Washoe County commissioners have declined to reappoint the chairwoman of the county’s Library Board of Trustees — and one commissioner blamed her for the disruptions at local meetings caused by a small group of activists upset about drag queen story time.

The commissioners voted 3-2 against reappointing Trustee Amy Ghilieri to the board, which along with other local public panels, has been the target of protestors spurred on by the leaders of the Washoe County Republican Party. At library board meetings, activists have demanded an end to a 5-year-old program of a drag queen reading to children a few times per year. The books librarians select for those events focus on diversity and inclusion, concepts also targeted by right-wing protestors.

Neither Ghilieri, a history professor, nor the board as a whole, control whether local libraries host public events, nor do panel members approve books selected by librarians. Nonetheless, Commissioner Mike Clark accused Ghilieri of causing “such a stir in the community” and lamented that “the library board shouldn’t be a polarizing point.”

Clark, along with commissioners Jeanne Herman and Clara Andriola, voted against reappointing Ghilieri. Commissioners Mariluz Garcia and Alexis Hill voted in favor of retaining her.

Dragging the culture wars into local public meetings and trying to ban library books are national trends.  The American Library Association documented 1,269 demands to censor library books and resources in 2022, nearly double the 729 challenges reported in 2021. Of the record 2,571 titles targeted for censorship, most were by or about LGBTQIA+ persons and Black, Indigenous, and people of color.

The library board now has two vacancies. Ann Medaille, who has been on the panel for about a year, resigned in July without giving an explanation. Applicants for those seats may apply online or pick up an   application from the Washoe County Manager’s Office, 1001 East Ninth St. in Reno. Deadline to apply is Aug. 4 by 11:59 p.m. Board members are appointed by the county commission and serve four-year terms.

The board is responsible for governing the operations of Washoe County Library System. The panel appoints the library director and evaluates his or her performance, helps set library goals and objectives, approves policies, monitors the library’s finances, evaluates the library’s overall effectiveness, and advocates for the library in the community.

Its remaining members are Frank Perez, Lea Moser and Al Rogers.

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