Compromise reached: Controversial books to have new restrictions

At least two controversial books on sexuality intended for young audiences will have a new restriction placed on them in Anderson County libraries, according to a compromise approved by the county’s Library Board last week.

Much like DVDs available for loan in the libraries, the two books – “Let’s Talk About It” and “Gender Queer” – will be available for people to check out or see, but the actual books won’t be on the shelves, just a “dummy” of them showing the covers.

“It’s like they used to do at Blockbuster,” Library Board Chairman Josh Anderson told The Courier News. “The cover of the video was out on the shelves, but not the actual video.”

That stops short of removing the controversial books from the library, but restricts who can actually check them out, Anderson said. Parental approval would be required for anyone under age who wanted access to the books.

Anderson made the motion during the board’s Nov. 8 meeting at the Clinton library to include the two titles on the shelves only as “dummies,” and his motion passed 6-3.

He said it was similar to a motion made by board member Tommy Mariner during the October meeting, but that one failed on a 4-4 vote.

“I made the motion,” Anderson said. “The title is on the shelf, and it says this is available at the desk. We already do that with DVDs, archival material, test-prep books.”

The Library Board has been dealing with the issue of these sex-education books for young people for several months now, since challenges were filed against several of them from people seeking to have them banned from any county owned or operated library.

Those include the Clinton, Norris, Rocky Top and Briceville libraries.

But the books “Let’s Talk About It” and “Gender Queer” are available only in the Clinton and Norris libraries.

Just prior to Anderson’s motion at last week’s meeting, the Library Board defeated a more-restrictive proposal by board member Jess Ann Cole to remove books with sexual content that were intended for young people. That measure lost barely, on a 4-5 vote.

“Jess Ann’s motion was to remove any book with pictures of sexual behavior,” Anderson said – including ones where the pictures are cartoonlike drawings, rather than photographs, as is the case with the two books mentioned.

“I think the people who actually use the library, such as home-school moms, will be happy with it,” Anderson said of the compromise that would result in the dummy books being on the shelves.

“Maybe 95% of the people are OK with it. I believe it makes just about everybody happy.”

Although he didn’t identify the book, one controversial title the board was considering was stolen off a table where it was on display during the Library Board meeting, Anderson said.

“We can’t even move forward on that one,” he said.