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Donations Pour Into Northwest Iowa Library After Man Burns LGBTQ Books

Screen grab from Dorr's Facebook Live video
Paul Dorr from Rescue The Perishing read aloud from a book mid-October before burning it.

A northwest Iowa library has been inundated with donations from in and outside of the state after a man burned several LGBTQ children’s books during a gay pride festival.
In a Facebook Live video from almost two weeks ago, Paul Dorr with the religious group Rescue The Perishing stood outside of the Prairie Winds Events Center about a mile away from the Orange City Public Library and read aloud from four LGBTQ children’s books before tossing them into a barrel of fire. He called the books “filthy”, “disgusting” and “shameful."

Since then, the library has received donations of at least 100 books from people around the country. Most are copies of the books Dorr burned. The library has also received a couple hundred dollars in monetary donations.

“People must feel pretty strongly about the issue to be contributing the way that they are,” Library Director Amanda Vazquez said.

Rob Holmes from Cedar Rapids said he is ordering copies of the damaged LGBTQ books for the library, condemning Dorr’s actions as a “violent way to get [his] point across.”

“LGBTQ people are still a significant minority in the United States and I think a lot of people assume things about them,” Holmes said. “The books he [Dorr] burned really are just children’s stories about how people can be different, but how you can still understand and get along with them.”

Southeast Iowa native Dylan Boyle who now lives in Chicago said he is against censorship, so Dorr’s actions did not sit well with him.

“This is another example of using censorship to stop people from being able to do what the constitution rightfully guarantees them to do,” Boyle said.

Boyle set up a GoFundMe page to purchase copies of the books. The campaign has raised over $1,000.

His original plan was to raise $300 to buy five copies of each book, so he was surprised to see he had raised more than triple his goal over the course of nine days since he launched the campaign.

“It was originally just to replace the copies of the books and I think people wanted to do more than that,” Boyle said.

He continued, “I think that just shows when people want to oppress and intimidate people, there’s a lot more people who are willing to stand up.”

Boyle reached out to the Orange City library and found out about the influx of books the staff has already received. He says he is currently looking at options for how to use the money to support the library or possibly buy LGBTQ books for small town libraries around the state.

Library officials wouldn’t comment on what course of action they’ll take with Dorr beyond following their overdue books policy. Library policy says books can be checked out for three weeks with two renewals. After that, patrons start to accrue fines of 10 cents per day.

“Our policy lays out we attempt to send four notifications to patrons through varying [technology], whether it’s text, email or phone call, and through mail alerting them of the fact their materials are overdue,” Vazquez said.

After a book is 60 days, or two months overdue, staff will send out a letter with a bill and could choose to take legal action for a theft crime.

The Orange City Police Department says an investigation into the incident is ongoing.

This post has been updated. Dorr burned the books near the Prairie Winds Events Center. An earlier version stated he was near the library.

Katie Peikes was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio from 2018 to 2023. She joined IPR as its first-ever Western Iowa reporter, and then served as the agricultural reporter.