Idaho defines ‘obscene’ material. None of it is in Meridian libraries, board member says
There are no books in the Meridian Library District’s collection that meet Idaho’s legal definition of obscenity, according to Megan Larsen, chair of the district’s board of trustees.
Larsen spoke to the Idaho Statesman a day after a four-hour public hearing on a petition to dissolve the library district. The petitioners have said that library leaders have refused to hear their concerns about having sexually explicit material in the library, and their only option is to try to dissolve the district by going to the Ada County commissioners. The district disputed this saying they met with the petitions and that material doesn’t exist.
Idaho defines “obscene material” as anything that the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find, when considered as a whole, appeals to excessive sexual interest.
“We don’t have things in the libraries that meet that criteria,” Larsen said by phone. “We have literature that does have some words, phrases, passages that talk about sex. That is true.”
Larsen explained that the library could have a potty training book in the children’s section that may show an unclothed baby.
“That is a drawing of a naked person,” she said. “But I don’t think any reasonable person would call that obscenity.”
The Ada County commissioners are scheduled to hold a business meeting at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday to decide whether or not to put the petition on the November ballot for Meridian Library District residents. The meeting is scheduled at the commission’s hearing room in the courthouse.
Meridian Library policy on reconsidering material
The Meridian Library District has a reconsideration policy in its code. A district patron may object to any material in writing by using the district’s request-for-reconsideration form. The director would consider the objected work, according to the district website.
“Once a completed, signed form is received by the library director, the thoughtful, deliberative process for reconsideration of the library materials identified by the library patron will begin,” the district website said. “The patron will be notified in writing of the decision within 120 days of receipt of a completed form.”
If a library district patron is not satisfied with the director’s decision to decline to remove a book from their collection, they can appeal the decision.
Larsen has been on the board since January 2014 and said no one has ever appealed a decision.
Many of the Concerned Citizens of Meridian said they don’t want sexually explicit books removed from the library, but want them labeled and moved to a separate section. Larsen said the Meridian Library staffers have moved books, contrary to what some Concerned Citizens have said at public hearings this week.
Jennifer Grentz, Meridian Library District spokesperson, said in an email that staff moved one book from the children’s section to the parent/teacher section following a request. Staff also removed a book that had grammatical errors from poor translation, she said.
There is no place in Meridian libraries where people must show ID, be a certain age or ask a librarian to access the materials, except video games. For games, empty cases are on the shelf and the patron needs to request a video game disc, Grentz said. This policy is to reduce theft risks.
The Statesman previously reported that the Concerned Citizens of Meridian listed five books in the library district as examples of “graphic” and “disgusting” pornography: “Captain Underpants,” “Sex is a Funny Word,” “Two Boys Kissing,” “Gender Queer” and “Big Hard Sex Criminals.”
Books in the adult graphic novel series “Sex Criminals” are not available at any Meridian Library locations, according to the district.
“The Adventures of Captain Underpants” is a series of illustrated children’s novels about two fourth-graders who hypnotize their principal into becoming a superhero they created in one of their own comics. “Sex is a Funny Word” is a children’s comic book that features families of different gender identities and sexual orientations. It is intended to be a resource for families who want to “talk with their kids about sex and sexuality in a positive, loving, inclusive and joyful way,” according to the book. Both are children’s books listed in the youth area.
“There are books written to speak to a child about how every body is different and teaching kids the proper name for body parts,” Larsen said. “Again, not every parent wants to talk about that with their kids and that’s totally fine. They don’t have to check out those books.”
“Two Boys Kissing” is a novel based on a true story about two teenagers who want to break the record for the longest kiss and it is located in the teen section. “Gender Queer,” an autobiography, is in the adult section.
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