Sabra Breslin of Troutville, a library supporter, voiced opposition to a proposed rule that would require parental permission for anyone under 18 to visit Botetourt County libraries. Photo by Lisa Rowan.

Updated Aug. 1: This story has been updated to include a statement from Botetourt County.


After months of hearing from residents at packed meetings, the Botetourt County Board of Supervisors has again proclaimed its support for local libraries.

But at its meeting Monday night, it also proposed a change to the Botetourt County Libraries policy that would give parents control over teenagers wishing to browse the shelves.

By doing so, it seems to be making a concession to a group of residents who have repeatedly and forcefully voiced concerns about books containing LGBTQ+ characters and themes.

Board chair Donald “Mac” Scothorn read the proposed policy change, which would require anyone under 18 to be accompanied by a parent or guardian while visiting a library branch. Exceptions would be made for 16- and 17-year-olds who have written permission on file with the library. 

No board members objected to the proposed rule change, and Scothorn said he would pass it on to the Library Board of Trustees for consideration. The board has five community members, and Supervisor Steve Clinton also sits on it. 

YouTube video
In this clip from Monday night’s Botetourt County Board of Supervisors meeting, Chairman Donald “Mac” Scothorn reads the proposed policy change. None of his fellow supervisors raise objections.

County spokesperson Tiffany Bradbury released a statement Tuesday morning noting that Scothorn “shared a recommendation that he stated he would share, on his own behalf” to the library board. She confirmed that the rule for unattended children has not been changed.

The board of supervisors also passed a resolution of support for the county library system after the members took turns reading the text aloud. “The Botetourt County Library does not impose value judgment about materials and therefore it does not segregate, rate, label or otherwise indicate approval or disapproval of contents or inhibit access to materials,” Supervisor Amy White read from one portion of the resolution.

Some members of the public who spoke after the library discussion ended seemed to believe that the proposed library attendance policy for teenagers would be put in place immediately. 

Speakers who claimed that the library offers obscene materials said they wouldn’t give up pressing the board of supervisors, with a few citing a petition of 1,300 signatures asking the county to remove LGBTQ+ materials from the library.

A growing debate

Library policies on unattended children

A sampling of policies around the region:

Franklin County Public Library System: Children 10 and younger must be accompanied by and in visual contact with a parent or responsible caregiver (14 or older) at all times.

Radford Public Library: Children under 10 must be supervised by a parent or guardian at all times.

Rockbridge Regional Library System: Children under the age of 8 must visit under supervision of a caregiver. 

Salem Public Library: Children under 11 must be accompanied by an adult. Children 11 to 17 may visit without an adult as long as library staff can use the child’s library card to verify their emergency contact information.

Wythe Grayson Regional Libraries: Children under 10 must be accompanied by an adult.

The American Library Association: In “Access to Library Resources and Services for Minors: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights,” the American Library Association says: “The American Library Association supports equal and equitable access to all library resources and services by users of all ages. Library policies and procedures that effectively deny minors equal and equitable access to all library resources and services available to other users is in violation of the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights. The American Library Association opposes all attempts to restrict access to library services, materials, and facilities based on the age of library users.”

Monday’s actions followed two meetings when the board of supervisors discussed the board’s role in the community debate over whether to remove LGBTQ+ materials from the library, after complaints from the public began to surface in March

At the board’s regular June meeting, county attorney Michael Lockaby warned the board that it didn’t have much power over library policies, as public libraries in the commonwealth are overseen by the Library of Virginia.

“I have been unable to find a reported case in which any of the 15 books in the Botetourt County Libraries that have been recently challenged have ever been found by a court of law to be obscene,” he said. 

The board held an extra meeting to discuss library issues on July 17, when Julie Phillips, director of Botetourt County Libraries, answered the board’s questions. She noted that a reconsideration policy, through which patrons can cite their opposition to materials held by the library, has been in place for 30 years, but that the 13 books that had been submitted for reconsideration had all been brought up only recently. The books submitted for reconsideration had been in the library’s collection for a range of one year to 13 years.

Phillips, who has held the library leadership role since 2019, also said that the library’s materials covering LGBTQ+ subjects totaled 0.29% of the total collection. 

The board adopted a resolution at that meeting to declare its support for Phillips and county library staff. 

The county system has four library branches serving about 34,000 residents. 

A similar debate has been ongoing in Appomattox County. There, the board of supervisors heard complaints in June about a Pride month display in the children’s section and reacted by revamping the library board of trustees and removing its only person of color. The supervisors have since decided to expand the number of seats on the library board so it can consider reinstating the ousted trustee.

That library board governs a single branch and had received no reconsideration requests prior to the board of supervisors’ action. 

In Front Royal, the library has recently been overwhelmed with requests from a group of residents to remove “obscene” books from the library. In July, the Warren County Board of Supervisors voted to withhold 75% of the library’s annual funding until later this year.

Lisa Rowan is education reporter for Cardinal News. She can be reached at or 540-384-1313.