Library President Chistine Spring paused before casting the deciding vote. Fifteen minutes earlier, she had voted against leaving the controversial book, Making a Baby, in the children’s section. That first motion was defeated 3-2. Now, there was a second motion before the library board to move this book to the adult section under parenting. On this new motion, two board members had already voted yes, and two had already voted no. Two board members absent. Thus, President Spring had become the deciding vote.
All the aforementioned events happened at the regular monthly meeting of the Pickaway County Library Board on the evening of December 14th. During the open discussion period preceding the meeting, many concerned citizens gave their opinion about this controversial book. Most who found disfavor with the book wanted it moved to the adult section. Only one person called for its outright removal. Those opposed to banning a book expressed their trust in free speech and parental discretion. Only a few expressed their desire to keep it in the children’s section as their primary concern. It appeared that a compromise was at hand that would allow the book to be kept in the library but moved to the adult section on parenting.
There had been other issues with other controversial books placed in the children’s section. Any book in the children’s section is available for selection for the Bookmobile and the Children’s Storytime Hour. Earlier in the year, a principle at a Pickaway elementary school objected to the book, What, Wait?, when it was available at the Bookmobile. This book was listed as one of the best LGBTQ graphic novels of 2019 by The Advocate and is listed in Amazon as being for ages 9-14. Another controversy recently erupted when a third controversial book was read to children during their Storytime hour.
A question arose regarding where the community stood on this issue. The majority of the attendees objected to the book’s placement in the children’s section. Those in the minority believed that those very vocal majority attendees did not represent the entire community. Citing that fact that only 14 letters of concern were received by the library director within a county of 60,000, Vice President William Thomaschek expressed the same doubt. He questioned whether the controversy over this book was of paramount concern in the community. However, President Spring stated that during her ten years of service on the library board, no other book had been so problematic.
Just prior to casting the deciding vote on the second motion (the motion to move the book to the adult section), Kay Kingsley, the President-elect of the Library Board of Trustees, reminded the board of the policy of the American Library Association … The American Library Association (ALA) supports equal and equitable access to all library resources and services by users of all ages. Does this ALA policy really suggest that any child of any age needs to be given access to anything in the library?
Kay voiced concern over the prospect of a lawsuit if the book was moved out of the children’s section and cited this ALA policy as one of her reasons. She suggested this movement was not specifically authorized by any library policy. She also stated that the book was purchased and placed in accordance with the library board’s selection policy. Library board member Caryn Koch-Esterline, who led the effort to move the book, stated that she had consulted with an attorney and had received a legal opinion that the library board had broad discretion over the situation. Board member Lori Roberts cast the other vote in support of moving the book to the adult section.
Ultimately, the imaginary fear of litigation triumphed over any potential discomfort from local condemnation. President Spring voted no, and the motion to move the book to the adult section was defeated, 3-2. The library board then voted on a third motion to keep the controversial book in the children’s section, reversing their earlier vote on this same principle.
Letter to the editor written by Dave Horning