Home / Articles / Today / National Today /  Child protection or censorship? Library employees lose jobs over book
. . . . . . .
Give Through iGivefirst
Thursday, November 12,2009

Child protection or censorship? Library employees lose jobs over book

By McClatchy-Tribune News Service

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. — Sharon Cook is either a hero or a villain.

She is either due your thanks for doing everything in her power to protect children from obscenity or she is due your disdain for wantonly taking away the constitutional rights of the people of Jessamine County, Ky.

She never meant to do the latter. She absolutely meant to do the former.

It all started in the fall of 2008, and she is still doing it. The proof is in her knapsack, in a bright yellow flexible file folder, hidden from prying eyes. "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume IV: The Black Dossier." It has pink and yellow highlighter tags sticking out, marking the pages that contain explicit sexual content.

It is the Jessamine County Public Library's copy, which she has checked out and not returned. She is being fined 10 cents a day for her breach of library contract — and for her moral stand.

She was, she says, simply appalled that a child could find a book that contained so many outright visually obscene graphics in the Jessamine library where she worked. So nine months ago, she challenged its right to be included in the collection, and when that failed, she simply checked it out herself.

In effect, she removed the book from circulation. She checked it out over and over and over with her library card until a patron of the library, unaware of the circumstances of the book, put a hold on it, asking to be the next in line to check it out.

When Cook went to renew "The Black Dossier" on Sept. 21, the computer would not allow it because of the hold. Cook used her employee privileges to find out that the patron desiring the book was an 11-year-old girl.

This would not do.

On Sept. 22, Cook told two of her colleagues at the library about her dilemma, and Beth Boisvert made a decision. She would take the book off hold, thus disallowing the child — or the child's parents — ever to see the book.

On Sept. 23, both Cook and Boisvert were fired. They were told by library director Ron Critchfield the firings were a decision of the library board.

Cook, 57, and Boisvert, 62, suddenly got support from people they didn't even know who heard about it on the Web or at church or in the news.

What followed has become a battle of principles that is larger than the women ever imagined.

It has become a question of what public libraries are enshrined to do, what role they are to play in monitoring children, and whether they get to decide what people get to read.

What complicates this is that the graphic novel in question meets no standard of obscenity by the law.

While it does contain many images of varied and explicit sexual behavior, it has been the subject of academic study. It was named by Time magazine as one of its Top 10 Graphic Novels of 2007 and called "genius," applauded for its ability to "pluck out the strange and angry and contradictory bits that underlie so much of the culture we live and think with today."

On Oct. 21, at its first meeting after the firings, the library board of directors found they needed a policy for public comment. Fifty people showed up unannounced to tell the library what they thought on the board's recent personnel actions.

Also on hand were Cook and Boisvert, who had prepared a PowerPoint presentation of their case. It wasn't, they say, about keeping their jobs. It was about the fact that they had thought the book they found on the shelves of the library had originally been a mistake.

And the shock, they say, was that it wasn't. (The book had been bought originally because a patron had requested it.)

The presentation was created to explain that the Jessamine library's collection "currently contains material, readily available on its shelves, that is improper for children to view."

Moreover, they say they wanted to warn the library board that Kentucky law prohibits distribution of pornographic material to a child and they are concerned that the Jessamine library could be in felony violation.

They wanted to offer a plan for resolution: Because the U.S. Supreme Court decided in 1973 that obscenity could be determined by local community standards, Jessamine County citizens should determine what they want their children to have access to.

They wanted to then suggest that the library change its policy on censorship.

Boisvert said she wanted them to know that "because we are a conservative community, we will choose to have our children protected."

Cook and Boisvert were never given the opportunity to speak. Neither was anyone else in the gallery. The reason given: It was not on the agenda.

People left really, really riled.

Director Critchfield has repeatedly said the library will not comment on personnel matters. The library, instead, has been left to try to speak through its policies.

The one most often pointed to is that any child 17 or under must have the consent of a parent or guardian to have a library card. And no child under 11 should be in the library unsupervised. (Parents choose if their children can access the Internet or if they can check out DVDs.)

Last week, new 8{-by-17-inch posters went up around the library. "Parents and guardians, did you know?" they blare, explaining the policy the parents signed when their children took out cards and how to review the materials the child has checked out.

The Jessamine library had, before any complaint, adopted the American Library Association's policy manual and code of ethics as its own. (It is also the policy and code of ethics adopted by the state library association.)

It states: "Expurgation of any parts of books or other library resources by the library, its agent, or its parent institution is a violation of the Library Bill of Rights because it denies access to the complete work, and, therefore, to the entire spectrum of ideas that the work was intended to express."

Further, in the ALA's Code of Ethics: "We distinguish between our personal convictions and professional duties and do not allow our personal beliefs to interfere with fair representations of the aims of our institutions or the provision of access to their information resources."

Critchfield has made a form of public comment: an open letter in the Jessamine Journal. In part, he wrote:

"As customers of a public library there is a First Amendment expectation to respect the rights of all persons — what one person might view as questionable might be quite important and relevant to another."

As to the charge about Cook's concern that the library was in violation of the state obscenity laws?

Continue reading: Page 1 | Page 2 |
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
No Registration Required

There I found your blog the usage of msn This is a very neatly written article I will make sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of your helpful information Thank you for the post I will certainly return.


Incredible post Genuinely really liked all the viewing I'm hoping to read through additional within you I know you might have superb awareness also thought I'm certainly absolutely amazed utilizing this type of information. acne no increased feedback book


But this is what happens if you cannot protect children from explicit items like this. Running a library is not as easy as you see it. And fashion for play maybe people might be able to realize that now. Thanks for the write up.



Explore The Festivals Of Edinburgh The UK is full of interesting and historical cities and Edinburgh is fashionable with worldwide visitors and domestic travellers. The citys blend of traditions and times past, Nike Free TR Fit restaurants and shopping venues can compete with any other city in Europe and it is the perfect destination for few days away with friends and family. In 2008 Edinburgh was cited as one of the world's top 10 cities by travel magazine Wanderlust and has also been named as a top travel destination by the Trip Advisor Destination Awards. Tourists arrive here in their droves every day to admire the outstanding medieval buildings, chic Georgian town houses, quaint cobblestoned streets and unbelievable sights. Its streets are full of stories from the past, Scottish people are proud of their unique culture and electrifying festivals have made the city famous throughout the world. In the centre of the city the medieval Old Town and Georgian New Town district holds the prestigious title of UNESCO World Heritage Site and is easy enough to walk Nike Air Foamposite One around. Be in awe of its charming terraces, stroll through the cobbled streets and admire the castle for its impressive city views and immediate countryside and discover the wealth of restaurants, bars and stores. Edinburgh is a winner with all kinds of travellers, there is something to be found in the city Nike Free 4.0 to arouse the interest of travellers from all age groups and nationalities. Nike Free 4.0 V3 If you are in the city with friends, family or as a group the diversity of activities on offer will guarantee something to suit. In Edinburgh there are unequalled art galleries and museums, monuments, theatres and beaches, and miles of countryside. Edinburgh Castle towers over the city centre and is the perfect backdrop to a romantic weekend, whilst the River Forth is perfect for a romantic cruise and will take you away from the crowds and the volcanic Arthurs Seat has the best views to offer. If you are looking for some fun then the summer months in Edinburgh are ideal. Book a hotel well in advance as the city is packed with visitors here to experience its many festivals. There are an abundance of cheap hotels existing in the city centre and cheap accommodation online is simple to book. The Edinburgh International Festival puts on a series of events every day featuring performers from the worlds of the arts. Edinburghs six major theatres and concert halls, and smaller venues light up with international classical music, theatre, opera and dance. The Mardi Gras carnival creates Men Air Max Thea Print the perfect party atmosphere as it Nike Air Force 1 Womens sets off the Edinburgh Jazz Blues Festival with jazz music, masked and costumed party goers and around the clock music and dance. Expect to see Jazz, Gospel, poetry and Scottish musicians alongside international players in a mix of jazz and originality. The 2009 Edinburgh Military Tattoo is ready to play its 60th season with a celebration of the 250th birthday of Scotland's national bard, Robert Burns. The live evening performances are televised around the world as they take place on the castle esplanade, performers from over 40 countries appear here once it has been officially opened by countless marching bands streaming across Nike Zoom HyperRev PE the drawbridge, encircled by images of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce and the event is televised all around the world. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the largest of a whole series of festivals that make up the 'Edinburgh Festivals' and said to be the largest arts festival in the world with theatre, comedy, music, dance and exhibitions. Here you will find street musicians playing alongside the biggest names in showbiz and every type of art from comedy routines and Nike Free GYM children's shows to dance, operas theatre and demonstrations. Search for cheap hotels online UK to guarantee your accommodation before you go. The UK has some fascinating cities Sneaker Online to explore and Edinburgh is Men Air Max 2015 a good starting point. For Edinburgh hotels and cheap accommodation in the UK, look online where you will find a range of hotels, B country cottages for rent and guest houses.