In the News

Editorial: Politics and underhanded tactics rule at Livingston Parish Council

March 10, 2023

Members of the Livingston Parish Council have been had, falling for a political agitation by self-interested politicians against gay-oriented books in libraries.

The result is chaos in a library system the parish has had reason to be proud of.

The head of the system for 15 years — honored as the Louisiana Libary Association's Public Library Director of the Year in 2019 — has now resigned. While Giovanni Tairov said it was time for a career change, the reality is that the politicians have a false but highly charged issue in their hands. Bomb-throwers dominate the discussion and librarians with decades of dedicated service are under attack.

Council members dug themselves into the controversy months ago, taking the side of a group targeting “pornography” in libraries. This although only two books have been challenged as inappropriate in the young adult section, and both were moved after discussion with librarians.

With Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks calling for removal of “inappropriate” material on the shelves, the political case for attacking libraries appeared unassailable.

But things have become uglier: Council member Garry “Frog” Talbert hired a private investigator to use illicit means to access porn via library computers. Apparently, to the technologically unsophisticated, this means that pornography is readily available on library devices, which Tairov said is flatly untrue.

Now, with Tairov having quit and Talbert denouncing library board member Debbie Henson, the council as a whole has found itself digging even deeper. This week it went so far as to remove Henson, a longtime library booster with a master's degree in library science, from the Board of Control. 

Residents spoke emotionally to the council about Henson's qualifications to serve on the board — she holds a master's in library science — and scolded members for interfering in the library. They also questioned how the parish will attract a new director in such a  politically charged environment.

The last is a good question. Talbert’s computer stunt is the moral equivalent of planting a bag of cocaine in the director’s office for political reasons.

Who wants to be library director with ambitious politicians stalking for an issue?