DCPL reshelved 3 books after review, but Waller says move not due to content concerns

October 26, 2023 | 12:13 am

Updated October 25, 2023 | 9:49 pm

Photo by Josh Kelly

The Daviess County Public Library (DCPL) actually reshelved 3 books from the Young Adult section to the Adult section as a result of the recent review, contrary to what DCPL officials have previously indicated. However, DCPL Director Erin Waller said the books were moved to shelve them with other titles by the same author, not because of any content concerns brought forth by the Daviess County Citizens for Decency (DCC4D) group.

Waller’s review began in August after the DCC4D group said it completed an “audit” of books in the library’s teen and juvenile sections, with the group saying they “uncovered a combined 248 titles that are inappropriate for developing minds.”

The next week, after having only completed a review of 63 titles — 5 books from the Young Adult section and all 58 from the Juvenile section — Waller said she recommended that all books under review in the juvenile section remain there. (The August meeting can be watched here.)

During the DCPL board’s September meeting, Waller provided a lengthy and detailed update on her review. While the review was still not complete, she did recommend that DCPL add an optional library card level that would restrict juveniles from checking out any material not in the juvenile section. The board unanimously approved that measure during the September meeting.

During the board meeting on October 18, Susan Montalvo-Gesser — who was elected later in the meeting to serve as the board’s next chairperson — said the library was taking two steps since the review had finally been completed. The first was the creation of that optional limited access card for juveniles (a measure she again noted was adopted during the September meeting). The second was changing the name of the “Teen” section to the “Young Adult” section, a move Waller said was made in line with industry terminology. (The October meeting can be watched here.)

Regarding the relocation of any titles under review, Montalvo-Gesser said “Our director has reviewed all of the material that was asked of her to be reviewed. We have decided we support the director in her decision not to move those materials.”

Following the meeting, OT asked Waller if all titles had been reviewed, to which she answered, “yes.” OT then asked, “There are no changes?” and Waller answered, “Right.”

Waller also said after the meeting that she emailed her recommendations — meaning the new access card and the renaming of the teen section — to DCC4D on October 16, saying that is typical practice when completing a review of materials. Waller declined to provide a copy of that letter to Owensboro Times after the meeting.

DCC4D Chairman Jerry Chapman has since shared that email with OT. In a portion of the email, Waller noted that “we have decided to move all books by Sarah Maas to be shelved with her other books in our Adult Fiction collection.”

In an interview with OT on Wednesday, Waller said the decision to reshelve the Maas books to the Adult Fiction section came after the team had begun reviewing the books as part of the request by DCC4D, but the move was not made to due the content.

“If I’m remembering it correctly, when we pulled the books to be reviewed I was working with Sarah Jacobs, who is our Teen Librarian, and she mentioned that [Maas] is an author that has books in [the] Adult [section] already, and that we could just move them over there. She would feel better about that because they would circulate better if all of her books were together,” Waller said.

Waller said that reshelving is a typical practice of the library, but admitted this move specifically was sparked by the review process initiated by DCC4D.

“We get something in front of us and it’s like, ‘Let’s just do this.’ It’s something we do sometimes. Sarah Maas mostly writes adult fantasy books and so the rest of her stuff has always been shelved in our Adult [section]. Honestly, mostly adults read her stuff, so it’s just easier for them to find it if it’s all together,” Waller said.

Chapman noted that the Maas books were on the list DCC4D had provided because they scored at least a 3 out of 5 on the BookLooks.org Book Report index, which the group referenced in part of their “audit.” That site recommends that books rated 3 only be read by individuals under 18 with parental/guardian guidance. It recommends books rated 4 or 5 not be read by anyone under 18.

“We had asked for 3 and above to be reshelved, but when you look at the 3s, the sexual content is more implicit than explicit,” Chapman said. “So there could be an argument made that it’s not pornographic. It’s not suited to children under 18 years of age, but it may not be exactly pornographic. It’s unquestionably objectionable.”

Chapman said some books being reshelved is encouraging, but he’s hoping more action will be taken.

“It’s encouraging in that she acknowledges that there is a problem, and the fact that she moved 3s tells me that she recognizes that even the 3s are a problem. So if 3s are a problem then 4s and 5s unquestionably are a problem. It’s just getting her to the point where she can wrap her head around it,” Chapman said.

Waller again said the move ultimately had nothing to do with the content of the books.

“We relocated all the Sarah Maas books to Adult whether they were on [DCC4D’s] list or not,” she said. “Because we didn’t do it based on content, but for patrons to find them easier.”

October 26, 2023 | 12:13 am

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