Courage in the face of challenges: I Love My Librarian Award Winner Courtney Kincaid

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by Steve Zalusky

More than 50 residents signed challenge forms, aiming to get “My Princess Boy” and “This Day in June” off the shelves of the Hood County Library in Granbury, Texas.

But the library director, Courtney Kincaid, held her ground, refusing to cave under pressure.

“My Princess Boy,” written by Cheryl Kilodavis and illustrated by Suzanne DeSimone, is, according to goodreads.com, “a nonfiction picture book about acceptance. With words and illustrations even the youngest of children can understand, My Princess Boy tells the tale of 4-year-old boy who happily expresses his authentic self by happily dressing up in dresses, and enjoying traditional girl things such as jewelry and anything pink or sparkly.”

Written by Gayle E. Pittman and illustrated by Kristyna Litten, the book is described at goodreads.com as “a wildly whimsical, validating, and exuberant reflection of the LGBT community, this title welcomes readers to experience a pride celebration and share in a day when we are all united.”

"The books have color drawings and have some rhymes," Kincaid told television station WFAA. "Lesbians and gays are in this community, and they deserve to have some items in this collection."

Residents complained that “This Day in June” promoted “perversion and “the gay lifestyle.”  They registered the same complaints about “My Princess Boy.”

The books remained on the shelves - in the end Kincaid received the support from her library board and the county commission – at a time when the Hood County Clerk refused to sign same-sex marriage licenses.

Her protection of the integrity of her collection and her support of the freedom to read earned Kincaid, who is now the assistant library director at the North Richland Hills public library in Texas, a spot as one of the 2015 recipients of the I Love My Librarian Award.

“This young lady stood up against attempted censorship with amazing intelligence and grace,” said one of her nominators, Jennifer Kochis. “Ms. Kincaid responded and continues to respond to threats against her and her library with calm positivity. The way that she has handled this situation has been completely professional, even though faced with those that would have her discredited and would have her ban books. She is truly inspiring!”

Another nominator, Elizabeth Boyes, said, “The books in question offer a guide to tolerance and respect, which are qualities all children should be able to learn freely. They also encourage others not to bully. These are traits that are important to our young ones and to see a librarian fight to save these books is amazing. And she would do this for any book, no matter the topic(s). She is a perfect example of someone who supports her community in every way.”

Nominator Brittney Stoudenmire said Kincaid made the Hood County Library a place where the love of reading is evident, promoting summer reading programs that helped instill in her son a love of reading. Programs have included a Summer Reading Series for children.

In addition, she said, “The library now provides a safe and cool spot for the Healthy Kids lunch program during the summer with Boys and Girls Club.”  Kincaid’s example of “passion and courage” has inspired Stoudenmire to pursue her degree in library science.

Kincaid said the most rewarding part of her job is “just being helpful,” whether that means them finding something to read, downloading ebooks or assisting them on the computer.  She said she was very grateful at receiving the reward.

“I fought a very challenging 21-week ordeal with two books that were challenged in the children’s area. We were successful with those two books, and then it went into challenging parts of our policies, the freedom to read and the library bill of rights. That was passed unanimously at commissioner’s court.

“I think that’s why I was put there, in that director role, in order to face this challenge, for both the books and the policies and succeed with that with the great community support that I have received.”

Nominator Rebecca Lucas said, “Courtney has led a transition period for the Public Library in our rapidly growing community. We are a small town getting bigger and experiencing all of the growth pains that make managing a public resource such as a library challenging.

“She has an excellent reputation within the community and with the governing bodies of the library, including the County Commissioner's Court and the Library Advisory Board. She has excelled in managing the budget using taxpayer monies, by all reports making our library one of the most efficient in the state while focusing on increasing the public awareness and social presence of the library as a wonderful resource in our community.

“In our most recent very public controversy, she made so many people in our community PROUD to be Hood County residents, represented by Courtney, a picture of grace under fire and accountability to ALL citizens and advocating for the freedom vital to all libraries.”

Learn more about the I Love My Librarian Award and the other 2015 winners. Nominations open June 17 for the 2016 I Love My Librarian Awards.

Courtney Kincaid on winning a 2015 I Love My Librarian Award

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