“Trustees must be prepared to support to the fullest, the efforts of librarians in resisting censorship of library materials by groups or individuals.”
Can a trustee be trusted when he has tried to censor in the past? That’s the question 150 residents of Downers Grove, IL asked last week when the nomination of Arthur Jaros, Jr. to the village’s Library Board came to a vote.
Sixteen years ago, Jaros, a local attorney, paired with a fellow parent in Downers Grove South High School to attempt to force the removal of James W. Bennett’s Blue Star Rapture from the supplemental reading list. In a joint statement, the two called the book "vile" and said that “it violates conservative DuPage County community standards.” Following the recommendation of the district’s ad hoc Instructional Materials Reconsideration Committee, however, the School Board voted unanimously to retain the novel.
The incident seems to have been forgotten until last week, when his nomination to the Library Board came to light in the days before the Village Council’s vote and Kathleen DiCola, a trustee who is stepping down after 20 years of service, reminded the community. In an open letter, DiCola asked residents to speak out:
Library trustees grounded in our First Amendment rights have protected the freedom to read for all the citizens of Downers Grove. Ask the council not to appoint Art Jaros – who attempted to ban books, putting his personal ideology above others’ First Amendment rights — to an irrevocable, 6-year term on our library board.
Mayor Martin Tully called the reminder “political,” and said that just because Jaros sought to have a book removed from school curriculum – you know, to try to force his viewpoint on others regardless of the educational value of the book in question – doesn't mean he can't serve on the board for the public library. “To suggest he’s trying to ban books,” Tully said, “is a mean-spirited stretch.”
Dozens of his constituents disagree. But when one of the town’s commissioners suggested the council delay the vote to do their due diligence and read all the emails sent in prior to the vote, he was outnumbered, 5-2, and the vote hastily proceeded as planned. Jaros was confirmed along the same lines, and the concerns of constituents were brazenly ignored.
People can change, just as easily as their viewpoints do. But Jaros’s recent comments provide troubling insight that perhaps he has not. Citing the Supreme Court’s definition of obscenity, he said it “is conceivable that some material might not be suitable for a public library.” Yet Jaros fails to note that the stringent standard established by the Supreme Court "extends First Amendment protection to most sexually explicit expression."
Perhaps instead of focusing on what shouldn’t be in the library, however, he should take a moment to remember what the library is: a forum that makes available “the widest diversity of views and expressions.”
Here’s hoping both Jaros and Mayor Tully acquaint themselves with the Downers Grove Public Library Bylaws, Policies, and Guidelines, which make it clear that his job is not that of a censor:
This board believes that censorship is a purely individual matter and declares that, while individuals are free to reject materials for themselves, they do not have the right to restrict another person’s freedom to read.