DIXON — Two LGBTQ comic books that a group of community members wanted removed for containing sexual content are back on the shelves of the Dixon Public Library after about three months of debate.
Controversy erupted in June after a letter signed by a dozen families was sent to library director Antony Deter and city officials demanding the removal of the library’s Pride Month display.
It was a form letter from the conservative non-profit group CatholicVote “Hide the Pride”, in which members of the community were asked to view all the LGBTQ content they could in a library to remove books from public display.
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The letter did not name specific books, but said they would vet and hold all LGBTQ books until the library removes ‘inappropriate content from the shelves’, and refrains from purchasing ‘R-rated content’. with taxpayers’ money.
At the time, Deter directed the letter writer to information about public comment at a meeting as well as the library’s policy form for requesting a review of library materials.
Deter then received 16 requests to remove the young adult comic “Gender Queer: A Memoir” as well as the lesbian adult comic “Patience and Esther: An Edwardian Romance” for reasons such as “sin”, ” vulgarity” and “lesbianism”.
Removing the books on these considerations would not only violate the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause against discrimination, but would also violate library ethical standards, he said.
“Gender Queer” and “Patience and Esther” are two of the many LGBTQ books under review in libraries nationwide.
“Gender Queer,” which was part of the library’s annual Pride Month exhibit, is about author Maia Kobabe’s coming out as non-binary and contains sexual depictions on topics such as oral sex.
Dixon Library Board meetings in June, July and August drew crowds of community members to speak out on issues including concerns about censorship and discrimination and others about the access of minors to books with sexual content. Some said the books were sins, that they should be banned or burned, and that library staff should be prosecuted for pornography for having the books in the building.
Those in attendance included library supporters, LGBTQ advocates, political figures and members of a conservative Facebook group, the Sauk Valley Freedom Fighters.
Last month, the board unanimously approved policy changes strengthening language against censorship and discrimination.
[ Dixon Library Board bolsters policy against censorship following call to remove LGBTQ comic books ]
The authority to remove books rests with the library director, but the board also approved a policy change allowing an appeal process for the director’s decision on re-examining materials.
Following the change, Deter reached out to everyone who had submitted requests to be removed from the books. He then received 19 requests for each book.
Most asked to remove the books. One requested that “Gender Queer” be stored behind a counter, another requested that it not be assigned to a child and one wanted ID required and to limit access to those under 18 , said Deter.
“Patience and Esther” has been kept in the adult section, never been displayed and never checked out since the library purchased it about a year ago, Deter said.
The library became “Gender Queer” almost three years ago, and it had only been checked out three times.
He sent his determinations to everyone who submitted requests, with “Patience and Esther” returning to the adult graphic novel section and “Gender Queer” being moved from the young adult collection to the adult graphic novel section.
“While more than half of the Illinois public libraries I consulted had placed the book in their young adult collections, the book received at least one positive review in the scholarly press recommending it for 9th graders. year and older, and it was nominated for the Lincoln Main List, due to the strong nature of some of the imagery in the book, I am determined that the book be moved from the Young Adult Graphic Novel collection to the Adult Graphic Novel collection ,” Deter wrote in his replies.
None of the people chose to appeal their decision.
The books were previously temporarily removed for library board members to review and await possible policy changes.
They have both recently been put back into circulation.
The board will meet at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the Loveland Community House and Museum. Items include discussion of policy changes for public comment and language regarding display of library materials.