We are very disappointed in the library board’s recent decision to disregard Ashland’s concerned citizens and pastors at the library’s June board meeting. At this meeting, representatives of Ashland’s parents and churches respectfully requested that the Board remove, or at least relocate certain books presently located in the children’s section targeting children as young as 5 years old.
It is undisputed that these books contain complete frontal nudity, naked adult men with children in a shower, and discussions and depictions of various sexual acts. The library has prominently featured and recommended these books to Ashland’s youngest citizens in the library’s children’s section.
At the meeting, the Board President suggested that the concerned citizens are promoting censorship and undermining “freedom and liberty.”
This suggestion is disingenuous and misleading. The Board President is well aware that these citizens are freedom-loving people who are in fact advocating for the freedom of Ashland’s parents, not the government, to decide how to best educate their children — particularly on sensitive topics like sexuality.
Interestingly, the same board member directly contradicted her own argument by admitting that the library regularly censors children’s materials by virtue of having a designated children’s section in which reviewers qualitatively “evaluate” all new materials’ content. The Board President also flippantly characterized the parents’ and pastors’ rationale as “willy-nilly.”
This reaction underscores a fundamental lack of respect and surprising disregard for a well-reasoned and respectfully presented request.
Another Board Member accused the parents of misrepresenting the books’ contents, but then was unable to factually rebut any of the parents’ stated objections with the books, summarily insisting that the books are “science.”
This board member is of course entitled to his personal opinion, but he must remember that his role and duty is to represent all of Ashland’s families and respect the fact that other parents view these materials very differently than he does. Again, these families’ request is simple and reasonable: Let parents, not government and unnamed “professionals” (as referenced by the Board President), be the screener of explicit books concerning sex targeted at young children.
Here is our challenge to the Board: Instead of diminishing and marginalizing Ashland’s concerned citizens, start listening with humility. Actually examine for yourselves the books you are recommending to Ashland’s children.
Rather than blindly relying on unidentified “professionals” and publishers to evaluate the content of children’s materials, start relying on Ashland’s taxpaying parents and citizens — to whom the Ashland Public Library actually belongs.
Finally, please discard the view stated by the Board President that “the library’s job is not to protect.” If the entire board adopts the Board President’s view that it is not the library’s job to protect Ashland’s children, then quite frankly, we need a new library board. We implore each and every member of the board to have the courage to take a bold stand for Ashland’s families.
The board’s next scheduled meeting is Thursday, July 14 at 4:30 p.m. We ask every concerned citizen in our community to come be a part of this open meeting and encourage our library board members to do the right thing.
Andrew & Amy Keller