TR Library looks to update controversial materials policy

THREE RIVERS — Some minor changes could be coming soon to a policy on controversial materials at the Three Rivers Public Library.

During their monthly meeting Tuesday, the TRPL Board of Trustees reviewed potential changes to the policy, changes that will be voted on at their next meeting in July.

The proposed change would amend the policy to allow staff to give any individual questioning certain materials a copy of the library’s Materials Selection Policy, the Controversial Materials Policy, and the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights and Freedom to Read Statement. Any patron that is still questioning material, under the policy, may state their opinion in writing on a Reconsideration of Materials form provided by the library, which would then be reviewed by the library board.

“What I’m adding in is very specific language on how we handle it as far as, let’s give them this information so they understand how we make our decisions, and then we can go from there,” TRPL Director Bobbi Schoon said. “It just wasn’t clear before and this way, if for some reason I’m not here or someone new comes in, it’s very clear how we handle it.”

Schoon also noted the name of the form will be changed from “Patron’s Opinion of the Library Materials” to “Request for Reconsideration of Material,” in a way to make the form “more professional.”

When asked by board Vice President Mike Fleckenstein about the subject, Schoon said the library gets complaints about material “on occasion,” saying it’s happened a “handful of times” in her near five years working for the library. She said typically, complaints come from adults challenging teenage-level material.

“It is a valid concern, but it’s usually an adult that doesn’t even have a [child],” Schoon said. “It’s just kind of nice to show them that, here’s how we make our citations, and we believe each person has the right to decide for themselves, and parents have the right to decide for their children, and you take home what’s right for you and leave behind what’s not.”

Fleckenstein agreed with Schoon’s assessment that it’s mainly up to parents to decide what’s right for their kids to read.

“It’s up to the parents to provide that guidance. We’re not the arbiters of truth, we’re not the social adjudicates, we are providers of information. We don’t try to filter that,” Fleckenstein said. “That’s the parents’ role. While I understand the concern, because some of that stuff is really out there, parents need to be parents and provide guidance. That’s my initial reaction. It’s certainly not a huge change from where we were, just a little more verbiage.”

In other business…

  • The board discussed, but did not take action on, a budget adjustment proposal to use $187,139.27 in new personal property tax funding from the city. What was proposed by Schoon was using $25,000 for a building maintenance reserve, $10,000 for a capital equipment reserve, $50,000 for a future expanse reserve for a basement remodeling fund, $7,000 for additional furniture purchases, $3,000 for collection development, and $4,474 for a final cost to repair a parking lot sinkhole discovered last month. That would have left $87,665.27 to go into the library’s fund balance.
  • The board approved the library staying with their collective group to purchase individual copies of e-books and audiobooks through Overdrive.

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 22 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

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