Residents of the community filled the boardroom at Liberty on Tuesday evening to address concerns about a children’s book that deals with sexually sensitive issues. The book, titled “Tell Me: What Kids Really Want To Know About Bodies, Sex and Emotions” was recently discovered on the shelves of the Liberty City Library by Library Patroness Whitney Brents of Liberty.
The book at the center of the controversy was written by German author Katharina von der Gathen and asks questions such as “What is porn? “,” Are there different penises? “,” Why can’t young children have sex? and “What happens in a sex shop?” The questions are written in handwriting that gives the impression that the children actually wrote the questions. The questions are accompanied by cartoon images which show, among other things, several adult penises, a man with a very long penis wrapped around his body, a man watching porn and a couple having sex. . While the images in the book are drawings and not photos, citizen protesters believe the book is some form of cartoon porn that has no place in the library.
After finding the book during a visit to the library with his children, Brents brought it to the attention of Library Director Dana Abshier and the book was immediately removed from the shelves. Fearing that such a situation might happen again in the future, Brents shared images from the book on social media, and soon after, people began to share their own concerns by committing to appear at the meeting. from the city council on Tuesday.
At the start of the meeting, City Manager Tom Warner assured citizens, some of the neighboring communities who claim to frequent the library, that the city already has a new policy in place to ensure that books are examined in more detail before to be placed in the library. shelves.
“We are currently checking every title in the juvenile section to verify that it is correctly cataloged. Now when an employee fills out an order card, the book will be reviewed by the library manager before being placed, ”he said.
The city manager explained that the book in question was purchased in May 2020 with funds from the library’s memorial trust fund, which comes from donations. The book has not been borrowed once since then. Before its withdrawal, the book was part of a collection of 60,000 titles available at the library.
“He was cataloged for the juvenile section. This was the age range recommended by the publisher. It was originally displayed in the miners section on the top shelf. We don’t know how it got on the lower shelf, ”Warner said. One possibility is that another customer inadvertently moved the book to the section for young children.
The new policy requires that each new book be reviewed by at least four people from library staff before it is placed on the shelves, he explained.
Speaking to city council in public comments, Brents thanked city council for its willingness to hear its concerns. She described her gratitude to the library and its staff for their kind and helpful service, and assured council, city staff and Mayor Carl Pickett that her concerns were those of a parent and that she had no vendetta. against anyone in the library.
“I love the library. I like books. I like knowledge. I love walking into this building full of books. I love that my kids can go there and buy books that we don’t have at home where I personally collect books. I like being able to go there and learn things, and continue my self-learning. This is why this question is so important to me, ”she explained.
As the library is a taxpayer funded entity, Brents believes it should respond to the needs, values and desires of users in the community.
“Yet the trends I have noticed are at odds with what I know about our community. It seems that instead of taking inspiration from the community as a whole, the parties responsible for content curation are using professional reviews to give us all of the most recent and current social trends, ”she said.
Brents says she frequently sees books on display that seem to tilt one side of social issues even though the library is required to be content neutral.
“Is there a program driven by the library workers?” ” she asked. “The duty of the library is not to educate my children. It’s my job and I take it very seriously. It’s not about feelings. It is about what is right, true and beautiful. Books like this, and others like this, only serve to blur our children’s understanding of the world and make it more complicated, ugly, and polarized.
Patti Barrow, a retired school librarian, also made public comments that echoed Brents’ concerns. Having an idea of how books are often pushed by their publishers to promote sales, Barrow said each book should be investigated further before being added to the library.
“Booksellers want to sell books and they have their own way of getting around problems that they fear will become a public enemy,” she said.
Calling the images in the book ‘child pornography’ and ‘disgusting,’ Barrow added, “These images are no fun. I didn’t think a 20ft long penis was fun at all.
Stacy Laird Sundgren, representing Friends of the Library, an organization that works alongside library staff on fundraisers and events, expressed frustration that citizens may imply that library staff are moving an agenda forward. social.
“In all the years that my family and I have been involved in the library, I have never heard of anyone pursuing a political or social program in one direction or another, and I have not seen the slightest evidence among the books of such a thing. Our local communities, our state, our nation and our world are made up of many different opinions and beliefs. Having books in our library that offer ideas and information on opinions that differ from ours does not in any way promote a specific program, ”said Sundgren.
She added that Abshier and her staff are constantly and tirelessly working to create a friendly, educational and safe environment for all children and adults.
“I can tell you with confidence that neither Dana nor any of the staff would intentionally allow material into the collection that is harmful. Our community is more than fortunate to have such a dedicated, diligent and caring group of librarians working at the library, ”she said.
The mayor ended the public comments by assuring the citizens that while he also believes that the book is pornographic and obscene, it is certain that the City will do everything possible to rectify the situation so that it does not happen again in the to come up.
“You don’t have to convince us. At the same time, I want to stress that this council is concerned with children, not just Liberty children, but children in our community. We care about them and want them to be protected, to have good social and parental guidance, ”said Pickett. “I want to be on the defensive against any insinuation that this council, this city, doesn’t have a good idea of this or does not properly and sincerely care about the children we come into contact with. We want to correct the problem. If we have a problem with the way our books are reviewed by staff and they are not reviewed, then we want to fix that. We want to protect our children from the evils of the world that exist and hopefully as a group we can all do it. “