I’ve been watching the catastrophe unfold in our library board meetings from afar. Seeing the absolutely horrific implementation of an already horrific idea come to fruition in the most obvious of ways. But I’m not one to take to social media and yell about it, nor am I one to attend meetings which obviously serve no purpose for the public. This incoming board had an agenda, and despite the fact that our community is overwhelming centrist in its views on social norms, they were going to stick to it no matter what happened.
There are two aspects I’m going to cover with this and it will not be focusing on the specific books that have been mentioned. While we all have our ideas of what constitutes appropriate books for various ages, in my mind that is not what needs to be argued. The library already had systems in place to appropriately select and place each book within its system, in addition to the actual words on a page, context of the work are also taken into account. Ironically, as the Board seeked to place John Green’s A Fault in Our Stars back into the teen section (the audience is was written for) they talked about context. No, this was never the issue and as the Library Board director pointed out, the policy as written would always result in this situation. The newly appointed Board hadn’t walked into a vacuum, they stepped into a system dating back to 1778 and thought they (with no experience at all) could do it better. They Failed.
So why does this still matter? The first lesson to be learned here is that every board, be in elected or appointed needs to listen to the community. Not the bubble they enjoy but the actual community. Spending public dollars without true public support will result in the disastrous waste of $300,000 like we saw here. Not to mention the unaccounted for nearly $10k in legal fees. Without public support a board spending so recklessly amounts to theft in my mind. And I will throw in the countless dollars in investment our community will not see because of our tarnished image!
Most importantly to me though is the fact that our public institutions should never seek in any way to censor expression and speech. Before some of you out there jump in, suppressing access (even by simply placing it in an inappropriate section) is censoring. Those seeking to ban access have always been able to argue that ‘if they want it they can find it somewhere else’. The point though is that this is a PUBLIC institution and therefore the selection and placement of books should never be about content. It should be about context. That includes the intention of the author, importance of the work, popularity, and many other criteria that the Library already uses. The words “fuck”, “shit”, and “pussy” hold no power outside of their context (quoting the board policy). Sex is a real thing most people experience before they reach adulthood. It is up to parents to set additional context for their kids to read through books with. It is also up to them to limit what they have access to. If any organization would like to have a limited selection they are absolutely free to create one. That is also one of the wonderful freedoms we enjoy. But a public institution cannot censor and frankly arguing anything different is the most un-American thing I can imagine.
So with all that in mind I believe it is time we show off our support of free expression. Their bubble needs popped and they need to see us. Not just in a board meeting but everywhere they go. I know the majority of this city does not support censorship. And to help with that I’ve created a fun sign to place in your yard. I’m a 90s kids who grew up in the library borrowing books, tapes, audiobooks, movies, magazines and anything else they had. Today kids have so much more access but our libraries remain an important foundation in our community. Please donate below so I can create as many of these as possible. I will also be making a donation with the proceeds to Friends of HEPL for the support of our library programs!