Thursday, December 08, 2022

Library collections decided by patron interest

Hagadone News Network | March 25, 2022 12:20 PM

BONNERS FERRY — Like their communities, library materials reflect the whole community and a diverse range of interests.

In response to public comment made at the March 17, Boundary County Library Board meeting, the Bonners Ferry Herald sat down with BCL Director Kimber Glidden on how the collection is organized into sections.

Among those backing House Bill 666 is county resident Adrienne Norris, who called on the library to keep certain books out of the hands of children. She said that she used as a resource for her when selecting material for her children.

Norris said she recently learned of a national movement of parents advocating for the banning of particular books. After researching items available at the Bonners Ferry Library, Norris said many of the materials she is apprehensive about were not in the library, but some are.

One of Norris’s concerns the possibility of young children at BCL coming into contact with books such as New York Times best seller “Kite Runner,” by Khaled Hosseini, which has scenes of rape and abuse. She was concerned with other books being part of the BCL collection that are notoriously challenged, such as “The Bluest Eyes,” by Toni Morrison, which has similar themes of violence and racism.

Glidden said books can be controversial because they can be seen as subversive, in the sense that they go against the narrative that Americans want to hear.

Norris said she doesn’t support banning books because the library is for everyone to enjoy not just her. She wanted to brainstorm with the library director on how to keep these kinds of books out of the hands of young children.

Glidden said that the library has systems in place to separate out materials. An example is having the R-rated films on the top shelf and G-rated films on the bottom shelf and having the children’s section in the basement and away from the adult’s section.

One book Norris is concerned of children picking up is “Gender Queer: A Memior” by Maia Kobabe. The author, identifies as non-binary and asexual. Many parents nationally have advocated for this book to be banned.

“This library is supposed to be for everyone. We all pay taxes and should have the right to enjoy the library,” Norris said.

The graphic novel shows how Maia Kobabe navigated school crushes, family, adolescence and adulthood while coming to grips with Kobabe’s identity.

Boundary County Library does not have this book in its collection.

During public comment at the March 17 meeting Norris said “[Glidden] advised me that the library does not have this book, but she said she had no problem ordering it if a patron requested.”

Norris claimed that Glidden would have put the graphic novel in the graphic novel section for those 10 years old and up. Glidden said that is not the case.

“[During the March 17 meeting] She launched into some dangerous and inflammatory rhetoric without doing any fact finding,” Glidden said. “[Norris] Did come to the library to confront me about several books, “Gender Queer” being one of them. She verbally gave me a formal complaint on that book; we don’t even own it in our collection.”

Glidden said she told Norris that if the library were to have “Gender Queer: A Memoir” it would be housed upstairs in the adult nonfiction area of the library, far removed from the children’s section.

Glidden said after the complaint from Norris, Gliden read the book and found it very “heartbreaking.” She said due to the visuals it would not be appropriate for most children, but that is not on her to decide. She said that is why that book in particular would be housed in the adult section if it were to be part of the library's collection.

Glidden asked Norris if she had read that book and she had not.

“She’s making claims about the dangers of a book based on one small hand-drawn, two-dimensional picture in a book, taken out of context,” Glidden said.

Glidden said that there are books in the collection that she doesn’t agree with.

“If I got to censor the collection because I wanted it to reflect my world view, the collection would be extremely different than it is,” Glidden said. “I don’t have to agree with every book that I put on the shelf, but I have to look at it and see if there is a counter-argument to this book. What’s the credibility of the author and the counter argument?”

The library, like many libraries, has adult and children sections housed in different parts of the building on separate floors. In addition, R-rated films are on the top shelf with G-rated films on the bottom.

If there is high interest for a particular book or material, Glidden said the library will make a purchase for that item.

“There is a funny saying: A balanced library collection will have something to offend everybody,” she said. “We don’t set out to try to find materials to offend everybody. For our library, we have a very conservative Christian base. We have an entire section of the library that is Christian labeled. A lot of libraries don’t have this designation, but it makes sense for ours to do that.”

When it comes to labeling books or videos for content, Boundary County Library places a rainbow sticker on LGBTQ+ books and other sections such as adult, children and young adult already have a corresponding sticker. This is just another way the library labels its books to mark which section the books belong in.

There is no LGBTQ+ section in the Boundary County Library and Glidden said she did not think there would be one due to the demographics in the county. However, due to the large conservative Christian population in Boundary County, the library has a Christian literature section.

This is not a section found in most libraries, Kimber said.

Since the library is meant to service the community as a whole since the materials are paid with taxpayer dollars. Some materials and requests for materials are outside the scope of the library.

“I’ve had very conservative homeschools that want us to separate out sections or house curriculum and things that fit their would view […] but that is outside of the scope to ask a taxpayer funded entity to provide that level of service to one group,” Glidden said.

The Bonners Ferry library is a public library, not an academic library, Glidden said, noting that when she lived in Alaska there was a church congregation with a large homeschooling population. As a congregation, they built a library that fit and supported the curriculum and values they were trying to instill.

“It was an inappropriate ask for the public library to do that, but for the scope [of] what their congregation felt was important, it was completely appropriate for them to do that,” she said.

Glidden said that she has encouraged others to form libraries with their like-minded groups, if their needs can’t be filled through the public library since it is beyond what can be asked by public funds.

Since the library does not discriminate on gender, race, creed, orientation, then there needs to be something for everyone, Glidden said.

“Books can be a window or mirrors,” Glidden said. “A book could be a window, just a peek into somebody else’s experiences. That’s not bad.” is a good research engine for parents to use on how to navigate the library system, Glidden said. But it is not for libraries to govern and set their policies by.

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