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Library board approves new policy/Material selection policy created, controversial books returned to shelves

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Marshall Public Library Board of Trustees passed the materials selection policy at the Wednesday, March 14, board meeting and decided to place two novels that have been in question back on the shelves.

A committee was established in October to form a "material selection policy." The policy approved Wednesday will be used as a guideline for selecting materials to be purchased for inclusion in the library's collection.

The formation of the policy comes as a result of a request by Marshall resident Louise Mills to remove two graphic novels from the shelves.

The novels, "Fun Home" by Alison Bechdel and "Blankets" by Craig Thompson, were deemed offensive by Mills and other members of the community who aired their views at a public hearing on Oct. 4.

The committee read through a number of material selection policies from other libraries around the state and the country and took note of things in them that they deemed important to be included into the new policy for the Marshall Public Library.

The meeting began with John Carton, executive director of Butterfield Youth services, speaking about the two novels in question. He noted that he was speaking as an individual and not on behalf of BYS.

Carton said that he went to the library to read these novels because he wanted to be better informed.

"I felt offended by not being allowed to check them out and read them, so I went and bought them," he said. "I found them intriguing."

He told of the personal identity issues of the characters in the books and the isolation the characters went through.

He said it requires strength to go through those experiences.

"We should encourage those processes, not discourage them," Carton said. Isolation can be devastating to kids, he said.

Board member Katye Elsea moved to approve the material selection policy and Ann Aulgur, vice president, seconded the motion.

Treasurer Connie Grisier asked questions and pointed out some problem areas in the discussion time.

"We did meet with the city attorney and he told us that it was all legal," Grisier said. She pointed out that the board is not a judicial body but "we do have the powers."

Grisier was concerned that the new policy does not include a provision for labeling materials.

"I think we have taken away a possible avenue we could have used," she said.

"I think we have tried really, really hard to be fair to all sides," said President Anita Wright. "We put in a lot of safeguards and (I) hope not to find ourselves back in this position."

With a roll-call vote, seven members approved the policy with Grisier abstaining.

When the question of the fate of "Blankets" and "Fun Home" came up, Elsea said, "There is no way we can remove those from the library from what we adopted."

Aulgur made the motion to put the novels back on the shelf and board member Kathleen Sharon seconded.

Elsea said that she would like to see "Blankets" relocated to the adult section since it is classified as a teen or adult book.

Library Director Amy Crump said that "Blankets" was put in the teen section due to the age of the protagonist but that it also is commonly categorized as adult fiction.

With more discussion on the matter, board member Jeanne Simonton said "from what we have written, they need to stay."

With a roll-call vote, seven members gave the approval for the books to stay shelved and Grisier voted no.

In a subsequent motion, the board recommended that "Blankets" be moved from the young adult section to the adult section of the library. The vote was seven to one, with Grisier voting no.

"Fun Home" was, and will remain, in the adult fiction section, according to Crump.

In other business, the board approved two bids for work to be done at the library.

The City of Marshall solicited bids for two air conditioning units and duct insulation for the library.

Mike Morgan, city code official, looked at all bids to make sure they meet the requirements. The board approved the low bid from Country Heating and Cooling. Wright said that they worked on her house's air conditioning and heating unit and they did a "mighty, mighty fine and expeditious job."

The second bid approved was to construct a wall that will create a hall for access to the new genealogy room, storage closet and meeting room.

With the genealogy room being relocated in the library, the traffic would pose a problem for someone using the meeting room.

"Meetings need to have privacy," Crump said.

Also at the end of the hallway, there will be another, much-needed, walk-in storage closet. Crump solicited three bids and two contractors said they were not interested. The bid was awarded to Hatfield's.

For new business, Wright asked the board to consider another committee to form a "code of conduct for patrons."

The need for the code has been brought to the attention of the board due to occurrences of patrons being loud and boisterous to workers causing some to cry.

"It is embarrassing in front of other patrons," said Priscilla McReynolds, library staff. "Workers have broke down and cried, I have too."

A committee was formed to work on and propose a "code of conduct for patrons." On the committee are McReynolds, Crump, Sharon, board member Nikki Fahnestock, and Wright will be the ex-officio.

The board will meet for their next regular meeting on April 11 at 7 p.m.

Contact Rachel Harper at


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