By Dennis Minich
Despite requests from several patrons, including a county commissioner, the staff of the Cass County Public Library decided last week to keep the controversial book, “It’s Perfectly Normal,” in the juvenile section of the library.
When the library board met Aug. 18, about a dozen people were on hand to complain the book which includes graphic sexual material and illustrations. Included in the group was North County Commissioner Ryan Johnson, who said he believes the book is inappropriate where it is located and asked it be moved to another area where younger children would not be able to access it.
Library Director Christie Kessler assured everyone a decision would be made quickly and the public would be notified. A letter written by Kessler to the county commission, dated Aug. 30 was posted on a personal social media page earlier this week.
It said in part:
“We appreciate the interest and opportunity for our libraries to be a vital part of our communities. We do our best to provide a variety of information and learning opportunities along with entertainment and recreation for a wide range of ages and interest.
“We recognize there may often be differences of opinion about any number of things. We defend people’s right to have access to information and to make their own decisions and choices and have their own discussions.
“The library has been asked to consider moving “It’s Perfectly Normal” fourth edition (2014) from the children’s collection to another collection in the library. Because the children’s collection includes material for such a wide age group (ages birth-12), it includes materials that may require parents deciding what they choose for their children. We so strongly encourage, promote and support that.
“The administrative staff that are involved with selection of our collections have re-evaluated the placement, considered many sources and opinions and decided to keep it where it is. We also have no plans at this time to purchase the newest edition of this title (2021).”
Kessler was not in the office Tuesday and was unavailable for comment. One member of the library board of directors said she is unhappy with how the situation was handled. Barbara Boucher had said during the meeting she was unsettled with the book being in the library and not happy with the communication with commission.
“I’m disappointed,” Boucher said. “The library board should be responsible for any statement which comes out of the library. We should have had a chance to see what was in the letter before it was sent.”
The other two board members at the Aug. 18 meeting were president Becky Klein and Mary Dobson. Dobson declined to comment and Cline could not be contacted. The other members of the board are Roger Toomey and Tonya Long.
Johnson said he is hopeful the board will take up the issue. “I understand at least one board member has asked about discussing the issue in open session and I hope they do. I am not surprised, but I am disappointed in the decision. I don’t want that book available where 5-, 6- or even 10-year-olds can stumble across it.
“We have spent a lot of time on an issue that should have been a very simple decision. We didn’t ask to have the book removed, simply moved to a more age-appropriate location. We’re disappointed to say the least, but this was a decision made by staff and I hope the board will take it into consideration,” Johnson said.
“It’s Perfectly Normal” is described as a book to “Inform preadolescent children of puberty by exploring different definitions of sex.” Among the topics covered in the book are sexual identity, abortion, sexually transmitted diseases and birth control.” While the book has no pictures, it does contain explicit drawings.”
The next library board meeting is Sept. 15.