MINOT – Two bills with the intent to keep certain books away from minors were discussed at length at a recent public meeting.
The Minot Public Library held a meeting this week to talk to citizens and parents about the process of how books are chosen for the library.
Library Director Janet Anderson said the process includes factors of patron requests and book reviews. There is also an official method for patrons to make a request to move or remove a book, though it requires the patron to have read the book in its entirety. Anderson added that in her eight years as library director she has only received five of those requests.
One citizen mentioned a concern about the library opposing House Bill 1205, which would ban sexually explicit books from public libraries, and Senate Bill 2360 which would set requirements to keep sexually explicit books from minors in public libraries. Both bills have passed their respective chambers.
“We don’t post posters for one campaign versus another,” said Anderson. “It is our job as librarians to decide which books go into which category. As an example, here’s a juvenile book about puberty. The way the bills are written now, I would be guilty of a class B misdemeanor for having this book about puberty. Not just in the children’s library, even if it was in the adult library.”
“You’re using our tax dollars to take a position,” said meeting attendee Charles Tuttle, Minot. “You’re not allowed to do that.”
Anderson said she agrees with the intent of the bills which she said already exists in the North Dakota century code.
“I completely understand the intent behind it, which is to protect our children, to protect our youth, and to make sure they are getting information that they can understand,” said Anderson. “Right now one of the issues is that it says ‘anywhere in the library’s inventory.’”
Anderson said she would agree with the bills if they were given certain amendments.
The library’s policies, which include diversity, equity, and inclusion were also discussed at the meeting.
“That means something very specific to me,” said meeting attendee Amber Vibeto, Minot. “It means through the lens of a social justice ideology. Some of the books I’ve seen that are for children are really disturbing.”
“None that I’m aware of are in the children’s section,” said Anderson. “I will say first of all, diversity is diversity, equity is equity, inclusion is inclusion. That’s what we mean by it.”
Vibeto also asked about a certain American Girl book that speaks on puberty, which the children’s librarian Randi Monley said she believes is in the Minot Public Library.
“In this American Girl doll book it suggests that if you’re a little boy and you feel like you’re a little girl on the inside, and if you don’t feel like you can trust your parents, find an adult that you can trust,” said Vibeto. “That’s where parents are starting to go, ok what are in these books? Learning about how everyone has different abilities and skin colors, totally fine. But again, the DEI does have a specific agenda.”
“I get where you’re coming from,” said Monley. “I try to steer away from agenda books, but I do want kids to see their own life reflected back at them.”
Anderson said over 200,000 items were checked out of the library last year with an average of 9,000 people coming in every month.
Policies of the Minot Public Library can be found here. The collection management policies which were discussed at the meeting can be found here, and a video of the meeting is posted on YouTube.
Anderson encourages Minot residents to apply to be on the library’s board to have input into the policies that are written. More information on the board can be found here.