Hundreds of libraries for board meetings, speakers debate books in teen section

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Several hundred people showed up at a Bartholomew County Public Library meeting Monday to continue their contribution to an attempt to remove “inappropriate” materials from the library’s teen section, and those who say it amounts to of censorship.

The public comment section of the library board meeting lasted about two hours and at times became rowdy and heated, with people in the audience responding to those they objected to or applauding in agreement.

Since April, a small group of people from the local Blessed Life Fellowship church have been attending library board meetings to complain about inappropriate materials in the teen section, library officials said. Their main complaints are about books with sexual or LGBT content in the teen section, said library director Jason Hatton.

Library staff are studying best practices in the state and the country regarding what other libraries are doing with teen materials, he said in a previous interview. The local library will also analyze its own collection, conduct a survey of teenage materials and, if changes are needed, develop a plan.

According to Blessed Life pastor Andy Robbins, the church group is not asking to ban the books but “just to move them to an age-appropriate section”.

However, at least one person who spoke at Monday’s meeting expressed a desire for certain materials to be moved or deleted, and the library received material review forms for a number of books during the month. last.

At the September board meeting, some members of the public pushed back against the church’s efforts, talking about freedom of speech and “freedom to read.” A similar situation occurred on Monday, with both sides voicing their opinions.

Ahead of Monday’s meeting, the Columbus Educators’ Association shared on social media that “supporters of freedom to read” should attend the event.

“Support our library,” wrote the teachers union. “Speak up for the library, the community it serves, and for marginalized groups who deserve to be represented in literature and the media. Hate has NO place in our library.

Hatton said library staff received 12 review forms for various books. Individuals can use these forms to express their concerns about a specific item and how they think the library should “treat the material”. The form also asks if the person has read or viewed the work and if they see value in it.

Seven of the forms were for the book “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe. According to a synopsis from Amazon, the graphic novel follows the non-binary, asexual author’s process of self-discovery, which includes “the mortification and confusion of teenage crushes, the difficulty of coming out to the family and society, bonding with friends versus erotic homosexuality”. fanfiction, and dealing with the trauma and fundamental violation of pap smears.

“Gender Queer” is in the adult graphics section of the library, not the teen section, Hatton said. The library has chosen not to withdraw this book, but the decision may be appealed.

There are five other pending reviews for teen-oriented titles: “100 Questions You’d Never Ask Your Parents”, “Be Gay, Do Comics”, “Ready For It”, “This Book Is Gay” and ” Doing It”. ”

During the public comment period, a number of people spoke about the importance of providing diverse materials, creating a safe space for LGBT youth, engaging with difficult texts, and not committing censorship.

“While I realize that some members of a community, from time to time, will object to materials on misunderstood topics, I applaud the way our public library thoughtfully serves people in the community who have a wide variety of viewpoints without erasing one voice for the benefit of another,” said Reverend Felipe Martinez, pastor of First Presbyterian Church.

“It meant the world to me, everyone I walked into that library and I felt like I was welcome and belonged,” said 18-year-old Addison Grider. “I grew up in a religious setting. And the religious setting in which I particularly grew up was not welcoming. I had no right to be who I was. And I had no right to tell people who I was. And walking into the library and especially seeing the sign that said ‘Libraries are for everyone’ really, really meant the world to me. And sometimes that place was the only place I felt safe.

Some speakers, like Amy Thomas, said that parents who are worried about what their children might read should work it out themselves by researching and talking with their children. His 13-year-old daughter, Claudia, also stressed the importance of having conversations with children and voiced her opposition to banning or moving books.

“If you move them, kids will still read them,” she added. “I have already bought books from the adult section. You can’t stop us. So I am very sorry to inform you that these books, if you move them, will not prevent you from raising your children.

On the other hand, other speakers expressed concern about the exposure of young readers to “pornographic” or “obscene” content and said that while they were not trying to ban the books, they were concerned about what was considered age appropriate in the teen section.

“Why bring these types of documents to the fore and display them, as if to say, ‘Hey, kids, come see here? asked Donna Robbins, who is on the ministry team at Blessed Life and married to Pastor Andy Robbins. “And that’s kind of what it does. It’s like it’s an “in your face”, ‘Here, here children. Let’s enter the world of sexual promiscuity. Let’s enter this world.’ And they are too young for that.

Additionally, she feels there is a “double standard” when it comes to what is allowed, citing a conversation where her husband suggested to Hatton that the library add the book “The Specter of Communism” to its shelves. She said Hatton was hesitant, in part because the publisher has a reputation for focusing on conspiracy theories.

Another speaker, retired teacher Jean Glick, said she had read “Gender Queer” and acknowledged the author told a “heartbreaking story”.

“At the same time, I must say that according to Webster’s Dictionary which defines pornography – ‘materials such as books or photographs which depict erotic behavior and are intended to cause sexual arousal’ – which is on pages 61, 135 and 167,” Glick said. “And I would be horrified, heartbroken if my 16-year-old great-granddaughter came to the library, in the teen section, and found this book.”

She requested that the book be removed from the teen section or removed from the library altogether. While Hatton said the book is technically located in the adult graphics section, another speaker, Heather Wells, expressed concern about how close this section is to the teen materials.

Others, including Robbins, accused the library of violating state or federal laws regarding the distribution of obscene material to minors.

He also pushed back against accusations of fanaticism.

“We have no animosity towards any of you who disagree with us,” Robbins said. “We don’t. We do not believe that what is being done is healthy or good, but we have no feelings of hostility towards any of you.

Earlier in the meeting, Emma Metz-Sipple expressed concern over a Facebook post from Robbins, who wrote: “’From the beginning of creation God created them male and female’ (Mark 10:6). Why is this difficult for some people to understand? ‘By boasting of their wisdom they became fools’ (Romans 1:22). It takes a special kind of idiocy to believe there are more than two genders, and a kind of sad mental derangement to think you’re a certain gender when your body parts would demand the opposite. Those who believe this need guidance, not pampering. (Facebook Jail, here I come!).”

“Someone who uses that kind of language about queer people shouldn’t be able to speak to what we can read about ourselves,” Metz-Sipple said.

Some who spoke at the board meeting said the Bible calls same-sex practices sinful, but as Christians they love everyone.

Pastor Ed Boston of The Father’s House of Columbus wore a “Taking Back the Rainbow” shirt but said he was “ashamed of gay-hating Christians” and that members of his family are LGBT.

“I’m mad at all of you,” he said. “Both sides of that equation, because you know, if Jesus was standing here, here’s what I believe Jesus would do. I believe Jesus would say, what Christians believe — I’m not going to preach to you. You know. I know that. Jesus would say, ‘I love you.’ And then he said, ‘Go out and sin no more.’ »

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