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Banned Book Returned to Goshen Library and Friends of the Library Questioned

The Goshen News - Staff Photo -
The autobiographical graphic novel, Gender Queer, has returned to the Goshen Public Library after it was improperly removed in 2023 / Eric Warner
Eric Warner

At the most recent Library Board meeting, Library Director Tabitha Guarnieri reviewed over 50 complaints against the book following February’s Board meeting on March 20th. Only one complaint was valid as the others did not follow the protocol when filling out the forms. Most did not read the book. The book will remain in the library. After reviewing each complaint, Guarnieri determined that, “Removing this book from the library collection would be antithetical to the core ethics surrounding librarianship, as well as being unconstitutional, and would set a dangerous precedent threatening our individual freedom to make our own decisions about what to read and what to believe.” In her letter, Guarnieri noted that books that may be inappropriate to some readers should not be inaccessible to all readers. In regard to the book’s potential influence on teenagers or children, she further noted that it’s the parents’ responsibility to monitor what books minors are borrowing from the library. Gender Queer will be placed in the adult non-fiction section of the library for the time being, as the board determines a permanent library location. The library’s original copy of Gender Queer is still missing but it has been replaced with two donated copies from the Friends of the Library member. Each complainant will receive a letter notifying them the Gender Queer challenge has been resolved.

 Lynette Miller, who originally presented the Chair with the letters of complaint in the last meeting, addressed an issue she had with Friends of the Library and questioned why the private 501c3 organization is directly linked with the library’s website. “It is a fundraising arm,” stated Ann Green, Board member. “That’s how people donate to the library is through Friends of the Library, stated Johanna Kimball.     She continued, “We keep referring to how tight our budget is, and yet we are proceeding to alienate the people who are raising money for the Board?”  Noteworthy during these exchanges, the Chair, Henrietta Horvay, did not participate in either the leadership role as the Chair, nor the discussion itself. Miller wants the Friends to have their own website to make room on the website to post the library policies. Miller then motioned to replace the Friends of the Library link on the library website with a policies link, so as to avoid additional costs in expanding the website. This would force Friends to create their own website and Miller suggested a link for that website to be later placed somewhere on the library site. After a brief discussion, the board decided to table the motion until April’s meeting and will look at other libraries to see how they situate their Friends of the Library online.

During the library’s treasurer report, Miller motioned to remove funds managed by the Friends of Library from their reporting. These funds included the Connecticut Community Foundation Advised Fund, the Connecticut Community Foundation Donor Fund, and the Northwest CT Community Foundation fund. Miller called for these funds to be removed since the board has no access to them. Friends of the Library member Ann Kelly identified these funds as a “library failsafe” and recommended the board determine why these funds were originally set up and if the library was originally intended to have oversight over the funds. Miller motioned to send a letter to Friends of the Library Treasurer Wendy Casbolt for clarification why the funds are being sent to the library board. This was unanimously approved.

The Goshen News contacted board member Josephine Jones for clarification why the board is targeting the Friends. “”I’m honestly not sure where all that came from because this was the first time that it was brought up,” said Jones. “...I firmly believe we’re tied together. The Friends and the library. The Friends exist; they were created to support the library. That is their only reason for being, is to support us.” Jones was confused why Miller was targeting the Friends. She believed the library could easily add another page or tab on the website to include library policies without removing the Friends from the website. Jones expects most of the board will oppose separating the Friends from the library website at their next meeting on Wednesday, April 17th, “...we should be working together. I very much am for a connected Friends of the Library and the Library Board.” According to Jones, there haven’t been any recent issues between the Friends and the library.

To date, Goshen is the only town in Connecticut history to have banned any book.  NBC CT news also ran the story.