Hundreds show at Meridian library meeting to discuss ‘pornographic’ book collection

More than 200 people showed up to the Meridian Library Board meeting Wednesday night to express opinions about the library’s book collection.

The large turnout was spurred in part by claims that the library is distributing “smut-filled pornography,” according to a flyer distributed by the Idaho Liberty Dogs, a conservative grassroots group. The claim originated with an organized group of concerned Meridian parents.

The Idaho Liberty Dogs’ flyer included examples of five books of so-called smut, largely focused around LGBTQ+ relationships and sex.

The list included:

  • “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” by Maia Kobabe.
  • “Sex is a Funny Word: A Book About Bodies, Feelings, and YOU,” by Cory Silverberg.
  • “Two Boys Kissing,” by David Levithan.
  • “Big Hard Sex Criminals,” by Matt Fraction.
  • “Captain Underpants,” by David Pilkey.

Another book mentioned by many in the meeting was “It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health,” by Robie H. Harris, a book used by some parents to teach their kids about sex. This book has been the center of controversy and has been pulled from shelves across the country, including those in the Nampa School District.

Becca Savransky and Rachel Spacek of the Idaho Statesman reported last week that a member of the group mobilizing against the books threatened to defund the library district, but has not yet taken steps to do so. The group later clarified in a social media post that defunding libraries is not its goal, according to the report.

Wednesday’s meeting was held in the conference room at the library district’s Cherry Lane location. The room quickly reached maximum capacity and attendees flowed into the lobby, where the library provided public comment cards and several laptops to livestream the meeting. Dozens left the meeting to livestream from their own devices.

The majority of patrons left the meeting after public comment was closed.

The board did not take a vote on removing or banning any materials, and no related item appeared on the agenda.

Wednesday’s meeting quickly reached maximum capacity, and patrons flooded into the lobby area to fill out public comment cards and wait for a seat in the conference room.

The public comment portion of the meeting spanned over two hours of three-minute comments.

Many expressed support for the library and its “diverse collection” of materials. Others expressed concerns about the materials, but believed the books should be put on higher shelves or relocated to an adult section, not removed entirely.

According to the Statesman report, “The Adventures of Captain Underpants” and “Sex is a Funny Word” are listed as children’s books in the youth area of the library’s catalog. The rest of the books are in the teen or adult sections, or cannot be found in the Meridian library at all.

One commenter suggested that if the library was going to shelve “liberal” books, it should also shelve conservative books for children. Another read off a list of grooming tactics he said he found on the FBI website, comparing it to the library making the books available to patrons.

Two other commenters spoke to their personal experiences of being groomed and abused as children, arguing that the listed books are not examples of grooming. Several members of the LGBTQ+ community also spoke against removing the materials.

At the end of the meeting, board chairwoman Megan Larsen spoke about the Nampa library district’s 2008 decision to restrict certain materials. The board removed two books, but later reversed the decision due to legal concerns.

The chairwoman said she intends to do more research, and recognized that it will likely be a continued discussion. The meeting lasted nearly three hours, adjourning at 9:40 p.m.

 

Sadie Dittenber

About Sadie Dittenber

Reporter Sadie Dittenber focuses on K-12 policy and politics. She is a College of Idaho graduate, born and raised in the Treasure Valley. You can follow Sadie on Twitter @sadiedittenber and send her news tips at [email protected]

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