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Library board updates collections policy

by EMILY BONSANT
Hagadone News Network | June 23, 2022 1:00 AM

BONNERS FERRY — Amid an overflowing room of patrons, the Boundary County Library Board updated its policies and discussed individual freedom.

The policy updated was the collection development and maintenance policy. The policy passed by a 3-1 vote.

Library Director Kimber Glidden told the Bonners Ferry Herald that the main update to the policy is the addition of links to Idaho Code.

“I think that the concerns about certain materials are real and valid,” trustee Aaron Bohachek said.

He added that the large turnout of patrons at the meeting is because people value their library.

“I think we need to listen to the concerns of the public because we are here to serve the public,” he said.

He said he wanted to ensure there aren’t library materials that could be extremely offensive to someone to where they then believe the library isn’t a safe place for their children. He added there needs to be a balance of personal freedom, personal responsibility with public safety.

“As a board, if we begin taking away people's personal freedom in order to enforce some sort of public safety, we're going down a dangerous road,” he said.

Bohachek said if the board decided to enforce public safety over personal freedom, they could add a metal detector at the entrance, pat downs or require the wearing of masks.

He said the board needs to balance its role as safety officers with the need to allow people their personal freedom. The difficulty with that is not everyone is of “one mind” or have the same morals or beliefs.

As a public entity, BCL is required to abide by the U.S. Constitution, he said. Before adopting the policy, Bohachek suggested the board seek more public input on materials, because the board alone cannot decide what people will find offensive.

Trustee Lee Colson agreed he doesn’t want to hinder anyone’s rights, nor does he want his rights hindered.

Colson said due to the library being a public entity, if 20 people ask for a particular book, the board has to consider purchasing it for the collection.

“Our job is not to support one group's rights over another. Our job is not to support one idea or another. Our job is to support all ideas,” he said. “We are a public service. Our service is to provide public information.”

He said the board does not judge the information nor the morality of it. It is the job of the people in the community, to monitor their children and to monitor that information they take into their homes.

“If morality is driven by the books in the library, then there's something wrong in our bigger system,” he said.

Bohachek agreed, but said his main concern is labeling items to protect the public from the content. While the library is not going to limit access to books, Bohachek said he believes personal freedom is affected if a book is labeled as containing controversial information.

He said in order to be fair and balanced “The Holy Bible” and “The Noble Quran” would have to be labeled as containing controversial information. It will take time away from a lot of the other tasks of the library.

“If this is the kind of issue that is most important to the patrons of Boundary County Library, it's something that we have to take by the horns,” he said. “We can't hope that it just rides out because it won't. If you're not being listened to, you make yourself [heard].”

The policy reinforces that BCL is responsible to balance the demand for contemporary materials of interest and significance while preserving materials of permanent value. In addition BCL’s objective is to provide a “full range of library services and to serve as an unbiased source of information and protect the individual’s right to full access to the information.”

The BCL relies on the principles of intellectual freedom and equal access for all while upholding the right of the individual to access information, even though the content may be controversial, unorthodox or unacceptable to others.

When it comes to controversial issues or views, the library will not advance one perspective without regard for the other. The policy reads, BCL will provide to the extent practical, materials that present varied perspectives within the constraints of the budget and space.

Glidden reminded patrons that the library has a “library material reconsideration form.” This form is not new to the library and is based on a similar form available at the American Library Association website as a resource for libraries.

Glidden said that library staff has done a quick audit of library materials with LGBTQ+ content, since the community has come under heavy fire. She said the review was to make sure there wasn’t any material that could be visually offensive to children should they pick it up.

Less than 20 books were found with such content, none of which could be visually offensive to children, Glidden said.

“However, I do need to put the disclaimer that we read lots of reviews and whatnot in here, we do not read every single book in the library cover to cover,” she said.

She added that any books that have LGBTQ+ content or characters in them are labeled with a rainbow sticker.

Glidden added that all those books were purchased before she came on staff to the library.

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