In my small town, our librarian now carries a gun
Photo by Terry Vine/Getty Images
LAWRENCEBURG, KY — The library director swiveled her chair to the right, reached into a desk drawer, and showed me her gun.
“Have you always carried a gun?” I said.
“No,” she said, demonstrating how she tucks it up underneath her arm when she walks to and from the library parking lot. “I started carrying a gun on June second, the day after we put up the pride display and all the threatening phone calls.”
I was at the library to talk with director Demaris Hill about the recent appointment of a man named Bobby Proctor to our library board. Hill has lived and worked here in Lawrenceburg for only a year and a half, but she was aware that Proctor had led a raucous protest to ban books and the Pride display in June 2021.
As I recently wrote, Proctor did not file an application; he simply called up a magistrate he knew on the Anderson County Fiscal Court and was chosen over four excellent candidates who had applied.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines this as “cronyism” — the situation in which someone important gives jobs to friends rather than to independent people who have the necessary skills and experience — but per Kentucky Revised Statute (KRS) 173.730, enacted into law by the legislature in 2022, county judge-executives can decline applications and appoint whomever they choose.
Anderson Public Library director Hill is new to Kentucky. In her office, she puts the gun back in the drawer and tells me she was born and raised in Indiana, and most recently worked at the library in Gainesville, Florida.
“Why did you choose to come here, not only to Kentucky but to Lawrenceburg?” I said.
“I had choices,” she said, “job opportunities in other states and larger cities, but I love horses and had that dream of moving to a small, rural town, you know, the slower pace and the peace and quiet.”
I shared that I moved here for the same reasons. We both laughed (uncomfortably) at the irony.
With regard to the library appointment, she explained how she had worked hard to get the best possible candidates to apply for the open board position. She posted information on the library website and Facebook page, encouraged people to apply, and attended Fiscal Court meetings to present the applications and answer questions.
“You should have heard how dismissive they were of everyone in those [Fiscal Court] meetings,” she said. “I wish they’d have just told me how they were going to do it so I wouldn’t have wasted everybody’s time. ”
I obtained the audio recordings of the meetings Hill described. This is what transpired in the July 18 meeting after the Fiscal Court had rejected all four applicants for the board position.
Magistrate Rodney Durr says Bobby Proctor reached out to him and makes a motion for his appointment. Susan Akers, a 72 year-old woman who had applied for the position, interrupts and asks if she can ask a question.
“The applications that have been turned in so far,” Akers says, “… what qualifications do they not meet and what qualifications are you looking for? I’m just asking, what is it about the ones who have been turned in? Why do they not qualify and what are you looking for?”
Judge Executive Orbrey Gritton mentions his beliefs and the beliefs of the court a few times. Ms. Akers states that this is pretty general and asks what he means. Gritton replies that [the new board member] should “have the beliefs that we have.”
Akers asks what those beliefs are.
“Ms. Akers,” Gritton says, “you’ve been pretty tough on us in the past. You get on the opposite side of us ….”
There is garbled cross-talk on the recording, and Gritton apologizes for his tone. “If my name is associated,” Gritton says, “I’m going to make sure they stand for what I stand for. And I’m not talking politics ….”
I called Gritton to ask about the library board appointment. He did not return my call.
I sent an email asking if he was aware that Proctor led a protest to ban books in 2021 and to define what he meant in the July 18 meeting by his “beliefs” and “what I stand for.” What did he mean when he said to Akers, “You get on the opposite side of us…”? He did not respond.
Meanwhile, thanks to the the Republican supermajority in Frankfort, local elected officials can appoint their cronies to local boards based on their “beliefs.”
Thanks to Kentucky Republicans, we now have a book banning preacher on our library board, and due to the ignorant vitriol they stirred up with Senate Bill 150, the library director carries a gun to work.
Thanks to Kentucky Republicans, the dream of moving to a small, rural, Kentucky town for the slower pace and peace and quiet no longer exists.
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