To the TRL Board of Trustees:
I write to submit my comments in advance of your 26 July meeting.
I am a lifelong library advocate and have been ever since I was an extremely precocious reader as a young boy.
Over time, I have served on Friends of the Library group boards in Vancouver, Washington; Lansing, Michigan; and Salem, Oregon. Here in Olympia, I am now a lifetime member of Friends of TRL.
Every person and group in America has every right to read for themselves and to critique public library materials for themselves. Every person and group is welcome to produce their own guides and ratings and to offer those guides to their families and friends to help others find worthwhile materials.
And every library patron must be equally free to select for themselves the library materials that meet their needs and wishes, without regard to the criticism of others.
There is no agreement within the public on the meaning of “age appropriate.” I know from my own experience that the most age-appropriate thing in the world is for a child to be challenged and exposed to things beyond their own experiences and that expand their imagination, otherwise constrained as it is by one’s limited experiences and community setting.
At bottom, the banning of books and the burning of books begins with the belief by some that they ought to have the power to determine what is appropriate for others.
Such a belief is thankfully rare in this country -- because it is fundamentally the most un-American idea there is: that some of us should be arbiters of “appropriateness” for the ideas of others and given the power to put a government stamp of "age-appropriate" on certain library materials — which means creating the idea that all the other materials are “age-inappropriate” or that such a thing should even be attempted.
History shows again and again that such lists are the hallmark of the totalitarian state. They are never merely informative and they are never meant for the benefit of those demanding their use; they are only useful for those who want to control what others may read and think.
New policies delineating age-appropriate books and other printed materials, including a rating system, as suggested by Lewis County are pernicious and should be rejected forcefully and unequivocally. The TRL collection guidelines in place
work very well; the library staff in my experience is quite helpful and willing to advise patrons to help them find materials they will enjoy and to add materials to the collection in response to patron requests.
~ John Gear, Olympia
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