Debate continues over what's 'young adult' at library

Daviess County Commissioner Janie Marksberry riled many of those in attendance at the Daviess County Public Library board meeting Wednesday when she spoke about the book “Let’s Talk About It” during open comments, which is subtitled “The Teen’s Guide to Sex, Relationships, and Being a Human.”

The book, published by Random House with a recommended reading age of 14 to 17 year olds, includes written and pictorial content that Marksberry told the audience is not appropriate for anyone under 18, calling it “pornography.” She said her intention by speaking out was to have audience members view the book to understand why she believes it’s inappropriate as age rated.

“I had decided a while back I was going to bring that book with me,” she said. “I’ve been bringing it to the library board meetings in case it came up and we needed to reference what we were talking about. That’s why I was a little disappointed no one would come up and look at it. When you actually see it and you flip through it page after page after page, I’ve not had anyone that didn’t get it, that it’s not appropriate for children.”

Erin Waller, executive director of the library, said the book was moved to the Adult/Parenting section when a parent raised concerns about the initial placement of the book — prior to the Daviess County Citizens for Decency conducting its audit of the library.

Marksberry, however said she has heard differently.

“I’m under the impression it’s still in the young adult section; that’s what I was told (Wednesday),” said Marksberry, who said the concern is far more about how the books are classified, not that they’re in the library. “What I was trying to make a point about was young adults, and to be an adult you have to be 18 years old. Everywhere I google, except for the library, it says an adult is 18 and over, and the point I was making is you have to be 18 to vote, you have to be 18 to join the service, you have to be 21 to drink.

“Only in the world of the library does it seem like 13-17 year olds are considered young adult. We could call (the section) teenagers, or adolescents, I would accept that. But I don’t accept young adult. Most people with common sense would say an adult is 18 or over and a young adult is 18 to 23. The point I was trying to make was it needs to not be in any section where people access it that are younger than 18. But what kind of adult would want to read a book that’s cartoon characters?”

Marksberry was referring to the style of the drawings in the book, which are more designed for a 13 to 17 year old audience.

She said she’s heard from many area residents who support her stance.

“They don’t have to force it on the people who disagree with them, and that’s what they’re trying to do,” she said. “I would say there is a huge group of people who agree with me, because I hear from them all the time. My phone has just been blowing up. They agree that that should not be in the library. The word needs to be out that it shouldn’t be accessible to children.”

Prior to Marksberry’s comments as Fiscal Court’s liaison to the DCPL board, Commissioner Larry Conder spoke during public comments. He addressed the board, expressing gratitude for their service and encouraging Waller to “take care of our people,” as she is charged by the board.

“We need to thank individuals, especially board members who serve without getting paid,” said Conder of what motivated him to address the board. “It was really just to tell them they are supported, that what they do is important, and I said what I said to make sure they understand that their service is appreciated.

“Their responsibility is to make sure that the director of the library executes the polices and procedures that are laid out in front of them. Their responsibility is to execute the budget and what is the executive director doing or not doing — that’s up to them to make sure it happens.”

Conder said the library staff needs to be treated with consideration and kindness.

“I went to say thank you, and there was a deer in the headlights look from the people at the information desks,” he said. “They didn’t know what to say. Just tell them thank you for what you do.”

Conder said reaching a resolution on the dispute between DCC4D and the library requires “a level of common sense to be brought forward; not yelling, not grandstanding.” He said it’s also incumbent on adults to take responsibility for overseeing and raising their children.

“Find a little common sense of saying, you know, we’re all responsible for what our children read and look at and do, and our parents especially are, and our grandparents, guardians, aunts, uncles, we all are, and many times we allow government to do that for them, and we shouldn’t,” he said. “We should be doing that ourselves. The citizens should be doing that themselves. Maybe it’s just a little bit lazy, thinking that other people, government especially, should parent instead of them. There has to be parents. Be a parent. If you’re a parent, be that.”

The commissioners’ public comments came on the same day DCC4D released an open letter to Waller saying she had been dishonest in comments made in a story about the group’s text messages. The letter covers the question of what is a “young adult” that Marksberry spoke on, said Waller misstated the library’s children’s policy and said the group is aware of complaints by DCPL employees who say they’ve been subjected to a hostile work environment because they’ve objected to the presence of pornographic material.

The letter concludes by saying there are 30-plus “pornographic books” currently shelved in the section dedicated to 13 to 17 year olds.

The library’s unattended child policy, which can be found on the DCPL website, includes:

• Children under age 10 should always be directly supervised by the adult responsible for their safety. Direct supervision implies that the child is within the sight or sound range of the responsible adult.

• Children ages 10-13 may be unattended for short periods of time as long as they abide by the Rules of Conduct Policy. If a child under age 14 is in need of supervision and no parent or guardian can be located in the building or otherwise contacted, library staff will notify the police.

• Children at least 14 years of age or in high school may be unattended as long as they abide by the Rules of Conduct Policy.

• Caregivers must be at least 16, must be able to effectively supervise children, and must be willing and able to provide contact information for a parent or guardian upon request. Library staff will determine if caregivers are able to supervise children effectively.

Waller said she has not been informed by any employees that they have concerns about materials.

“I’ve never had anybody come and complain to me,” she said. “The staff is under stress. There is no doubt about that. But I haven’t had anybody come and complain about feeling uncomfortable because of any materials or the decisions that have been made. I’m not aware of any.”

Commissioner Chris Castlen also attended the library board meeting. He didn’t make public comments, but later said he’s comfortable with how the library is addressing the issues.

“With what has gone on since the first time that the DCC4D, from the very beginning from what I’ve seen, the library has worked with them on what their requests were — I don’t know, they might be demands,” Castlen said. “Of what DCC4D’s opinion is of what needs to happen, the library has worked with them on these things.

“The library has made adjustments in the process, and now (Waller) is willing to continue to pull things and move them, and I know they’re not wanting to burn books, ban books, anything like that, but they’re wanting to move them, and I have physically gone to the library, saw the concerns, what the locations are, and I trust the library on this, that they are choosing the right process and have things in the places they should be.”