Update:

The Marshall Public Library Board of Trustees voted to return Fun Home and Blankets to the shelves of the library, based on their newly adopted Materials Selection Policy.
 

Background:

Click here for NCAC’s letter to the Marshall Public Library President regarding efforts to remove two graphic novels from the shelves. For more details on graphic novels and free speech, see NCAC’s guide to graphic novels for librarians.

Two graphic novels, Alison Bechdel’s "Fun Home" and "Blankets" by Craig Thompson, were deemed offensive by a member of the community of Marshall, Missouri who requested that the books be removed from the Marshall public library.

On Oct. 11 the library board decided to make the books unavailable until a new material selection policy was developed. After the policy is approved, the two books in question, and all other materials that the library adds to the shelves, will be reviewed under the guidelines of the new selection policy. In the meantime, neither "Fun Home" not "Blankets" will be available to Marshall Public Library patrons.

Commentary
As library policy dictates that the policy be read and discussed and possibly amended by the assembled library board, the new selection policy may take months to become a reality. It is regrettable that the two award-winning books will be off limits to library patrons in Marshall in the meantime.

Graphic novels are one of the fastest growing categories in publishing and bookselling. Today’s graphic novels are far more sophisticated and varied in content than the comics that preceded them and enjoy a level of respect previously denied to this form of popular entertainment: they are the subject of reviews, book-length surveys, museum exhibits and academic study, as well as recipients of prestigious literary awards. The immediacy of graphic novels’ visual impact coupled with adult themes and concerns sometimes confuse library patrons used to thinking of comics as the province of 10 or 12 year olds.

The acquisitions policy that the Marshall library board agrees on and the final fate of Blankets and Fun Home might affect the growing sales of graphic novels into the library market, at least in small towns. In recent years many sales to libraries have given graphic novel publishers a new sales channel and helped to expose new readers to the genre.

Whatever arguments might be advanced to justify denying minors access to non-obscene sexual content are inadequate to deny adults access to legal materials. As the Supreme Court has repeated on numerous occasions, "The level of discourse reaching a mailbox simply cannot be limited to that which would be suitable for a sandbox."

Action
The Marshall Public Library has released its schedule of meetings to discuss and develop the new materials selection policy. We urge you to attend the meetings of the board (they are open to the public) or express your position in a letter to the Board (Anita Wright, President, anlwright@sbcglobal.net ) or to the editor of the Marshall-Democrat (Chuck Mason, Editor: marshalleditor@socket.net)

For more information on graphic novels in libraries, see Graphic Novels: Guidelines for Librarians.

Schedule of meetings:
Thursday, Oct. 26
Thursday, Nov. 2
Thursday, Nov. 9
Thursday, Nov. 16
Thursday, Nov. 29

All of the meetings are open to the public and will begin at 5 p.m in the library meeting room at the Marshall Public Library, 214 N. Lafayette.