Saturday, May 21, 2022

Response to library board criticism

by David Ingram
| December 13, 2021 12:00 AM

I am responding as an individual to comments published in the Dec. 9 letters to the editor, not for the library board.

First, I am gratified and impressed by the community’s love and appreciation of our library and its staff. As a 30-year resident, I share these feelings. Also, I wish to affirm that I am a staunch supporter of the Constitution and our First Amendment right to write, create, publish, distribute, sell and purchase all publications and videos of our personal choice.

However, with minors, this right is more clearly defined in MCA 45-8-201 & MCA 45-8-206 which address “Obscenity” and the” Public Display or Dissemination of Obscene Materials to Minors.” These statutes also define a minor as “under the age of 18”.

The board is tasked with making final determinations regarding book challenges after the staff review committee makes its findings known. No decision has been made. In my opinion, the main character’s gender is irrelevant, but the depictions and dialog could be quite confusing to minors as young as age 9, who may get an unrestricted card. I would ask the local media to publish page 135 or 167 of “Gender Queer” (with appropriate permission) as a sample of content if they deem it appropriate for all. Interested readers may access multiple pages on the internet.

I would ask parents and caregivers to explore this issue and share their thoughts on how best to access these materials. Banning and censorship are never acceptable, but minors represent a special challenge regarding potentially confusing materials.

As a point of clarification, I have no desire to “micromanage” the library as was suggested by some community members. The only staff activity I have attended was the departure party for Ms. Behe who resigned before my July 1 start date.

In November, after the book challenge, my request to Ms. Furman regarding collection development stated in part, “I would like to observe this process without participating or disrupting it so I may more intelligently participate in the review of the policy.” It seemed strange to be denied the ability to observe the process for which one is charged with making the policy.

Montana is an open meeting state as I am reminded by supplying communications involving all trustees, staff, and commissioners to the requesting media. Is the selection of materials the only activity we don’t have open to the community and sequester away from view?

David Ingram serves on the ImagineIF Libraries Board of Trustees. He is a retired anesthesiologist and lives in Kalispell.