Thursday, April 23, 2009

West Bend Common Council removes library board members

The West Bend common council has decided not to reappoint four West Bend library board members because of a controversy involving gay-positive books in the young adult section of the library. After a community member filed several conflicting complaints, the board decided not to remove the books or delist them from a resource list on its Web site unless the complainants resubmitted a single, consistent complaint. Instead, Ginny and Jim Maziarka gathered 443 signatures on a petition to remove books that feature "explicit straight acts or explicit gay acts." The petition stated, among other things, that "sexually explicit content should not be on the teen shelf in the West Bend Library. ... Books that meet the federal definition of ‘harmful to minors’ should not be promoted to minors." The petition also called for the library to highlight books by "ex-gay" authors or faith-based books promoting heterosexuality in its collection for young adults.

Representatives of the library have repeatedly stated that the books in the young adult section have been reviewed by respected national library and educational organizations such as the School Library Journal, Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Booklist of the American Library Association and Kirkus Reviews, and these bodies have rated them as appropriate for young adults.

For more background on this story, listen to our March 11, 2009 Queery episode and visit the following links. Note: Some of the articles characterize the books in question as sexually explicit, but this is a point of contention. The Maziarkas claim that the books are pornographic and sexually explicit, while the board has maintained that the books are neither pornographic nor do they give blow-by-blows* of sex acts, although a few are frank in their discussion of sexual issues.

*Pun intended.

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