Threatened by Armed, Anti-LGBTQIA+ Extremists in Coeur d’Alene, a Children's Librarian Leaves Her Job | First Person

Bigotry and threatened violence in her Idaho community led Delaney Daly to reconsider her dream job. The experience left her "confident and knowledgeable" to take the next step in her library career.  

Perhaps I’d been spoiled by Colorado, where I began my career as a part-time circulation clerk at Vail Public Library, in a solid blue region of the state, over four years ago.

I moved to Coeur d’Alene, ID, in August 2021 after landing my dream job there—children’s library supervisor at the Coeur d’Alene Public Library, with eight direct reports supporting me. It didn’t take long for me to see how different this place was from my previous stomping grounds. And Idaho, certainly the most beautiful place I’d ever lived in, was loud in its own way and reminded me of these differences time and time again.

On a Friday afternoon in June 2022, outside my office stood a mother emphatically and disruptively conveying her concern to me, waving around Melissa by Alex Gino (formerly titled George), winner of the 2016 Stonewall Book Award. She was in my face and hollering at me, “No, actually, I think this is the time and place for this conversation,” and all I could do was stand there and recite my usual script as calmly and politely as I could manage under the circumstances: “Libraries don’t censor materials. Libraries are for everyone. As the children’s librarian, it’s my job to ensure that every child and every family in this community feels seen, heard, and represented.”

She was having none of it. She snatched our director’s business cards out of my shaking fingers, grabbed her children, and stormed out of the children’s library.

I called my director immediately. It was the first time I’d cried to him on the phone. It was also the first time I’d wondered if I was cut out for this.

And “this” wasn’t a question of whether I could effectively serve the children and families of Coeur d’Alene. I’ve been working with children since age 14, starting as a nanny and tutor, in addition to having every educational and professional requirement necessary to excel in my role.

Rather, I wondered whether I had what it took to be a librarian and information professional in today’s divisive climate—a thought I never imagined I would have.

On Saturday, June 11, six days before that upsetting exchange over Melissa, 31 members of Patriot Front, a white nationalist group traveling via U-Haul to a Pride in the Park event in town, were arrested by the Coeur d’Alene police after evidence ascertained they were planning a riot.

Hours before, I had been at the Pride event in City Park, too, giving away books and promoting the library’s services. Though our display and books were not Pride-themed, I was still dressed in head-to-toe rainbow, from my eye shadow to my earrings and clothes, proud to be an ally and happy as ever to be there.

When my colleague received a text about the arrests, I’d determined that we’d left City Park only two minutes prior to the news breaking. It hurts my head to imagine what might have unfolded if those men weren’t intercepted and if I hadn’t left when I did.

My mind immediately went to the worst-case scenarios. Idaho is an open-carry state. What if someone, anyone, uttered something just hateful or offensive enough to antagonize a finger to a trigger?

Might families, community members, myself, or my colleagues have been caught in crossfire? Would I even be typing these words on my laptop, while my four-year-old Tabby cat strolls across my keyboard without a care in the world?

Was this what my profession, my calling, and what I’d dedicated my adult life to, become?

The only saving grace I could drum up in my cluttered, frozen-with-fear mind were the dozens of individuals at Pride in the Park who thanked me for being there: The woman who approached me with tears in her eyes and hugged me across a table full of free paperbacks. The other woman who told me the story of how she found an inclusive, accepting church after decades of searching, and how it saved her life. The children I serve, day in and day out, who came up just to say hi to their very own Miss Delaney.

Miss Delaney, who excitedly helped them find their favorite books, who performed silly science experiments with them, read countless picture books, spoiled them with prizes for no reason except that it made her day to see them. Who happily let them throw her in “marshmallow jail” for eating too many marshmallows at our Marshmallow Engineering program (yes, you read that right); sang songs in her off-key voice, and never failed to speak to them like they are the most spectacular human beings on planet Earth. Because they are.

After leaving the park and taking several deep breaths to collect myself, I trudged back to my office, overwhelmed with concern for my community and, more than ever before, my safety. While I’d been at Pride in the Park, the opposition group Panhandle Patriots Riding Club had gathered in McEuen Park, adjacent to and visible from the children’s library, holding their rifles proudly. The theme: “Guns D’Alene: Protect Our Children.”

Similar to the children’s library, my office has large, picture windows on all sides. I expressed concern about my safety to my director. 

A few weeks ago, I left my job in Coeur d’Alene. I'd become too fearful for my safety and exhausted by what I felt was a lack of support I so desperately needed in my position. Applying for new jobs, I  remain hopeful that the universe will guide me to the right position at a wonderful new library.

Yet, some people there did have my back. Following the tense exchange over Melissa, one of our many remarkable circulation clerks followed me into my office. As I broke down, she said, “Someone overheard the exchange and wanted me to tell you they were impressed with how you handled that interaction. There are people here in your corner.”

I have more questions than answers, and maybe I only wrote this to remind other professionals in our field facing similar backlash and threats that they aren’t alone. I wish I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt what the future of libraries looks like.

History has taught me that censorship is a treacherous path to take even a single step on. The outcome inevitably means someone’s voice is silenced—and myriad others go unheard.

We’re living in times of radical extremism. As much as I strived to make my mark in my dream job, the hatred I felt seething from some community members, and the fact that some groups worked tirelessly to make me feel unsafe, became too much to bear.

Despite everything, I look at my time in Coeur d’Alene mostly with eyes of gratitude. Every instance that worried me, challenged me, and brought me to my knees, also willed me to grow. I began my chapter there young and unprepared for the unmitigated hatred I might face as a children’s librarian who values inclusivity. I ended it confident, knowledgeable, and well-equipped for the next chapter of my career.

Delaney Daly holds a B.A. in English from the University of Central Florida and an MLS from the Texas Woman's University School of Library & Information Studies. Her passions and interests include early literacy; advocating for intellectual freedom; diversity, equity, and inclusion; creative writing and reading; traveling; and being mom to her beloved Tabby cat, Abby.


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