Timberland Regional Library does not condone the “prejudicial labeling” of their books, said Executive Director Cheryl Heywood.
During their board of trustees meeting on Wednesday, July 26 Heywood spoke in response to a downpour of public comments requesting that the five-county library system reject a suggestion from Lewis County commissioners to establish a book-rating system.
The Chronicle reported last week that the Lewis County Board of Commissioners wrote a letter to Briad Miittge and Hal Blanton, their appointed trustees in the library district, asking that they develop a booking-rating policy to delineate what books are age appropriate.
Heywood said that from July 19 to July 26, they received a total of 142 emails against the idea of a book-rating system. In response, Heywood said that they have policies ensuring their patrons have the freedom to read without the need for additional labeling.
“As a reminder, we do have multiple Timberland board-approved policies, as well as operational procedures, collection guidelines, and our community developed strategic directions in place that ensure the freedom to read for all our patrons without additional labeling. Materials are already placed in age-appropriate areas of the library such as early readers, kids, teens and adults,” Heywood said.
“We do not condone the prejudicial labeling of the collection. We believe that the ability to freely choose what to read is the cornerstone of democracy and of a free society,” Heywood added.
Eleven people also spoke against the idea during public comments at the Wednesday meeting, believing that book rating was a form of censorship and that it could eventually lead to the banning of books.
“I think if you start rating books, then that just leads to simple banning. And we don't want that. This is Washington state. This is not Florida. It’s banning then it's burning books. It's just one step away from that,” said Monique Fairland of Centralia.
Some people also said that parents are responsible for what their children read and that policies should not control what children get to read.
“We have the freedom to parent as we see fit, and we don't interfere in how others parent their children, whether we perceive it as being correct or not,” said Laura Hewett of Chehalis, a retired teacher. “It’s not for us as individuals to decide what information should be restricted in other families, only our own.”
“If you see a book with content you don't agree with, don't read it. But please don't tell me that I can't,” Hewett added.
Clinical psychologist Kathleen O’Shaunessy weighed in, “I want to express my strong opposition to using the rating system that was suggested, based on research as well as my many years of clinical experience.” O’Shaunessy said she has “worked for families for fifty years and for this community for at least 40 years.”
O’Shaunessy continued, “Books which help young people gain insight, information, clarity, and support for the struggles that they are experiencing is not only helpful, but it's frequently, literally as well as figuratively, a lifesaver. Because it often paves the way for young people to be able to discuss with a parent or trusted adults some of their concerns. Our local library librarian and a wonderful community resource.” She reminded everyone of our constitutional first amendment and rights that she says must be defended. And shared that parents are capable of selecting what is appropriate for their children.
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