Library Board Trustee speaks on appeal decision
March 9, 2023
To the editor,
I serve on the Board of Trustees for the Columbia County Rural Library District. I would like to speak to the issue of books in the library that some members in the community want removed from the shelves.
At our regular meeting a week ago, the board was asked to consider an appeal by Marcene Hendrickson regarding Juno Dawson’s book “What’s the T .” The vote was 4 to 1 to reject the appeal.
My reason for rejecting the appeal is because the board is bound by the collections policy. The only two questions we the board had to consider were: Whether the book is in line with current Library Board approved policies and whether the Library Director’s decision to retain the book was arbitrary or capricious. It is my opinion the answer is ‘yes’ to the first question and ‘no’ to the latter.
I believe in the middle way to solve problems. Unlike recent meetings, our board meeting in November was attended by a good cross section of the community, who by the end of the meeting seemed to reach the conclusion that the eleven books under review by the Library Director should remain in the library, but they should be moved. And they were.
I have read Juno Dawson’s book twice and each time I found material in the book that was repugnant to me. That is my opinion.
Setting my opinion aside, the materials in the library are protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. We cannot just cherry pick which constitutional amendments we adhere to.
I agree with our board Chair Jay Ball that banning books represents a “slippery slope”: That once we ban or censor one book the community will ask us to band or censor others, and where does that end?
At our training session last week Dr. Meredith talked about intellectual freedom. At one point she talked about the dangers of censorship to libraries and ways to prevent lawsuits against them. She said books should be kept in the section for the intended audience for which they were written. Censorship can also be prevented by replacing books that are being “weeded” out of the library with book titles of a similar nature. Censorship can be prevented by not purchasing certain books to begin with.
Following the meeting I suggested to our library director that when it comes time to “weed” this particular book, replace it with something similar, but more palatable. Perhaps Mrs. Hendrickson can work with him, and members of the transgender community, to identify a more acceptable book to reflect the transgender experience?