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After complaint over one LGBT guidebook, Wasilla library will move an entire section

  • Author:
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published December 1, 2015

WASILLA -- The Wasilla Public Library will move its entire young adult nonfiction collection in response to a complaint about one young adult gay sex education book.

A Wasilla parent, Vanessa Campbell, complained about "This Book Is Gay" in September after her 10-year-old son pulled the sexuality guide for LGBT young people guide off a shelf in the library's children's section.

"This Book is Gay" is written in a casual and humorous -- and sexually explicit -- style, with cartoon drawings and nicknames for body parts along with anatomically correct ones.

Campbell's complaint triggered the formation of a three-person reconsideration committee that submitted its findings and recommendations to the library director and patrons on Tuesday.

Based on those findings, the library director decided to move more than 300 young adult nonfiction titles now housed in the library's downstairs children's section upstairs to be "interfiled" with adult nonfiction by Dec. 11, according to a press release issued Tuesday by Wasilla Mayor Bert Cottle.

The city will also review the library's existing "reconsideration" process, in which patrons can flag books for additional review of their status in the library, according to the release.

Campbell, shocked by what she saw as vulgar language and graphic descriptions of sex in the book, started the unusual process of getting the book reconsidered by the library director because of its location.

Library director Kathy Martin-Albright decided it should stay where it was, so Campbell filed an appeal in October, triggering the formation of the reconsideration committee.

The committee came to three conclusions in its findings: "This Book is Gay" should stay on the shelves; the book should be reclassified to a Dewey call number for sexual education; and it should be "in a place that teens can access and feel comfortable accessing," such as the young adult or adult sections.

"As a committee, we were impressed with the process and due diligence of the patron and the library director," the finding states. "Both should be commended for their passion to support libraries, books and the Wasilla community."

Asked Tuesday afternoon about the decision to move the entire juvenile nonfiction section instead of one book, Cottle said it was the least complicated option. Reclassifying just one book could lead to questions about others, he said.

The city's new library under construction will house all nonfiction books in one area, officials have said.

Campbell on Tuesday said her concerns had only to do with the age-appropriateness of the material -- not that it is by a gay author or meant for LGBT people -- and said she is "very pleased" with the committee's decision.

"I appreciate the time and effort they put into this process," she said.

The reconsideration committee was made up of David Cheezem, owner of Fireside Books in Palmer, Friends of Wasilla Public Library representative Julie Ede and Wasilla High School librarian Shelly Logsdon.

The trio said they wanted to make sure "This Book is Gay" was accessible to those that need it and not placed in a restricted area -- like behind the counter -- or not easily found without staff help.

"The Committee understands the parental concern on this book being placed in the Juvenile section of the library and the accidental discovery that may be made by younger children," the decision states. "We also understand the subjective nature of age-appropriate content; and the herculean effort it would take for a librarian to segregate every controversial book to everyone's liking; and the chilling effect it would have on free speech."

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