Kids’ Right to Read’s Jamie Chosak interviewed the Founder of West Bend Parents for Free Speech, Maria Hanrahan about the book challenges in West Bend. Here’s an excerpt:
Kids’ Right to Read: What actions did you and the West Bend community take in response to the challenges?
Maria Hanrahan: In late March, the Maziarkas started circulating a petition that asked, among other things, for any book that had sexual content to be moved to the adult collection, and for labeling of “sexually explicit” books. I also created a petition, asking the library board to keep materials as they are, unrestricted and unlabeled, and to enforce and create policies to protect the library from censorship. During the month of March, two public library board meetings were scheduled. The public came out to attend these meetings, but they had to be cancelled due to exceeding the venue’s seating capacity allowed by fire code. Then in April, the Common Council voted against reappointment of four library board members, citing their “unresponsiveness” to the library complaint issue.
KRRP: Reflecting on this controversy, what would you like people, especially youth, in your community and other communities confronting similar issues to know?
MH: I would like to encourage all libraries to adopt policy language that clearly states how book challenges will be handled and that materials in the collection will not be moved, restricted or labeled based on opinions about the morality or value of the contents. Any communities that are facing book challenges of this scope should seek assistance from resources like the Office of Intellectual Freedom, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, and the National Coalition Against Censorship. If it is a book challenge affecting the Young Adult section, as this one was youth library patrons should be encouraged to speak out against attempts to restrict their access. All library patrons should speak out to protect their rights and their access to materials.