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Most of Library Board Rejects “Gender” Censorship, Library “Friends” Role Clarified

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Eric Warner


The Library Board of Directors resolved the issue of placement of the controversial book Gender Queer: A Memoir in the Goshen Public Library. The book had been placed in the Adult Non-Fiction Collection Section upstairs and shelved based on the Dewey Decimal System. After a discussion over who has purview to place books in the library, Lynette Miller suggested the book be replaced with a dummy book while the actual book would be placed on the top shelf. In response, Patricia Sanders read from the library’s policy, “Library materials will not be marked or identified to show approval or disapproval of the contents, and items will be removed from the shelves only to protect them from damage or theft… The library is not in a position to judge the parental concern and control of reading materials for juvenile minds.” Miller is concerned that unaccompanied 12-year-olds or even accompanied children or students may still have access to the book and its images. The dummy book would have been intended to keep children away from the actual book if, based on the Dewey Decimal System, Gender Queer were to be moved to a lower, accessible shelf. Miller assured attendees that she is not trying to ban Gender Queer, “I’m not for banning the book. I’ve never been for banning the book. I don’t think any of our library board has been for banning the book but we’re just trying to figure out what to do for the children and the parent's concerns.”

Miller motioned for the book to be placed on the top shelf of the Adult Non-Fiction Collection Section and to have a dummy book of Gender Queer placed on the lower shelf. Miller and Anne Green were the only two members who voted in favor of the motion, which failed when all other board members voted against it. Josephine Jones then motioned to keep Gender Queer where it was based on Library Director Tabitha Guarnieri’s recommendations. Jones, Sanders, Johanna Kimball, and Chair Henrietta Horvay voted in favor of the motion. Miller voted against it while Green abstained. The motion carried.

Horvay has been conducting research to determine how The Friends of the Library (FOTL) was established. She is expected to give a summary of her findings in the June meeting. According to Horvay, the Library Board hasn’t received any reports from the FOTL since Patrick Reilly stepped down. “You had Pat Reilly who was on the board, who was with The Friends and we did get reports,” said Horvay. “So since Pat has gone off, technically, Friends have sort of disappeared. We haven’t gotten any, really, reports.” Horvay wants to make people aware of the Friends responsibilities versus the responsibilities of the library.

Jeff Johnson of the FOTL later distributed and discussed the organization’s by-laws. Reading from the constitution and by-laws, Johnson clarified that The Friends are meant to assist library operations, provide funding, and help recruit volunteers. There are currently two funds organized with the FOTL with the Torrington Foundation and the Waterbury Foundation at about $39,000 and $40,000. These funds are not owned by either FOTL or the library but are overseen by the foundations. Funds can be requested by the library in case of emergencies. The Friends help allocate money from donors into these funds. Part of the funding is used by the FOTL, “It’s used by the Friends for a variety of purposes. One: All of the passes that we have for the various museum passes. Second: Buying books or basically all the programs… It’s very heavily dependent on the advice of the [library] director,” Johnson explained. For instance, $46.33 was recently used to reimburse money spent on snacks for a recent Dungeons and Dragons program. Horvay added that the board and the FOTL have been working together for years.