Livingston Library Board responds to Parish Pres. letter to move books: ‘There’s a form to fill out’ | News

The Livingston Parish Library Board of Supervisors will maintain its current policy on book challenges, despite a letter from the Parish President asking it to remove certain materials from the children’s section.

The decision was made in a motion passed unanimously during Tuesday night’s board meeting to “congratulate the ward president for sharing his perspective,” to uphold his current policy on book challenges, and to make that policy prominently visible in every branch of the library and online make.

“What we’re being told by the Parish Council and the Parish President is that we have to have a system and we’re trying to educate everyone that there’s a policy,” Ivy Graham, board member of the library, said on Tuesday’s discussion on the subject. “If you find something you like or don’t like, you have to fill out a form so it can be reviewed and discussed.”

The motion follows a resolution the Livingston Parish Council passed last month in support of a letter from Parish President Layton Ricks to move books he deemed inappropriate from the young adult sections to the adult sections of community libraries move.

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“I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my grandchildren picking up a book with questionable sexual content in a public library,” Ricks wrote in the letter. “Why can’t our children be children anymore? When they grow up, they can visit adult bookstores if they wish. But right now they are vulnerable children.”

The local council unanimously voted in favor of the letter, with no public input, despite tensions that erupted in hallway arguments from residents and conservative activists hoping to speak out.

Neither Ricks nor the council have defined what content they were referring to, or named specific books in the libraries. Ricks said he was unaware of the citizens’ request for reconsideration of library materials until the night of the ward council meeting.

This form allows residents to submit grievances against books they deem inappropriate, which are then forwarded to library staff for review and suggest action if necessary.

Libraries have received two of those requests in their history — one for “A Court of Thorns and Roses” by Sarah Maas and another for “Let’s Talk About It” by Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan — both of which were moved from the Young Adult section to the adult section, said Jeremy Travis, spokesman for the library system.

The debacle over restricting access to these books began at the library’s last board meeting in July, when member Erin Sandefur brought an item labeled “book content” to the agenda. Local residents flocked to speak out on the issue, most of whom opposed restricting LGBTQ+ literature for young people.

During that meeting, Sandefur distributed a list of eight books to consider restricting access to, with content ranging from a preschool-level picture book on transgender identities to a dating guide for teens with a sexually explicit illustration.

Five of the eight books specifically addressed LGBTQ+ issues, and none of the eight received reconsideration requests.

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“I think it’s important that we don’t go down the path of starting the process of censorship. The board member might not call it censorship, but it is and it’s the first step,” Lori Callis, a retired teacher, told The Advocate after Tuesday’s meeting. “I believe the policies and procedures that we have in the library are adequate.”

Before the motion passed, Sandefur tabled a separate motion during Tuesday’s meeting to create a committee of three board members to review current book collection and review policies in the children’s and young adult departments. This motion failed with 4 no and 2 yes votes. These 2 yes votes came from Sandefur and Stephen Link.

Sandefur said after the meeting she plans to submit her own reconsideration requests and that at least 20 books in the library are inappropriate for her current library areas.

“I’ve been a advocate for the children in the Livingston Ward,” Sandefur said. “The board voted, and that’s why we have the board. It’s the collective (library) board, but I tried.”

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