Rayla Campbell, a candidate running for Secretary of State in Massachusetts, is building her campaign for the position through social media posts targeting queer books and Pride-themed displays at libraries throughout the state. Campbell is a conservative Black woman endorsed by the state’s GOP.
Taking to social media, Campbell is dedicating herself to visiting public libraries and filming their Pride displays. This, in addition to highlighting books like Gender Queer in those libraries, is riling up her supporters. She has been receiving attention for her rhetoric parroted from the talking points of groups like Moms For Liberty, who claim comprehensive sexual education is part of an initiative to teach young children how to perform sexual acts as a means of “grooming” them.
Just in the past two days, she has posted at least four videos at four different public libraries, pointing out the LGBTQ+ book displays. In some, she goes to the bookshelves to find titles she disagrees with to highlight.
In addition to riling up her base with these images and videos, she’s peddling false information about how libraries in the state work.
And false information about how books are selected for libraries.
Certainly in a democratic stronghold like Massachusetts, Campbell faces a huge uphill battle in her bid. But what’s scary is that these videos and these state-wide library visits are prime material for others who follow her beliefs and misinformation to show up at their public libraries, to submit materials complaints, and to make books “disappear” from those shelves and displays.
Her current fundraising efforts are so she can continue to travel statewide and continue filming these displays and targeting titles like Gender Queer.
With Pride displays in public libraries this month, we’ll continue to see campaigns like Hide the Pride and more local, targeted pushes to remove these books. These tactics are successful not only in pushing for LGBTQ+ erasure, but they’re also contributing factors to quiet/silent censorship from library workers. Campbell’s efforts, in addition to being part of her unhinged campaign strategy (and giving her plenty of boosting through media attention), are purposefully aimed at intimidating libraries from purchasing and highlighting queer books both now and in the future.
For a group insistent on small government, it is impressive how micro-level their tactics become. The role of the public library is to provide material and information for all members of a community, not just those who are of one political affiliation or another. Campbell’s videos and messaging have encouraged her followers to claim that their public libraries fail to carry books with a conservative message . . . but that, too, is patently false.
Further, but referring to librarians and educators as “smut peddlers,” Campbell and her ilk demonize public employees. These attacks further destabilize public institutions and encourage not only further budgetary cuts but also the end of public education, period.
What you can do right now is write to your local library boards and your city council and praise the work of librarians and educators, especially on their abilities to curate diverse, inclusive, representative material for the entire community. Emphasize the value of seeing Pride displays and mention specifically the books you have borrowed or learned about from your library, thanks to this work. Educate yourself on the candidates running for office on the local, state, and federal levels and, if you can, call out those running on campaigns of hate and misinformation. Then either run for office if you’re able or show up to vote. Volunteer to get others to the polls, if you can.
If you’re in libraries, especially in Massachusetts, you need to keep up the good work. Keep buying these books, keep highlighting these books, and continue offering LGBTQ+ friendly programming. Track every single threat, missing book, or social media campaign targeting your work. Do not give in to the pressure, and seek support from organizations within and beyond your state for help. It is out there.