Library board hears complaints about books/Decision scheduled for Oct. 11 meeting
A standing-room-only crowd filled the Marshall City Council chamber and spilled out into the lobby of the Marshall city hall on Wednesday, Oct. 4, during a public hearing held by the Marshall Public Library Board of Trustees to discuss the removal of two books from the library.
The two books in question are "Fun Home" by Alison Bechdel and "Blankets" by Craig Thompson. The books are graphic novels which, according to comments heard at the hearing, include drawings that some citizens of Marshall find objectionable. Graphic novels resemble comic books in appearance.
Many people were just happy that the large number of people could attend and calmly discuss an issue with many different sides and opinions.
"This is what America is all about," Library board chairman Anita Wright said. "To have a hearing to listen to views, it's a marvelous thing."
Louise Mills, of Marshall, who brought the books to the attention of the library board and filed the paperwork to request removal of the books in question, was the first to address the board.
"My concern does not lie with the content of the novels, rather my concern is with the illustrations and their availability to children and the community." Mills said.
Mills, who found the books in the new arrival shelf of the library, said she was concerned that the comic-book style of the books would attract children who would then see the images in question.
Photocopies of some of the images were projected onto the wall during Mills' comments.
"Does this community want our public library to continue to use tax dollars to purchase pornography?" Mills asked the crowd.
"We may as well purchase the porn shop down at the junction and move it to Eastwood. Some day this library will be drawing the same clientele," Mills said. "I sincerely hope the board will listen to the community. Let's not contribute to the delinquency of minors."
More speakers followed Mills. Each person who desired to speak was given five minutes to air his or her views.
Julie Hollabaugh took her time to ask the board, and Marshall Public Library Director Amy Crump, what the process is in selecting books for the library.
"There are thousands and thousands and thousands of books that are published every year," Crump said. "And we have a staff of two that is responsible for selecting the books that are purchased for the Marshall Public Library. We rely on reputable, professional book review journals. These books received ... either starred or excellent reviews. That is the basis we use to purchase any material that comes to the library."
Sarah Aulgur expressed concern over what types of people would come to the library to look at the material.
"I don't want seedy people coming into the library and moving into our community," Aulgur said.
Some of the speakers requested removal of the books in question, others suggested a special section for books with what may be deemed "adult" material. Some suggested the books be kept behind the library counter or someplace else where they would not be within the reach of children.
"This is a clear-cut case of common sense," said Mark Mills, husband of Louise Mills.
"We are asking that these comic book-style books, graphic novels as they are called, that portray in pictures or illustrations, graphic sexual acts, should not be purchased by our tax dollars at the library and if they are, at a bare minimum children under the age of 18 should not be allowed access to these materials; that is, there should be an adults-only section in the library," Mark Mills said.
Many of the speakers wondered why there were restrictions on things like R-rated movies, adult magazines, and the Internet to protect children, but not on books.
"It's not a matter of censorship," John Raines of Marshall said, "but a matter of looking out for our kids."
"If it shouldn't be on a billboard on I-70, it shouldn't be in a public library," Mark Lockhart said.
A small number of citizens at the meeting spoke in support of the library, including Claudia Milstead. Milstead said that there are people who want to read the books in question.
"I want to thank the Marshall Public Library for acquiring these two books and I hope that you find a way to keep the two books without offending the people who have expressed what I think are some very heartfelt concerns," Milstead said.
Jeani Wilson also spoke in support of the library,
"The library's purpose is to provide a broad sweep of information, if you have only things that you like in a library then it is a private library," Wilson said. "I find myself defending something that I find repugnant, but I feel it needs to be provided."
"I do not see this material as obscene or pornographic," Dave Riley said. "The big city is here, the world is here, you're not going to keep it out. I understand everybody wants to live here and live in their little fantasy world and think we're somehow protected from that, we're not," Riley said. "Everyone has said up to this point that it is pornographic and obscene, it may be offensive, I agree, some people will be offended by it, I'm not. I just want you to know there are some people who don't share your opinion ... I do not see it as pornographic material and I'm not offended by it."
The hearing lasted the full two hours allotted and over 20 Marshall and Saline County citizens were able to make their voices heard. Less than one quarter were in support of the library's decision to put the two books on the shelves.
Wright wrapped up the hearing by letting those assembled know that the library board welcomes the opinion of the public.
"We listened to every word, we are open-minded, we do care and we want the library to be the best it can be." Wright said.
A decision on what actions to take on the issue will be made during the next library board meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 11 at 7 p.m. The meeting will be open to the public.
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