Wednesday, June 03, 2009

West Bend library board rejects request to limit access

On June 2, the West Bend Memorial Library Board rejected a citizen group's attempt to restrict access to a portion of the young adult collection. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that about 200 people appeared at the meeting, and about 60 individuals spoke to both sides of the issue for 2-1/2 hours. Ginny and Jim Maziarka, who formed an organization called West Bend Citizens for Safe Libraries, had asked the library board to remove books that they deemed inappropriate because of their sexual content and also requested that the library add faith-based books with "traditional heterosexual perspectives" or that were written by "ex-gay" authors. Another citizen group, West Bend Parents for Free Speech, was formed by Maria Hanrahan to support the library's policies and reject attempts at censorship.


West Bend Citizen Advocate said...

Lisa, perhaps you have not had time to fully review the West Bend situation. Let me help.

Your statement the Library Board "rejected a citizen group's attempt to restrict access to a portion of the young adult collection" is inaccurate.

WBCFSL did not ask for restriction of access to any books. Please review the actual petition requests here:

That should clear up any misinformation.

Your next statement "WBCFSL..had asked the library board to remove books that they deemed inappropriate.." can be clarified correctedly, as well, with the above link to the actual petition requests.

The use of the word censorship has been flung about quite a bit, but understandably so as this is a word that has been misconstrued and abused frequently when objections are raised by those who simply do not agree.

Why are the parents and taxpayers of West Bend who are asking for a balance of information and simple identification of sexually explicit books for minors suffering the accusation of censorship? The inherent answer is a need for education.

While some would believe censorship is the protestation of certain groups in accordance with a personal belief system, this definition is clearly inaccurate. Webster defines censorship as “to examine in order to suppress or delete anything considered objectionable.” In essence, censorship is the deletion of materials, ideas or information; therefore, when put in proper perspective, every time a librarian makes a decision about what books to buy, keep and throw, they are part of the editorial decision-making, i.e., censorship, process.

The label of censor clearly does not apply to citizen input. In fact, crying censorship creates a separate issue that is a distraction from the complaint of the West Bend citizens.

People should oppose censorship, but if "censorship" is being used as a political bludgeon in a case where it does not, in reality, exist, that only weakens efforts to oppose real censorship.

Now that censorship has been clarified, let’s go to the real issue in our local library, that being, inappropriate material for minors. Citizens are requesting parental assistance in identifying and appropriately placing sexually explicit materials. In asking for balance on controversial issues, MORE information is being asked for, not less. All books will still be available to all people. No books will be removed. No books will be banned. No books will be burned.

In a US Supreme Court case, the ACLU and the American Library Association [ALA] lost their case. In 2003, US v. ALA, the Court said, "The interest in protecting young library users from material inappropriate for minors is legitimate, and even compelling, as all Members of the Court appear to agree." It is important to note the words "material inappropriate for minors."

Religion, morality, politics, even pornography, have little to do with this matter. Instead, cases like US v. ALA, various local laws, and perhaps even the very language of the legal instrument that created the West Bend library in the first place, all allow West Bend citizens to decide to protect children from inappropriate material in the public library.

Besides, it's common sense.

Accountability is the hallmark of democracy; therefore, we are holding our library accountable for the choices it is making for our youth and our community.

SafeLibraries said...

You are the WLA. Please define censorship, then point out how it applies in West Bend.

Thank you.

Nanette said...

I was able to attend Tuesday's meeting and found it inspiring and heartwarming. It was a great example of democracy in action.

The library board had obviously put a lot of thought and research into this issue, and they conducted the meeting in a respectful manner. In the end, they gave eloquent and intelligent explanations for why they voted as they did. My favorite was the wonderful explanation of the Treaty of Tripoli's mention of the separation of church & state, and why this is important to Americans now.

I uploaded a few video clips from the meeting on YouTube, for anyone interested. Here's one of them: