Book Banning County Commissioners Censor Honor for Girl Scout’s Banned Book Library

In response to the policy and removal of books, one local Girl Scout named Kate Lindley decided she knew how she could get engaged locally and work on a project that would impact her community and help her earn her Gold Award from the Scouts — the highest honor given. Kate created an app called the “Free to Read” app, which offered information about the bans and books impacted.

She then created free in-person libraries filled with banned books for anyone to access. These “Banned Book Nooks” included titles banned by the school district, including This Book Is Gay by Juno Dawson, Sold by Patricia McCormick, and others. The Banned Book Nooks were placed in two local businesses, We Think In Ink and Morr Donuts, and Kate filled several local Little Free Libraries with banned titles as well. Morr Donuts reported a wave of online hate when they offered to host the project.

Kate’s project was documented on an Instagram account, and her story made news nationwide.

On April 10, Kate was to be recognized by the Hanover County Board of Supervisors alongside her fellow Girl Scouts, who earned their Gold Award. But instead of being commended, one of the board members, Cold Harbor Supervisor Michael Herzberg, changed the language around Kate’s project for her honor. No longer was the school board and its book ban policy and practice mentioned — the very things that spurred the project itself. Upon censoring the language around the honor, the rest of the Board of Supervisors approved the changes.

See below the original proclamation to be given by the County Commissioners:

Image of the draft proclamation for Kate Lindley. Image of the draft proclamation for Kate Lindley.

The revision of the proclamation reads as follows, conveniently leaving out the context of Kate’s project:

Image of approved proclamation. Image of approved proclamation.

Kate’s work has been removed from its context, meaning that not only is her work being undermined by the adults who are supposed to be honoring it, but her work will enter the historical record without noting that it was done in response to the school board’s book banning.

“Kate created the Free to Read app identifying locations where books were available outside Hanover County Public School libraries” has a bit of a different ring to it than “Kate created the Free to Read app identifying locations where books were available that had been banned at Hanover County Public School libraries.” Instead of explaining why she created the app, it sounds like she just replicated the work of the average library catalog.

But It Gets Darker & Fishier

Unfortunately for Hanover County, it isn’t just the school district that earned a name for its book banning. The Hanover Public Library also found itself at the center of right-wing censorship in early March 2024, and it is impossible not to connect the censoring of this proclamation with the ongoing battle between County Supervisors and the public libraries.

During a toddler story time at the Atlee Branch Library, one person was offended by the inclusion of Todd Parr’s The Family Book, which showcases all of the ways a family can look. The idea of two same-sex parents “normalized homosexuality,” and the person took their concerns to the library’s board director. The book was deemed perfectly appropriate, but the individual wasn’t satisfied.

That individual then went to Chickahominy District Supervisor Danielle Floyd, who read the email aloud at the next library board meeting, held February 28:

My wife and daughter attended toddler story time at the Atlee Branch on 2/14/24 where a library employee read “The Family Book” which depicts a same sex couple. When my wife realized the content, she quietly removed her daughter from the story time. He followed up to file a complaint with T. Shepley [the regional library director] that the book contained content that normalized homosexuality and did not receive an encouraging response or an apology from the director. T. Shepley followed up on 2/16/24 and stated the content of the book was age appropriate and reflective of the community. T. Shepley argued that the content did not have anything to do with sexual orientation and the two fathers could have been from a blended family. The lack of concern from PRL on whether the content of their toddler story time books offends their community members is disappointing. The interactions with the library and the director have not been helpful or compassionate. Family and friends are skeptical of attending future events for fear of having to explain inappropriate topics that are being pushed in our libraries to our young children. Looking forward to see how Hanover County and PRL will move forward with this.

Floyd then shared the same talking points of those sympathetic to book banning across the country — that the library had a history of promoting sexually explicit books and being “anti-police,” among other things. Floyd requested that libraries not ban the books but make the toddler storytime books available prior to the story time in order for families to decide whether or not they should attend. She felt it inappropriate the librarian “pushed her agenda” on the story time attendees.

Floyd attended the following library board meeting and spoke during public comment, parroting the same language about the book being inappropriate and demanding that the situation be handled (minutes for that library board meeting are not yet available).

Per the library board minutes, she stated, “Personal agendas do not need to be pushed on children and we do not find that acceptable in Hanover County.” Immediately after Floyd’s public comments — the final comments after a series of pro-book banning and anti-book banning sentiments during that time — the Goodrich County Library Board representative Barb Young introduced Floyd and fellow County administrative members to the new point of contact for the county attorney’s office.

The March library board meeting was canceled.

Conversation about the evils of the public library were far from over. Hertzberg, the County Supervisor who censored the proclamation about Kate’s banned book project, claimed the public library promoted “witchcraft, the occult, pornography, and sexually explicit material in the youth section,” per the March 13, 2024 County Supervisor Board Meeting.

The same day that Kate’s commendation was edited, the April 10 County Supervisors Meeting, Hanover County resident Peggy Lavinder noted that something was fishy at the public library. Per the County Supervisor Board Packet:

Ms. Lavinder spoke regarding the Pamunkey Regional Library Board of Trustees meeting held on Tuesday, the 9th of April. Ms. Lavinder explained that documents were not provided to individuals prior to or at the meeting. When she questioned that, she was told that the Board did not want to release that information because they felt the public would be confused. She continued, saying a Board member did confirm that those documents need to be shared with the public in the interest of transparency. She noted that towards the end of the discussion, a proposal was put forth to revise the collection policy, and that is going to involve changing the way the library is in general. The proposal is to have an adult section, and that any book, even if it’s written for a child, a teenager, a 17-year-old, if it has any sexual content in it, it’s going to be put in the adult section. She added that there was no consideration whether it was a sex education book that was written for a young teenager or how this restriction was going to be enforced if a teenager picked up a book from the adult section. Ms. Lavinder spoke regarding book titles that received complaints which she added was 50 maximum and suggested, instead of trying to determine what the public does not want to read, the Board should spend time finding out what the public does want to read. If the library does not have a title, it can be requested. She added that it is the same thing that happened with the school division, and she suggested that the Board use the process developed for the school division and spend time learning what people want. She closed by asking for the Board’s help.

The minutes of the library board meetings and agendas for upcoming meetings halted in January 2024, despite being approved during the February meeting. As noted above, the March meeting was canceled, and there are no documents related to it. However, drafts of the “Policy for Protecting Children from Harmful, Sexually Explicit Material in Areas Designated for Minors” and “Reconsideration of Library Materials” are buried deeper on the library board’s webpage. Both were under consideration at an April 9 meeting deemed a board “working session” where no public comment was allowed.

But on the agenda for the next full library board meeting, to be held Wednesday, April 24, is debating how to differentiate between middle grade books and juvenile books. It appears that the library is considering subdividing books for middle schoolers, middle graders, juvenile readers, and books for young adults. The cost of this project, per board documents, is over $53,000. This emerged in part due to citizen comments from the February meeting but also due to a library board member making statements during the January meeting that were misleading and false regarding the middle grade collection — which led back to a letter sent by the then County Board of Commissioners Chair W. Canova Peterson in April 2023 to the public library requesting “age appropriateness of materials in section of the library should be considered to better differentiate elementary school, middle school, high school, and adult audiences.”

The letter came as a culmination of complaints about materials in the public library collection spanning back to at least September 2022, when a patron brought a complaint to the board about a banned books display in the Atlee Branch library.

That patron, Christie Schumacher, is currently on the library board.

But let’s go back to the Hanover County Schools for a second. Supervisor Floyd and fellow County Supervisor Faye Prichard — who was absent from the meeting where the proclamation for Kate’s project was censored — are currently involved in the process of selecting two new members of the Hanover County School Board as well. Floyd is aligned with a local right-wing group, the Hanover Patriots, who’ve had a hand in the policy-making that led to banning dozens of books in the school district.

To say Commissioner Floyd or her colleagues are not in a series of conflicts of interest would be an understatement. They are not only helping determine the future of access to books at the county schools — again, the school board gets to make the decisions on whether or not titles are banned — but they are also pulling the strings on policies at the public library, too.

This is not, nor has it ever been, “just” the schools. Such censorship bleeds across all institutions of public civic engagement and into democratic arenas. Hanover is a perfect case in point.

Censoring Kate’s Honor Is An Honor

At the end of the day, it’s the work of teens like Kate, who have gone through the public school system and took those lessons to create an empowering, necessary project in her own community, who cannot even get recognition for that work. Where one parent can introduce several years’ worth of complaints about books in the public library, driven by false narratives and right-wing rhetoric, the students who bear the consequences of such nonsense have their work downplayed and censored.

It says a lot when a high school student learns about the importance of civic engagement in school and chooses to craft a service project to earn the highest honor for Scouts around a local issue…only to have the local government choose to erase the purpose and impact of her work. What exactly are they trying to hide?

Politics are for me, not for thee.

Kate will attend the County Board of Supervisors meeting on Wednesday, April 24, to receive her now-censored commendation from the board. She plans to attend college in the fall and study computer science.

“The Board of Supervisors has bestowed upon me the greatest honor anyone fighting censorship and banning could receive by censoring me and my project,” Lindley said in an interview with WVTF, Virginia’s Public Radio.

Who To Contact

Are you a Hanover County resident wondering what to do about your library? You need to show up to local meetings and have your voice heard. This can be in person or via email.

It is, of course, convenient that the honoring of Kate is happening at the County Commissioner Board Meeting on the same day that the upcoming Library Board meeting is happening.

If you’re not a county resident, you can still reach out as well — and use this as an opportunity to see what is happening in your own backyard. It’s not, nor has it ever been, “just the schools.”

You can reach the Hanover County Board of Supervisors here.

The Hanover County School Board contact information is as follows:

Robert J. (Bob) May, South Anna District – Chair
Phone: (804) 752-4646; email:
Term ends on June 30, 2025

Steven Ikenberry, Cold Harbor District – Vice Chair
Phone: (804) 514-2197; email:
Term ends on June 30, 2025

Greg Coleman, Beaverdam District
Phone: (804) 634-9366; email:
Term ends on June 30, 2027

Ola J. Hawkins, Ashland District
Phone: (804) 357-3743; email:
Term ends on June 30, 2024

Robert L. Hundley, Jr., Chickahominy District
Work: (804) 550-9222; email:
Term ends on June 30, 2024

John E. Redd, Jr., Mechanicsville District
Phone: (804) 746-7112; email:
Term ends on June 30, 2026

Whitney Welsh, Henry District
Phone: (804) 650-1251; email:
Term ends on June 30, 2027

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