going on and he outlined some projects:

Modernizing the Lakes Regional Library in Inverness and the Coastal Region branch in Crystal River. Both are about 35 years old and don’t have the meeting space for groups or the digital infrastructure.

Partnering with the county extension office to create a “seed” library at Lakes Regional. Patrons could check out fruit and vegetable seed packets, take them home and grow them, harvest the seeds and return them to the library so someone else can check them out.

Increasing digital capabilities, including the newly created in-house library website and debuting an online calendar program for folks to reserve space.

Using the money from a $27,000 state grant to upgrade Wi-Fi availability.

“When times get tough, people have devices but cannot afford internet bills at home so they come to the library,” Head said.

Increase outreach to the community and make them aware of what’s available.

Preparing for summer reading programs for children ages 6-9 and 10-13. For more information, visit citruslibraries.org

Michael D. Bates is a staff writer with the Citrus County Chronicle and can be reached at mbates@chronicleonline.com