The Library has been in the news recently (Wichita Eagle, KWCH, KSN) regarding a Materials Reconsideration Request filed by one of our patrons. I would like to explain the procedure and what has transpired to date.
- Patrons talked with me about concerns they had over the books George by Alex Gino, Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart and I am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, Illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas. These books all feature transgender children. They were written for children.
- I read Lily and Dunkin and I am Jazz*. I also looked at professional reviews of these books. I wrote the patrons a letter explaining my decision to keep the books in the children’s section.
- A patron elected to file Materials Reconsideration Requests on the three books requesting they be removed from the children’s section.
- Per Library Policy, a committee was formed of myself, our Youth Services Manager, a Library Board member, an Andover resident, and a representative appointed by the challenger. The committee read all 3 books and met to discuss the books. The committee voted 4-1 to retain the books in the children’s section.
- The challenger appealed to the Library board of directors at the January 9th meeting. This board meeting allowed comments from the public. The Library Gallery was full of people on both sides of the issue: retain or move.
- The board will vote on the books on the February 13th board meeting at 6:00 pm. Their decision is final.
I based my decision in part on our Library Board approved American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights and the Free Access to Libraries for Minors statement. Quoting from Free Access to Libraries for Minors statement:
Article V of the LIBRARY BILL OF RIGHTS states “A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.” Every restriction and access to, and use of, library resources, based solely on the chronological age, education level, or legal emancipation of users violates Article V.
Librarians and governing bodies should maintain that parents—and only parents—have the right and the responsibility to restrict the access of their children—and only their children—to library resources. Parents or legal guardians who do not want their children to have access to certain library services, materials or facilities should so advise their children. Librarians and governing bodies cannot assume the role of parents for the functions of parental authority in the private relationship between parent and child. Librarians and governing bodies have a public and professional obligation to provide equal access to all library resources for all library users.
As a library professional, I am committed to these principles. I am also committed to listening to our users’ concerns and ask that you respect them regardless of their position on this issue.
Andover Public Library
*I did not initially read George. It is on the William Allen White 2017-2018 Master List of books for grades 3-5. The selection committee for these awards includes Kansas school librarians, principals, English teachers and representatives from various Kansas associations and the Kansas State Department of Education. Andover Public Library buys multiple copies of nominated books. In 2017 the Friends of the Library provided us with a grant to buy multiple copies. We also try to purchase these titles in other mediums like CD. The demand is high. We place all of our copies of William Allen White books in the juvenile section of the library. I did check where other libraries placed George in their collections. A large majority of them were in the Juvenile Fiction collections. In deference to the award committee and in result of my searches, I concluded that the book should stay where it is.