Livingston Library Board responds to Parish Pres. letter to move books: ‘There’s a form to fill out’ | News

The Livingston Parish Library Board of Control will maintain its current policies for challenging books despite a letter from the Parish President asking them to move certain materials out of the children’s section.

The decision was made in a motion passed unanimously during its board meeting Tuesday night to “express appreciation to the parish president for sharing his perspective,” uphold its current policy for challenging books and prominently display said policy in each branch of the library and online.

“What we’re being told by the Parish Council and the parish president is that we need to have a system in place, and we’re trying to educate everyone that there is a policy in place,” library board member Ivy Graham said during Tuesday’s discussion on the matter. “If you find something that you like or don’t like, there’s a form to fill out so it can be reviewed and discussed.”

The motion stems from a resolution passed by the Livingston Parish Council last month in support of a letter from President Layton Ricks to move inappropriate books from the young adult sections to the adult sections of parish libraries.

“I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my grandchildren picking up a book in a public library that contains questionable sexual content,” Ricks wrote in the letter. “Why can’t our children be children anymore? When they become adults, they can frequent adult bookstores if that is what they choose to. But for now, they are vulnerable children.”

The Parish Council voted unanimously in support of the letter without allowing public input, despite tensions erupting into hallway arguments from residents and conservative activists hoping to speak.

Neither Ricks nor the Parish Council defined what content they were referring to, or named any specific books at the libraries. Ricks said he was not aware of the Citizens’ Request for Reconsideration of Library Material form until the night of the Parish Council meeting.

That form allows residents to file complaints against books they may consider inappropriate, which then go to the library staff to review and suggest action to be taken, if any.

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The libraries have received two of these requests in its history — one for “A Court of Thorns and Roses” by Sarah Maas and another for “Let’s Talk About It” by Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan — both of which were moved from the young adult section to the adult section, library system spokesman Jeremy Travis has said.

The debacle over restricting access to these books began at the last library board meeting in July, when member Erin Sandefur brought an item labeled “book content” to the agenda. Residents flocked to speak on the issue, most of whom were against restricting LGBTQ+ literature for youth.

During that meeting, Sandefur distributed a list of eight books to consider restricting access to, with content ranging from a preschool-level picture book about transgender identities to a dating guide for teenage boys with a sexually explicit illustration.

Five of the eight books specifically dealt with LGBTQ+ issues, and none of the eight had requests for reconsideration brought against them.

“I think it’s important that we don’t go down the road of beginning the process of censorship. It may not be called censorship by the board member, but it is and it’s the first step,” Lori Callais, a retired teacher, told The Advocate after Tuesday’s meeting. “I believe the policies and procedures that we have in the library are sufficient.”

Prior to the passed motion, Sandefur made a separate motion during Tuesday’s meeting to establish a committee of three board members to review the policies in place for collecting and reviewing books in the children’s and young adults’ sections. That motion failed 4 voting no and 2 voting yes. Those 2 yes votes came from Sandefur and Stephen Link.

Sandefur said after the meeting she plans to file her own Requests for Reconsideration, and that at least 20 books in the library are inappropriate for their current library sections.

“I stood up for the children of Livingston Parish,” Sandefur said. “The board voted, and that’s why we have the board. It’s the collective (library) board, but I tried.”

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