The Anchorage municipal attorney this week said the city law department won’t review a book about teen sexuality — referred to her office by the Library Advisory Board — before the library follows its normal process for reviewing materials.
The vote to refer the book, “Let’s Talk About It” by Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan, to the municipal attorney last week sidestepped the Library Advisory Board’s existing process for reviewing and reconsidering materials, and raised concerns among some board members and Anchorage Assembly members.
“The Department of law has not accepted the referral of library material until after the internal library process for review or removal of a library book has been appropriately followed,” wrote municipal attorney Anne Helzer in an email late Thursday.
Anchorage Assembly Vice Chair Chris Constant, who had raised concerns about the vote, said Helzer is right, and that in the future he’ll be looking at potential code changes to formalize the library’s established process for reconsidering materials.
“This conversation is not done,” Constant said.
The chair of the Library Advisory Board, Cristy Willer, who voted against the measure to send the book to the attorney, said on Friday that Helzer’s response was “the way to go.”
Willer said she had voted against the referral because it was more appropriate to respond to book concerns through the library’s existing process.
The Library Advisory Board, whose members are appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the Assembly, plans library activities, makes recommendations to the mayor and Assembly, and reviews its budgets.
Last week, three members — all appointed by Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson, including his wife, Debra Bronson — voted in favor of referring the book to the municipal attorney. That vote took place after one member, Doug Weimann, had voiced concerns that having the book in the library’s collection, and available for youths under 18 to check out, was breaking state and municipal laws that relate to the exhibition of sexually explicit content to minors. Weimann could not be reached for comment Friday.
Two members, appointed by former Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, voted against the move. Two other members were absent.
The library has an existing process for community members to raise concerns with its materials. It involves filling out and dropping off a form about the specific piece of material, which is then taken up by library staff. There are multiple opportunities to appeal decisions in the process, which advances through the library director, Virginia McClure, and ultimately to the Library Advisory Board.
McClure was out of town Friday at a library conference, library spokesperson Misty Rose Nevick said in an email. She said the library had not heard anything about the municipal attorney’s decision.