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Culture war battle expected today at the library
Residents seeking book bans at the Marathon County Public Library is about to come to a head.
Correction: The previous version of this article said that patrons were trying to ban the book Let’s Talk About It — I spoke to the person who wrote the reconsideration and it was not a book ban but a request for some kind of warning because of the explicit nature of the image in the book. The story has been updated to reflect that.
I’ve received some complaints that the story said that the library was considering more bans today - I don’t know where that came from since while the story talks about past removal requests, the story makes clear that the issue at hand is the potential for a rating system. However, this all began with a series of removal requests which is why I wrote the headline as I did, since this is where the storyline has led.
A major culture war battle is expected to erupt today at noon. The Wausonian will be in attendance. The battle? What library books are appropriate for children.
For some context, the library for the past couple of years has been receiving a number of requests for book removals. Most of those have been around books with LGBTQ themes. Some of those books have images that are considered pornographic by many library patrons, and inappropriate to be included in the library section.
It started with the book Gender Queer, about the growing pains of a young LGBTQ person figuring out their identity. The book, a graphic novel, contains some rather graphic depictions of sexuality.
Advocates say the book is a necessary one for young LGBTQ kids trying to figure things out at what already is one of the most confusing times of a person’s life. But those calling for the book’s ban said it contains images that are pornographic and not appropriate for children.
Ultimately the library kept the book but put it in the adult section (after the above post was published. Gender Queer, by the way, has faced similar battles in libraries across the country. It’s an Amazon best seller, maintaining the second spot in the LGBTQ graphic novel category and No. 6,694 in all of books (which might not sound that great, but that’s top .0002% of all books on the site).
It’s safe to say the controversy and subsequent press the book gets following that controversy has led to at least some reasonable portion of those sales.
A number of book ban requests followed that one, each going through a review committee that makes a recommendation based on reading and reviewing the book’s material to the Library Board. The Board has the final say, though it can be appealed.
That brings us to today. The Marathon County Library board will be discussing a library ratings system, as well as the legal ramifications for having such a system. The board has previously rejected having a rating system. That came from the most recent attempt at applying some kind of label to the book Let’s Talk About It: A Teen’s Guide to Sex, Relationships and Being a Human. (At 79,500, not nearly as popular as Gender Queer but popular enough.)
But there have been plenty of these discussions already. Why is this one different?
City Pages printed an ad from conservatives wanting to drum up support for speaking at the library. It was supposed to have attribution, but ended up going through multiple revisions and the revision that made it in the paper didn’t have the attribution.
Although only candidate ads (or those supporting a candidate for office) are required to have attribution, City Pages made the decision to include them on politically oriented ads from left or right groups so they weren’t mistaken for editorial content. Although it might seem obvious to us press types that they’re not (we don’t print “ads” calling for political action) to the public, sometimes that line might not seem clear.
City Pages posted on its Facebook page about the mistake, which as editor I take responsibility for. The post exploded, and now people on the left and right are calling for each of their sides to appear at the Library Board meeting today.
The Library Board has 10 minutes designated for public comment on its agenda. I don’t think that will be remotely enough time.
The meeting is at noon today, Monday, Aug. 21, at the Marathon County Public Library Wausau branch. Remote options are available.
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