Saturday, January 06, 2024

Oconee County Library Board To Vote On Four New Requests To Reclassify Books

***Meeting At New Wire Park Facility***

The Oconee County Library Board of Trustees, meeting for the first time on Monday in the as-yet-not-completed Oconee Library in Wire Park in Watkinsville, will consider four requests for reconsideration of the classification of books.

Stephen Aleshire is asking the Board to move the book Different Kind Of Fruit from the Juvenile to the Adult Section of the Library.

Laura King wants the Board to reclassify from the Young Adult to the Adult section Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me.

Victoria Cruz is asking that the Board move Man O’ War from the Young Adult to the Adult section.

Joyce Reifstech says the Board should move Tomboy from the Young Adult to the Adult section as well.

The Library System’s Reconsideration Review Committee, made up of library professionals, reviewed each of the requests and recommended that each of the books remain as classified.

The Book Action Committee, a subcommittee of the Oconee County Library Board of Trustees, accepted the recommendations of the Reconsideration Review Committee and is forwarding those recommendations to the full Board for action on Monday.

Board of Trustees Chair Mark Campbell has said the new library will be able to accommodate the meeting at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, but no tours of the facility will be possible because of ongoing work in preparation for an opening later this year.

Pattern Of Requests

The four requests before the Board–officially Requests for Reconsideration of Library Resources or Services–bring to 10 the number the Board has considered in the last year.

Campbell 10/9/2023

At the October meeting, the Board acted on five requests, three of them to move books from Young Adult to Adult, one to move a book from Juvenile to Adult, and one to remove a book from Juvenile.

In the end, the Board voted to move two of the books from Young Adult to Adult, moved one of the books from Juvenile to Young Adult, and retained one of the books in Young Adult and another in Juvenile.

In July, the Board had voted to move another book from Young Adult to Adult in response to a request for that action in another Request for Reconsideration.

The Book Action Committee has gone against the recommendation of the Library System’s Reconsideration Review Committee in three of the prior six cases, but the full Board has followed the recommendation of its Book Action Committee in each of the prior cases.

Nature of Requests

Aleshire said he found the book Different Kinds Of Fruit by Kyle Linkoff via a search of the library holdings and then read the book.

The book contains “extensive discussion of sex throughout” and is “absolutely not appropriate under 18,” he wrote. “These books are agenda driven. Please allow children to be children, not sexualized gender-driven objects to be proselytized,” he continued.

King said she found Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell by “looking at the shelves” of the library and that she has read the book.

She said she is concerned about “Discussion about sex, drinking (underage), profanity, pedofilia (spelled incorrectly in original), birth control, underage sex, negative talk about families w/mom + dad.”

Cruz said she found Man O’War by Cory McCarthy via a “library search” and “I read half the book, then, seeing the direction in which the story was heading, I skimmed through the rest.”

Cruz wrote that she was concerned about “Explicit sexual language from the beginning” and “Profound preoccupation with gender redefining terms” and “No child should be this obsessed ONLY with re-defining their gender, or allow themselves to be convinced they are transgender.”

Reifstech said she found Tomboy by Liz Prince through an “online search” and that she had read the book.

She said her concerns were that “This book discusses sex and ‘virginhood' with crude and inappropriate language.”

Professional Review

The Reconsideration Review Committee wrote lengthy assessments of each of the four books.

In its assessment of Different Kinds of Fruit, it wrote that “The filer objected to extensive discussion of sex, but there were no descriptions or discussion of sex anywhere in the book.”

“The pages cited discussed gender identity and sexual orientation, which seems to be the filer’s actual issues with the book,” the report stated.

The Committee wrote regarding Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me that “Many of the objections of the filer seem to be focused on the LGBT+ content; they lists pages of concern that simply show two girls kissing (p. 12, 109), mention LGBT+ peoples’existence and show classroom discussions of real-life LGBT+ history (p. 30-31, 53-54, 124), or show an image of two girls (who are friends) dancing together at the prom (p. 288-289).”

“While this may not be something the filer wants their child to read, LGBT+ teens do exist within our community and their lived experiences should be represented in the library collection,” the report states. “These kinds of books can help to provide insight and create empathy in readers--one of the main functions of literature.”

Regarding Man O’ War, the Committee wrote that “The book includes a transparent and informative Content Advisory, alerting the reader to potentially triggering and/or controversial topics.”

“Parents who do not wish for their teen to encounter these topics have the right to make that decision for their teen, and only their teen,” it states.

The Recommendation Committee wrote that it found “minimal mentions of sex in the book Tomboy.

“All mentions of sex are within the context of reasonable high school conversations and are written in a way that is sensitive to a high school audience,” according to the report. “The Committee finds no evidence that sex or virginity is referred to in a particularly crude way.”

Book Action Committee

Campbell, who chairs the Book Action Committee as well as the full Board of Trustees, said in an email on Jan. 4 that the Committee met on Jan. 2 at the Bogart Library.

Book Action Committee Check List
Different Kinds Of Fruit

The Committee used a nine-item checklist to evaluate each of the books, indicating whether the material has contemporary significance, has been reviewed positively by professional sources, had won awards or nomination, has literary merit, meets other criteria.

For Different Kinds Of Fruit, the Committee check all nine of the boxes.

The Committee checked eight of the nine for Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me, with only “Material is not freely available elsewhere in the community” unchecked.

For Man O’War, the Committee also checked eight of nine of the boxes, with only “Material has contemporary significance and/or popular appeal” unchecked.

The Committee checked seven of the nine criteria for Tomboy, with “Material has contemporary significance and/or popular appeal” and “Material contributes to the diversity and scope of the collection” unchecked.

Monday Agenda

The Public Comment section of the meeting on Monday comes immediately after the 4:30 p.m. Call to Order.

Speakers are asked to limit their comments to three minutes length.

An update on the status of construction and movement to the new library appears under Old Business on the agenda.

The Request for Reconsideration of Material is the final item on the agenda before Adjournment.

The Oconee County Library closed its Experiment Station location in Watkinsville on Nov. 22 in preparation for the move to Wire Park.

Wire Park is officially at 1725 Electric Avenue, off Barnett Shoals Road in Watkinsville.

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