Public Library Receives Formal Complaints About Two Books

The ImagineIF library system is currently reviewing two books in its collection that received formal complaints over the last few weeks. 

At the Oct. 28 meeting of the Library Board of Trustees, interim library director Martha Furman reported she had received a formal challenge to the book “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” by Maia Kobabe, a graphic novel that is part of the library’s adult collection. 

Furman provided the board an overview of the Collection Management Policy that is listed online and explained the steps involved in handling a book complaint, which includes members of the staff reading the book and putting forth a recommendation for the library board to vote on. 

The book, published in 2019, is an award-winning memoir that tells the story of a person grappling with gender and sexual identity written in comic form. The publisher recommends the book for grades 10 and older. 

“Gender Queer”has garnered substantial national attention over the last few months as challenges have emerged in numerous states over the book’s themes, although most of those cases involve school libraries as opposed to a public library. 

On Oct. 29, Kobabe penned an opinion column in the Washington Post addressing the banning of the book by some school boards and the purpose of writing the memoir. 

“Removing or restricting queer books in libraries and schools is like cutting a lifeline for queer youth,” Kobabe wrote. 

Cover of the book “Gender Queer,” by Maia Kobabe.

According to the library’s collection management policy, ImagineIF “upholds the right of the individual to secure information, even though the content may be controversial, unorthodox, or unacceptable to others,” and follows the American Library Association Bill of Rights. In regards to complaints and censorship, the policy states that material selection is “based on a person’s right to read, listen and view and the freedom from censorship by others,” adding that the responsibility for “materials selected and read by children and adolescents rests with their parent or legal guardians.”

The challenge was submitted by four members of the community who criticized the graphic nature of the material and say it had no redeeming value as part of the collection. One of the four challengers stated that it was a children’s book, although it is part of the adult collection.

In a lengthy post on the ImagineIF Facebook page on Nov. 3, Furman informed the community of the book challenge and offered a number of statistics on the library’s collection, an explanation of why materials are chosen for purchase and detailed the process following the complaint.   

Additional challenges were submitted to the library in November for another book in the collection that has shared the national spotlight, “Lawn Boy” (2018) by Jonathan Evison, a young adult coming-of-age novel. 

The last time ImagineIF Libraries dealt with a book challenge was in 2019 when the board of trustees voted to keep an LGBTQ-friendly children’s book, “Prince & Knight,” on the shelves. The book was challenged after it was read during a story time to a group of preschoolers, and led to a revision of the library’s story time policies. 

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