ImagineIF staff honored for responding to contested books

ImagineIF librarians learned this week that they will be awarded the Pat Williams Intellectual Freedom Award for their response to challenges against two now controversial books – “Lawn Boy” and “Gender Queer” – next month.

The Montana Library Association will present the award to Deputy Director Sean Anderson, Collections Services Librarian Kat Wilson, Teen and Adult Services Librarian Starr White, and former Acting Director Martha Furman at its presentation ceremony. awards Aug. 5 in Missoula.

According to a statement from ImagineIF, the Pat Williams Award for Intellectual Freedom is given to “an individual or group who has made significant contributions in the past year to the advancement of First Amendment rights or to an individual whose body of work over time has made significant contributions”. contributions to the strengthening of intellectual freedom.

Council administrator Carmen Cuthbertson was the first to challenge the ‘Gender Queer’ book last year – she was appointed to the council by county commissioners earlier this month – sparking a debate over what is considered suitable for library shelves. Proponents of their removal have said that “Gender Queer” and “Lawn Boy” depict obscenities and pedophilia. “Lawn Boy,” by Jonathan Evison, is a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age novel, and “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” by Aia Kobabe, details the author’s journey through the identity of gender.

In February, the board opted to keep “Lawn Boy” in the library’s collection, but voted to “defer indefinitely” a decision on “Gender Queer” until the library can change its policies in some way. which would probably allow the removal of the book. .

Board Chairman Doug Adams said he and his fellow directors welcomed the award.

“We administrators are delighted to hear that our library staff have been recognized as deserving of recognition by their peers and profession, and that we appreciate their passion and enthusiasm,” Adams said.

ImagineIF Libraries received multiple nominations from library staff across the state of Montana, praising the library system for “supporting the freedom to read.” Lewis & Clark Library Director John Finn said ImagineIF staff remained professional during the challenges and adhered to the tenets that guide librarians.

“They supported the right to read for all members of the community in an inclusive way,” Finn said in a statement. “Flathead County patrons should be proud to live in a community where their freedom of choice to read what they wish is upheld by professional librarians and freedom-loving staff.”

Anderson said the award makes him very proud of the entire ImagineIF team, adding that everyone has been affected by the controversy surrounding the book challenges. Recognition of the Intellectual Freedom Award is a reminder of “the importance and impact” of their work at the library, he said.

“It obviously feels good to get some recognition, especially since the last year has been so difficult. It’s an affirmation of our work at ImagineIF, but it’s a reminder that we’re not the library materials management challenges alone,” said Anderson. “If our experience can help offer some direction to others in similar situations, then I am happy. We are very proud to receive this award, and we We will use this as motivation to continue fulfilling our long-standing obligation to provide free and equitable access to books and information to all of Flathead County.

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