The J. Robert Jamerson Memorial Library in Appomattox. From the library's Facebook page.

An ousted library board member in Appomattox County will not have a chance to get reappointed, a month after it appeared she might.

Joetricia Humbles was ousted from the county library board after a public debate over books with LGBTQ themes. “I had no expectations of getting back on the board,” she said Monday night. Photo by Lisa Rowan.

In July, the Appomattox County Board of Supervisors said it would explore adding positions to its county library board of trustees to quell a debate over LGBTQ+ children’s books in a Pride month book display. But the supervisors took no action Monday night.

County attorney Tom Lacheney had drafted an ordinance to expand the board from five appointments to seven, which would then allow the supervisors to consider reappointing Joetricia Humbles, who had been ousted from the library board in June. 

But the supervisors did not discuss the ordinance it had requested or vote on whether to adopt it.

“I had no expectations of getting back on the board,” Humbles said Monday night, noting comments that board chair Samuel Carter had made at the previous meeting indicating that Humbles’ activity on social media was negative toward the county. 

Humbles added, “It’s a shame that supporting one part of our community is so negatively seen.”

The library board of trustees for the J. Robert Jamerson Memorial Library has gone through a transformation this summer. 

On June 21, the board of supervisors removed the three sitting members from the library board after some residents complained about a display of LGBTQ+-themed children’s books that had been placed in view of young visitors in early June. Moments later, the supervisors appointed two new members to empty spots it had planned to fill that evening, and reappointed two of the ousted members.

The sole member who wasn’t reinstated that night was Humbles, the only person of color on the governing board of the small library. Humbles also serves on the board of Appomattox for Equality, a nonprofit supporting underrepresented communities in the area. 

Supervisor John Hinkle had said after last month’s supervisors meeting that adding two additional seats to the library board would be a suitable compromise for the community to be able to move forward. But after Monday’s meeting, he said that he had received feedback from the board of supervisors that “too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the pot.” 

He also said his constituents had not voiced support for expanding the library board.

Hinkle is one of three county supervisors up for reelection this fall.

Pride month display led to reorganization of library board

The controversy over books with LGBTQ+ themes sprang up in June shortly after library staff set up Pride month displays throughout the library, including one in the children’s section. The children’s display, which included books such as “If You’re a Drag Queen and You Know It” and “Rainbow Revolutionaries,” had been arranged on June 1 at the start of Pride month, but was moved to a higher shelf in the library by June 3 due to patron complaints to the library.

The reorganization of the library board was revisited at July’s board of supervisors meeting, where supervisor Alfred Jones III said he should have voted differently to remove the library trustees. He explained that while he objected to the materials in the library because they conflicted with his beliefs, he later came to understand that what’s available in the library is not up to him and that he shouldn’t have voted to change the library board.

He asked the board of supervisors to reinstate Humbles. But doing so would have meant removing Nancy Jo Billings, who had been appointed in Humbles’ place. Instead, the board agreed to consider expanding the board to add two more members — which would then allow the board to reappoint Humbles.

Katharine Bloodworth, interim director of the Jamerson Library, said the library has not received any reconsideration requests, which a patron can submit if they have an objection to a specific title. Bloodworth has been in the director position since the spring, when the previous director departed.

The library board oversees the policies of the library along with the hiring of the library director. It does not manage the day-to-day operations of the library and only chimes in regarding materials if a patron’s request to reconsider an item gets rejected and the patron chooses to appeal that decision.

The state’s guide for library governing boards requires that members “protect community members’ freedom to read, view, and listen, which might mean setting aside my personal preferences.”

At the end of the meeting Monday night, Jones — who had originally proposed reinstating Humbles but then did not speak in support of the ordinance change — asked County Administrator Susan Adams what support the county was providing to the library staff, including legal support if necessary. “I’m concerned about the amount of pressure they’re probably under,” he said.

Adams said that would fall under the parameters of the library board, which had not made any requests from the board of supervisors.

The new library board had one organizational meeting in July and will undergo formal board training facilitated by the Library of Virginia before it meets again in September.

Carter indicated that the supervisors may find that training informative if they choose to attend.

Emails from new library board members reveal stance on LGBTQ+, other content

Opposition to the Pride display has come primarily from the conservative Christian community in the area.

Pastor Paul Raymond of Reformed Bible Church in Appomattox spoke for 15 minutes at the June 21 board of supervisors meeting. Raymond suggested that night, and again at the July meeting, that members of the library’s board of trustees could be charged with felonies for exposing children to what he described as pornography.

Jesse Murch speaks to the board of supervisors Monday night, asking members to not change their minds about their earlier library board decision. Photo by Lisa Rowan.

Jesse Murch of Concord has also spoken at the last three board of supervisors meetings to say that LGBTQ+-themed books shouldn’t be available in the library. Murch, who was the only member of the public to comment on Monday night, asked the board not to go back on its previously stated desire to change the direction of the library board by reappointing Humbles.

“It’s not a personal thing,” he said. But “it’s not good by your constituents to go back on promises.”

Murch and his wife, Michelle, have published five episodes of a podcast called the “Virginian Inquisitor,” which so far has solely discussed the Jamerson library and its board.

Similar conservative views are now reflected on the library board.

Emails obtained through a public records request show that Brandon Barney, who was named to one of the open library board seats in late June, wrote to the library director on June 2 about the Pride display.

“We are a community that is overwhelmingly conservative. Thus, as a public library with a board of directors, the will of the people should be heard,” he wrote, noting that Black History Month was created by federal law, while Pride month is not nationally recognized at the same level.

In conclusion, he wrote: “I understand that this display was put up in an effort to be inclusive. This is not the way to be inclusive as we all know what would happen if there was a ‘Bible History’ month.”

Billings, who was appointed in June to replace Humbles on the library board, has since complained about materials available in the library, including the “Fifty Shades of Gray” DVD. 

She claimed that the DVDs she found offensive were of particular concern due to what she called “the massive sex trafficking industry that is currently underway globally,” she wrote in an email to members of both the library board and the board of supervisors on July 15.

“I will be diligent in searching for any similar material that may lurk therein.”

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