Books – The Rights and the Wrongs

Books are cherished works of expression, history, religion, debate, culture, knowledge, and the complexities of the human experience.  A collection of books we call a library is one of the signs of a modern civilization.  A book is a cherished gift my family and I enjoy both giving and receiving. 

Books throughout history have been considered symbols of wealth with the power to read them withheld from groups of people.  There are many significant figures whose lives and work positively impacted history because they walked miles to borrow a book or were given a book when they weren’t supposed to have the right to read. There are countries today that are withholding this right from girls. 

Books are also sources of inciting hate and disseminating obscenities. Books can be educationally unsuitable, pervasively violent, too sexually graphic for a minor, or pervasively vulgar. 

It is the job of a School Board Member to express and consider all sides of important decisions.  I have listened to public comments, reviewed policies and legal precedents, spoken with parents, citizens, students, teachers, administrators, and librarians about the books in our public schools.  We all agree that libraries are important to a child’s education.  We all agree that every book is not suitable for every child.  We all agree that children have a variety of interests and needs that can be met with the right book.  We all agree that the best time to check the value of a book for our school is at the time of purchase.  We all agree that these decisions should not be based on a political agenda or platform and certainly not based on the notion that one person does not agree with the content of the book.  We all agree that parents must parent and pay attention to the books and other reading materials that their children have access to. 

The School Board, school professionals, and the community have taken actions to address our public school library books with a book challenge process, greater emphasis on the purchase decisions and process, and the use of Destiny, a software platform that provides parents with authorization for pre- or post-library resource selections by their children.  Librarians have an ongoing and end-of-year process of discarding books that are out-of-date, infrequently read, worn out, or yes, found to be educationally unsuitable for the students in their school.  These responsibilities are not taken lightly. 

Do we continue to collaborate in a responsible, constructive manner to provide the best reading materials for all our students OR do we become close-minded and shut the doors of our libraries?  Be careful what you wish for.  Be careful what you vote for. 

“Libraries store the energy that fuels the imagination.  They open up windows to the world and inspire us to explore and achieve, and contribute to improving our quality of life.  Libraries change lives for the better.”  Sidney Sheldon

“Without libraries what have we?  We have no past and no future.”  Ray Bradbury