A Call To Protect Our Library

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following was written by Howard L. Simon, Ph.D, a Sanibel resident and president of Clean Okeechobee Waters Foundation, Inc. The Santiva Chronicle publishes opinions and letters on topics that are important to Sanibel and Captiva. They may be submitted via email at news@santivachronicle.com. 

America’s culture wars came to Sanibel last week.  You couldn’t be so naive as to think that our island paradise would be immune.

Last week more than 100 people, many more than capacity, crowded into a meeting room of the Sanibel Public Library for a meeting of the Library District Board of Commissioners. Never had they had anyone attend one of their meetings, Commissioners noted in amazement.

Most were there to defend the judgement of the professional library staff and Commissioners — and the role that libraries have traditionally played in America as guardian of the First Amendment’s value on access to information.

An online article in a local right-wing publication had reported that two mothers and their children recently visited the Sanibel Public Library and that one child came across a small display on one of the shelves in the children’s section of the library honoring Pride Month. The display included two children’s books dealing with transgender youth (”Jack, Not Jackie” and “My Own Way”), which the mother believed to be inappropriate for her child. The second child came across another children’s book also describing transgender youth (“When Aiden Became a Brother”).

Apparently, according to the comments of these parents at the library commission meeting, books dealing with gay families and gay relationships can be tolerated, but information describing transgender youth crosses some line of permissible inclusion in the library’s children’s collection. It should be noted that all these books are available at public libraries throughout Lee County and in fact, libraries throughout the country.

These days, few people are oblivious to public support for America’s oldest constitutional values of free expression and access to information. Few people will proclaim that they are actually for censorship — greater subtlety is required. The two mothers requested that the display be “relocated” to a spot where young library patrons would be less likely to see the offending books.

Surely every parent has the right to direct the upbringing of their children. Accordingly, the Sanibel District Library Policy states that “Responsibility for library materials use by minors rests with their parents or guardians.” What is distressing in censorship debates is the notion that a parent would think that the appropriate way to protect their child from what they regard as harmful information is to force a government agency like a public library to adopt a policy that would keep information away from everyone’s children.

By well-established policies of the American Library Association, every library typically has a procedure by which a patron can file a complaint requesting that, for one reason or another, a book be removed from the shelves. The mothers decided not to file the complaint form and to make their appeal directly to library commissioners.

Not succeeding in having the offending books removed or the display relocated so the information would be less accessible to youngsters, it seems that a strategy of vigilante censorship was adopted: the offending books were checked out en masse to keep them out of circulation.

This issue is far from over: six of the seven seats on the Sanibel District Library Commission will be filled during the November election. Three of the six seats are uncontested. There will be a contest for the remaining three seats – two of which the protesting mothers are seeking to fill.

This is a non-partisan election, so the difference between candidates is not the usual partisan division. The difference between the candidates is likely to be between those supporting restrictions on information, even censorship, and those supporting the First Amendment’s value of access to information on a diversity of topics and representing diverse points of view.

Get informed about the candidates for the Sanibel District Library Commission so you can help defend our library staff and our public library.

Comments (11)

  1. Of course the offending books were “checked” out ! And it would not be surprising if they were not returned. After 8 grandchildren if I never see “Goodnight Moon “” it will be too soon but I think of all the books available to children and I smile to think how many wonderful worlds are available to them by reading. These complaining parents can help choose what their children read but they do not get to choose for the rest of us. They should be thanked for their input and offered help by the children’s librarian in choosing suitable books. That should solve that problem and our wonderful Sanibel Public Library can stay “public “ and accessible.

  2. Cynthia Gorman

    I have a great idea! Why don’t parents HELP their children make selections of books they wish to check out!
    I can’t believe they didn’t just say, “ Let’s see if we can find a better book for you over here.”
    This censorship is out of control.

  3. As parents, we are always planting seeds of interest in our children … but l, like a good gardener, we must be very careful what seeds are planted and when. Children are very impressionable. Would we allow books that discuss children who are abused or trafficked?

  4. Kelly Tyrrell

    I’m calling to expose people who protect groomers and adults who seek to sexualize young innocent children.

  5. Donna Howdeshell

    I was at this meeting. No one who spoke asked for any book to be removed from the library. Several who spoke did ask for some books written for children highlighting gender dysphoria not be on shelves where young children would be reaching for them. Suggestions included putting them on a higher shelf or on a parenting shelf.
    One young mother eloquently shared that she wants to decide when to discuss such issues with her children vs having to talk to them now.
    In the board discussion following the public comment, it appears that placement of books in special displays is not currently covered in either the library policies or procedures. If that’s the case, the whole thing could have been resolved by the librarian simply moving a handful of books up a few shelves.

  6. Doreen Bolhuis

    I was not at this meeting but I applaud parents who showed up to defend the innocence of young children who don’t even yet understand what sex is. It is our job as adults to protect children, not exploit them with adult issues. I noted with interest that the author of this article carefully selected adjectives to demonize and discredit the parents while promoting his own self-righteousness. Let’s engage in meaningful and respectful dialogue around issues when we disagree. I believe this is best accomplished in face-to-face conversation.

    • Yes, thank you very much. On point and astute in your observations. It doesn’t take a Phd to see this was a hit piece.

  7. I ask and wonder if all the supporters of leaving books in display and at reach of our children, have children of their own? Are you going to force this delicate subjects to your children, grandchildren? This should be a matter of common sense.

  8. Let’s discuss the elephant in the room – cultural Marxism. The goal of that movement is to fundamentally change our constitutional republic into a Neo- Marxist country. This movement defines the oppressor class by intersections of identity – race, sex, sexuality, gender, and religion. Their primary means of warfare is ideological – indoctrination and propaganda. The movement has infiltrated our government, our schools, our media, corporations, and every aspect of our lives. The LGBTQ movement does not represent homosexuals or trans individuals – it is a powerful political movement based on Marxist principles (as is BLM). The movements involvement in LGBTQ is not to advance the rights of any sexual minority. It is to use the issue as a wedge to divide and destroy families, break down the culture and to weaken the American capitalist culture. All minorities are being used as pawns to institute this change. Destruction of the nuclear family is imperative. Indoctrination of children is an important tool in this process. Exposing young children to sexual book displays, drag Queen story hours, pride parades with nude participants, and drag queen shows at nightclubs is fulfilling an obvious ideological agenda. The public is manipulated into believing that this is nothing more than promoting tolerance, acceptance, and love for our fellow human beings. Anyone who takes issue with the aforementioned inappropriate actions is labeled as homophobic, transphobic, intolerant, hateful, uninformed, etc., etc. It is a well known Marxist tactic to attack an opponent’s personal character. The proponents of trans books for young readers expressed all of those personal attacks against those that opposed the display during the library meeting. They also included Howard’s discussion of banning books and being anti-first amendment. This was a falsehood – no one who spoke in opposition of the book display stated that they wanted books banned or discussed their thoughts regarding transsexualism. So – let’s be honest. This entire situation is a political ploy to indoctrinate children. It has absolutely nothing to do with banning books, tolerance of a sexual minority or love of our fellow human beings. Time to stop overlooking the elephant.

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