Livingston Parish Library Update

   

It’s just possible that you aren’t aware of recent goings on with the Livingston Parish Library. We’ve mostly confined updates to our social media areas, simply because there wasn’t enough content to justify an entire article. At least, not yet.

Let’s get caught up. There appears to be a wave of laziness overwhelming just about every side of the Livingston Library meeting last month. Many “good people on both sides” appear to have fallen into the same old trap of either trying to change the subject or allowing it to be changed on them. We can argue about the age appropriateness of certain LGBT books all day long. However, that’s not the issue at hand and never was. The real issue is taxpayer money being used in an attempt to over-sexualize minors. That’s it.

Quiet support from the gay community

When we start talking about this topic, one common distraction appears more than any other. That is: does this material include mentions of LGBT lifestyle? Sure it does. That alone has been the sophistry used to distract the press (and many in the LGBT community) from the real issue. Many of these books aren’t about helping people cope with their identity. They’re erotica.

What many people don’t know is we have quiet support from the gay community on this issue. Friends and even strangers who identify as gay have stopped me on the street or in restaurants and businesses countless times to say, “Keep it up. This kind of material doesn’t belong in the hands of children.” So, why aren’t we hearing that perspective from the media or the political activists pushing this agenda? The gay community isn’t outspoken on this issue for the same reason anyone else isn’t: discussions about sexuality are taboo.

Sex instruction for children

We’ve found books identified by their subject card as “sexual instruction for children.” Read that subject again. It doesn’t say “teen” or “young adult.” The subject says “children.” While the sex rights activists work quickly to distract everyone onto the other subject cards on the same book, they’re merely trying to divert attention from an untenable position.

Another distraction from that subject card is it’s intended for fourteen-year-olds. However, the section where we found it (called the “Young Adult” section) starts at eleven-years-old. Even if fourteen was the test, LA RS 14:91.11(4) clearly defines that “minor” means any person under the age of eighteen years.

Libraries should be safe for everyone

One fifty-year-old mother of multiple children who was brave enough to review these “children’s books” said they include sexual things she didn’t know before and still didn’t need to know. I watched as another more skeptical mother opened one of these books. It was only moments before she turned bright red and quickly closed it again. That particular book has a section encouraging children to find and experiment with sex toys! Tax dollars should not be going to promote this kind of material.

The public library should be a safe space for everyone, especially children. However, it appears that many sex rights activists want the opposite. That’s because, by all appearances, the content we’re talking about would qualify under LA RS 14:91.11 as “material harmful to minors.” The penalty for violating this statute can be up to two-thousand dollars ($2,000) and one year in prison.

This material isn’t safe, it’s downright raunchy

Don’t be like so many people who have engaged in this conversation in spite of their own ignorance. To be better than that, you’ll need set aside any preconceived notions and form an objective, informed opinion by actually looking at the material. As such, I’m going to include some hyperlinks to said material below. You don’t have to click on them. However, before you jump into social media comment threads on this issue, you really should have first-hand knowledge of what’s really going on.

These images of pages have portions blurred out of respect for skeptical people who want to see it for themselves. However, the book does not blur anything. You should also know that when someone attempted to post these same blurred images to Facebook, they were removed and the poster’s account was suspended for 30-days… for sharing images found in a “children’s book.”

The cover art is not blurred or offensive. Once more, I’ll remind you that this book was shelved in the children’s section they call “young adult.” That section is “recommended” for sixth-grade (eleven year olds).

“OMG that was in the library?”

That exclamation came directly from a prominent official in Livingston Parish who recently saw this book’s pages for himself. We had similar age-appropriateness issues over in Lafayette Parish. However, those issues were swiftly dealt with by the library administration. In this case, I know of numerous books in the Livingston System’s children section that appear to be out of alignment with contemporary community standards. In fact, having this kind of material even in an area where minors have access to it could be a criminal act.

Before that Livingston Library board meeting, our team reached out to Giovanni Tairov, the library director. We called to set up a sit-down meeting to talk about the content in their children’s section and share how Lafayette took care of it administratively and without any fuss. However, library director Tairov did not return calls or emails. A week or so later, Library Board member Erin Sandifer added two words to the meeting agenda: “book content.”

Next thing you know, the typically quiet meetings exploded with about forty LGBT “protestors,” who quite honestly didn’t even know why they were there. Who tipped them off? Who told them that the two words, “book content,” were somehow a threat to them personally? And who knew the meeting wouldn’t fit in its usual spot and so moved it to a larger venue ahead of time? We don’t know for certain, but it’s most likely that same director.

It’s very odd that any bureaucrat would act this way. Normally, directors understand their job is to keep their little agency out of the news and make their board look good. Instead, a compounding series of bad decisions has unnecessarily brought on a tremendous amount negative attention to the library, the board, and the parish.

The now famous Livingston Library meeting

The library board meeting itself looked like a meetup of Hanna Barbara’s Wacky Racers, with every size, shape, and hair color imaginable. Public comment ended up like a group therapy session, where the various members of that colorful brigade told stories of sexual abuse they experienced as children. They suggested that these books (on sexual instruction for children) could somehow have prevented their misfortune. To my knowledge, none of those reading from prepared statements or testifying from the heart had any prior knowledge of which books were the subject of the agenda item. Remember, there were only two words: “book content.”

At some point during the meeting, Amanda Jones arose to speak. She announced that she was there in her capacity as the President of the Louisiana Association for School Librarians. Without referencing any specific content, she declared, “I would love to teach you about how harmful censorship can be.” It appeared to be suggested that age-appropriate shelving of sexually explicit content is a form of “censorship.” She said, “Just because you don’t want to read it or see it it does not give you the right to deny others or demand its relocation.” She also said, “No one on the right side of history has ever been on the side of censorship and hiding books.”

If you’d like to read a transcription of her complete statement, you can do so here. It’s not any real surprise that all of her statements appear to reflect the same stance her association takes on its homepage. Statements like these intend to denounce censorship in all its forms. If you’re wondering what they mean by “censorship,” her association has been unambiguous. In their written statement, the Louisiana Association of School Librarians actually uses the word censorship to describe age-appropriate shelving. Vis: “Moving books written for teens and housed in the teen section on topics of sex education and sexual identity to the adult section of a library is censorship.”

Good news: Livingston schools appear clean

While the library board meeting was still going on, our offices in Lafayette submitted multiple public records requests to the library and school system. The thought process was if there is a Livingston Parish School librarian denouncing age-appropriate shelving as “censorship,” any reasonable person would wonder if the same materials were on the shelves in that librarian’s own library.

There are some records that the school system has not turned over to us. However, yesterday I drove to Livingston Parish to inspect Live Oak Middle School’s library inventory. You’ll never guess what I found. Nothing. Not a single one of these terrible books is on the shelf. This fact brings a few questions to my mind. First, if this librarian believes what she said – that it’s censorship to move erotic books to a more age-appropriate section of the library –  then why doesn’t she have these books in her own library? If re-shelving books is considered censorship, wouldn’t it also be censorship to not shelve them at all? Or could it be as simple as her arriving at the reasonable conclusion that these books are not age-appropriate?

What’s next…

At this very moment, I’m personally unaware if the School Librarian Association President had seen any of the content or if she was blindly defending it. After the meeting, we nonchalantly mentioned on social media that the Association President spoke at the library board meeting in favor of keeping this erotic material shelved in the children’s section. Next thing you know, her supporters started a gofundme and raised $20,000 to “pursue protection against those who have been slandering her name.”

Let’s be clear. This discussion has never been about broad categories. We’re looking at very specific books that any reasonable person can judge for themselves using contemporary community standards. However, choosing to use incendiary language like “book banning,” or “censorship” doesn’t encourage a civil discussion. What it does encourage is extreme fringe groups to yell at each other. Yet, few (if any) of them have actually seen content you and I are discussing in this article. Did you look at samples using the links above? Do you think that this is the kind of content a random eleven-year-old (or younger) should be stumbling across in a public library’s juvenile section?

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