By Shereen Siewert
WAUSAU — The Marathon County Public Library Board of Trustees on Monday unanimously voted to keep a children’s book on transgender issues on the shelves, after a patron petitioned for the book’s removal.
The materials reconsideration reviews committee on Aug. 8 reviewed the request to have “Who are You? The Kids’ Guide to Gender Identity,” by Brook Pessin-Whedbee, removed from the library’s collection and recommended the book stay on the shelves. The library’s board of trustees on Monday, Sept. 17 and unanimously voted to follow the committee’s recommendation.
According to reviews committee report, members first discussed whether or not the book fits the MCPL Collection Development Policy.
The policy states that “The library recognizes and celebrates that it serves all members of the Marathon County community, regardless of age, political or social views, gender (including gender expression), sexuality, race, ethnicity, or country of origin. As such, the Library further recognizes that its patrons have diverse backgrounds, cultural heritages, interests, political views, and social values. The Library seeks to build a collection to meet the needs of the members of this diverse community…”
The book has received positive professional reviews and addresses what committee members call a “timely subject of potential interest to some families in our community,” according to the report.
The committee compared the need for this book with the need for other books that may have a narrow audience such as books focusing on a particular medical condition or adoption.
Ultimately, the committee determined that the patron’s objections should not keep others from accessing information. MCPL adheres to the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, which states “Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.”
The patron also made a request to have the book moved to keep it from young children, and discussed the placement of the book on the library’s shelves. Currently, all new books are placed on the new materials shelves for approximately three to six months before being shelved according to their Dewey number.
In the time since the initial request for reconsideration, “Who Are You?” was moved from the new materials shelves to the social sciences are of the Juvenile Nonfiction. This move was made solely due to the age of the book, independently of the request, according to the committee report.
The committee also discussed the role of parents and caregivers in selecting library materials.
“When a parent or guardian signs up at the library for a child’s library card, the parent/guardian acknowledges that they are accepting responsibility for selecting materials for checkout,” the committee report reads. “We applaud the concerned patron’s awareness of their children’s reading interests.
“While a parent/guardian may choose what is acceptable for their own child they cannot infringe on the liberty of others to determine what is acceptable for their children or restrict access for any individual.”