In an editorial in the Flathead Beacon this week, Valerie McGarvey shares an analysis of what recent changes to the library's Collection Development Policy, voted in by three of five appointed library Trustees at their May 26th meeting, mean for our constitutionally protected right to read. These recent changes are the most recent step in a drawn-out campaign to find a path to censor the book Gender Queer, a move that would undoubtably expose the library to lawsuits, costing thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds and countless hours of staff time.
McGarvey writes "This policy was not well thought out; in fact, the specific language of this policy likely applies to many books and DVDs currently in the collection. Despite recommendations and strong censure from senior library staff, three of the five trustees voted to accept the new policy. Most disturbing was the complete lack of transparency and opportunity for public input. Most of the policy motions passed at the meeting were not agreed upon during the policy committee’s three-hour meeting earlier this month, nor were they included in the board materials. The first time the public heard the language of these motions were when they were made at the May board meeting. It seemed clear to more than just me that these motions were decided on prior to the meeting in what I can only assume was another back-channel method by some of the trustees. Once again ignoring the advice of senior library staff, the board plunged ahead to put the library in danger of a lawsuit for censorship."
This effort to restrict your right to read is not an organic local effort, but a coordinated political tactic brought forth by activists seeking to make our public library an election-year battleground in a culture war that Flathead Valley readers don't want or need. "Increasingly, organized activist groups are fueling the book-ban movement by challenging the same books — showing up at school board meetings and delivering identical complaints. We’re talking about websites with lists being borrowed and traded across states,” Jonathan Friedman, of PEN America, said in a recent Washington Post article on the coordinated effort.
If you oppose censorship and are tired of Trustees back-channeling decisions, disregarding library staff guidance and expertise, and squandering time and resources on personal agendas, it's important to attend Trustee meetings and make your voice heard.
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