The Thomas County Public Library System Board of Trustees held a regular meeting on Thursday, where they heard from the local community about their concerns about the material in circulation.
As a departure from the usual agenda, public comments were permitted at the start of the meeting to be courteous to the time of local community members present.
Library manager Holly Phillips addressed the audience ahead of public comment and said the current challenges formally presented to the board were being discussed and they were looking at each eligible book individually and objectively.
“I want to update you all on the book challenges we’ve received over the past few weeks. I assure you all that we follow our policies and review each eligible book individually and objectively,” Phillips said. My hope, my sincere hope, is that as this process continues, people will feel that their voice is heard and will see, through our actions, that we are objective and working with them.”
She added that she believed the integrity of the public library as a source of information for the public should be preserved. To the local community, Phillips thanked them for their offered opinions and hoped that the resolution of current concerns would be reached democratically.
“I believe it is vital to preserve the integrity of the public library as a source of information for every person in our community and not to discriminate against or silence diversity and pride,” she said. declared. “We thank everyone who gave their opinion on what they would like to see or not see in our library, I know that we can work together democratically and fairly.”
The first speaker, Joan Young, came to read a letter from Barbara Cohenour, another community member who was unable to attend but kept up to date on the current topic of discussion.
“What the community wants is for the library board to adopt a policy against pornography in the children’s and teen sections,” Cohenour said in her letter. “Books on these subjects should, at the very least, be listed in the adult section with the stipulation that they may only be viewed by persons over the age of 18. Parents who wish to have this information may consult the books for them.
The letter continued to say that the library manager’s responsibility is to keep unacceptable materials off the shelves.
“Mrs. Phillips, you have been praised by many as an excellent librarian, and I am certainly willing to accept that fact. But personally, I don’t have time to come to the library to read every new book that you put away and fill out your form,” she said in her letter. “As I am a taxpayer, I pay your salary, I say the responsibility is yours to keep unacceptable materials off the shelves.”
Sharon Maxwell Ferguson said that as a longtime member of the Thomasville community and an active political participant from a young age, she was very invested in the value of libraries and widely encouraged reading among her children and grandchildren. .
“I can’t tell you how much I believe in the value of libraries. I remember as a young child going to the library and reading books,” she said. “My husband and I have five children, we have nine grandchildren. We have widely encouraged reading, we do not encourage reading pornographic material, but we do encourage them to be knowledgeable about sexuality, facts of life, bodily changes that occur during puberty and related material, not about pornography.
She added that in such an important time for having accurate information, libraries were an invaluable resource that should not be influenced by the political agenda of a larger group, but rather by the individual objections of a community.
“As citizens here, we all need to be involved in what’s available for people to read. We don’t need to participate in the political agenda of some outside group to tell us and others like us across the country what we can read and what we can’t read” , Ferguson said. “This is ridiculous. Tell us what you as an individual find objectionable, do not infer or generalize to the rest of the population here in Thomas County, it is not appropriate. It is really important right now to have accurate information in our lives, a library is a vehicle to do that.To do otherwise is really hurting a community.
Carla Defnall told the board and community members in attendance that the current state of the library system is symptomatic of a push by the American Library Association agenda.
She presented details of the books posted to the library’s Instagram account, which include graphic sexual descriptions in George M. Johnson’s “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” explicit language in George M. Johnson’s “The Hate U Give.” Angie Thomas, and read explicit excerpts from “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” by Jesse Andrews.
“The disempowerment of parental consent and guidance is a dangerous agenda, especially with books like the ones I’ve introduced to you today that are offered and promoted within our library system,” she said. .
Lucinda Brown said the public library was for everyone and it was a parent’s responsibility to oversee their child’s reading material, not the library’s responsibility to limit what it provided to the whole community.
“Our public library is for everyone,” she said. “It’s not up to a certain group of people who want to decide which books to leave out. If you, anyone, don’t want your kids to read a book, that’s where you’re at home, without your child reading a book that you don’t want to read, that’s not what I want I want anything I want my child to read, I would let him read.
A total of 12 speakers were heard by the library board, each having three minutes to provide their brief comments on the materials available at the public library.
This public interest comes after the controversy sparked by Robie H. Harris and Michael Emberley around “It’s perfectly normal: changing bodies, growing up, sex, gender and sexual health”.
Adrian Burns, a member of the library’s board, said she appreciates the community voicing their concerns and that the library’s expert staff will take the book review process seriously.
“The process we have in place is the experts, I’m not an expert,” Burns said. “So we trust the library and its staff to review these books. So if there is a book you have expressed a need for review, please fill out a review form, we take this very seriously. This raises awareness for us as board members and lets us know that you are concerned. »
After public feedback, the library board continued with the officer for the remainder of his time, discussing dates for the library’s closure in 2023, a proposed change to materials dispute handling procedures , a proposal to add a regulation for the public consultation policy and a report from the director.
Additionally, Phillips said in its financial report that the library is on track for its current point of the fiscal year.
“We’re 25% in the fiscal year as of September 30 and we’re actually on track with where we want to be,” she said. “Total revenue was 25% and total expense was 25%.”
The board set the next meeting date for November 21 at 1:00 p.m.