Library District receives more requests to ban or relocate books

The Crested Butte News was contacted by the Gunnison Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday saying they had been contacted by Rebecca White who took issue with the incident report cited in this article. After reviewing their recordings, the sheriff’s office issued a “Supplemental Narrative Report” from the officer who initially spoke with her. The supplemental reports made clear that White “did not specifically state that she wanted to file criminal charges. It was my impression that Rebecca wanted to pursue criminal charges based on various comments made by Rebecca.”

More unsuccessful attempts to involve law enforcement 

[  by Mark Reaman  ]

A new flurry of requests to ban or relocate books and library district activities in the Gunnison County Public Libraries has been filed with the district through its “Request for Reconsideration of Materials” form. In addition, the Gunnison County Sheriff’s Office and Gunnison Police Department were asked recently to remove some books and file charges in connection with books that two library patrons considered obscene.

Three requests were filed with the library on November 22 and are focused on books dealing with gender issues. Those forms state that the three books are not appropriate for children under the age of 18. The other form was submitted December 1 and suggests the library activity that includes certain board games should be eliminated from the library and replaced with more positive activities.

All four Request for Reconsideration forms were sent to the Crested Butte News after the News filed a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) to see if any such documents had been recently submitted to the district. As directed under an order from the Gunnison District Court, the names, addresses and other personal information of the people who submitted the forms were redacted. This comes as the Crested Butte News filed an appeal with the Colorado Court of Appeals in November (see related story on page 17) to release the names of the people making such requests.

While the library district would not comment, based on the wording of the reconsideration forms, it appears three of the forms likely came from the same person or persons. Those forms, all filed on November 22 all made the materially identical request to not prominently display the books and to “shelve (them) in the Adult section” of the district libraries. The three books in question were: This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson; All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson; and Seeing Gender by Iris Gottlich.

The requestor or requestors claimed that Seeing Gender “is mainly opinion, written to persuade. The book’s content is not appropriate for minor children (under the age of 18)…The book as shelved and prominently displayed on the Young Adult section gives (possibly) unaccompanied minor children an age inappropriate introduction to inaccurate information about human sexuality…Nothing in the book is appropriate for age 18 and under….”

The requestor or requestors make similar claims against All Boys Aren’t Blue. “The book as prominently displayed in the Young Adult section (Teen Section) in the CB Library gives minor children an age inappropriate introduction to human sexuality…Children and young adults under the age of 18 will read written materials that are not age appropriate and do not meet cultural norms for underage children…”

The requestor or requestors claim This Book is Gay is also not appropriate in its current location in the library. The objection for this book was based as being a “Premature and age-inappropriate introduction to human sexuality; material too explicit for children under the age of 18 years…Children and young adults under the age of 18 will see written material and pictures that are not age appropriate…”

The fourth reconsideration request came after the library offered a Dungeons and Dragons board game activity in December for interested teens. Dungeons and Dragons was cited by the currently anonymous filer as being too negative for teenagers. Objecting to the activity being made available to teenagers, the requestor said he or she preferred that “more positive material not on death dying, destroying,” would be better activity choices. “We have enough depressed suicidal people in USA/CO. Have a grdson (sic) that had to go to counseling due to being connected with that type of material…”

Not the first effort…

These requests are the first filed since similar forms and requests were filed for the book Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe in the fall of 2021 and similar requests made last spring. Library District executive director Drew Brookhart said this latest batch of requests for reconsideration of materials in the library bring the number of such formal requests to nine. “The library received one challenge in the fall of 2021, four during February and March of 2022, and four more in the last few weeks,” he said. “To put this in perspective, the Gunnison Public Library alone enjoyed over 12,000 in-person visitors in October 2022 and circulated tens of thousands of books during the course of the year.”

In the previous instances, the library district chose to not ban or relocate the shelving of books after a crowded public meeting held last February. 

The original request for reconsideration was made by Crested Butte resident Rebecca White who spoke at the district’s public meeting saying her rational for the request was that Gender Queer was not placed in an age-appropriate spot. After that meeting she filed a complaint with the Gunnison Police Department asking that charges be filed against Brookhart for sharing her Request for Reconsideration form with the press. The district attorney’s office announced in March that it was declining to file charges in the matter. 

However, as a result of the action, the library district asked the Gunnison District Court to make clear if the forms were considered public. The judge ruled that the forms were public documents and should be available to the press but based on his interpretation of a state statute, he ruled that the name and other personal identifying information should be redacted. The Crested Butte News appealed that decision and that case is now before the Colorado Court of Appeals.

Last month, White and Mary Jo Laird filed a report with the Gunnison County Sheriff’s Office over the books. According to the November 15 incident report, White and Laird wanted to report that obscene material was located at the Gunnison County Library in Gunnison. They cited three books including This Book is Gay and the sheriff’s report states that White said the book was obscene and “she would like the books removed.” 

The deputy forwarded her concerns to sheriff John Gallowich and the District Attorney’s office and was told her requests, “were censorship issues and did not constitute crimes.” The DA suggested the deputy tell her she should bring her concerns to the district library board of directors.

The report states that sheriff Gallowich attempted to call White to discuss the situation on November 16 but she did not answer and no further action was being taken at that time.

White and Laird filed a similar report with the Gunnison Police Department on November 15 as well. The officer taking the complaint said the two came to the department “to report the promotion of obscenity” at the Gunnison County Library.

According to that incident report, “White reported three obscene books not appropriate for children under 18 years old were in the young adult section at the Gunnison County Library.” The books cited included This Book is Gay, Seeing Gender and Gender Queer. The report concludes that based on White’s previous complaint that was taken to the District Attorney’s Office, “it has been determined that the above noted books reported by Rebecca White do not meet nor satisfy the statutory requirement for filing criminal charges.”

The News sent White an email asking if she would like to comment on the situation and did not receive a reply.

Brookhart explained the Dungeons and Dragons activity is part of a regular “Gamer’s Guild” event where twice a month high school students gather in the library to play board games. “The library has found that through in-person board games we are offering camaraderie, a sense of belonging and community, connections to supportive adults, and a safe space for high-school age people to gather,” he said.

As for the complaints about the books related to gender issues, Brookhart said that “Each library has a “Young Adult” section. Books that are reviewed as, and intended for, young adult audiences are shelved separately from the adult and children’s sections. In both libraries the Young Adult section is wholly separate from the children’s collections.”  

Plus, Brookhart emphasized, those books in question represent a small but important part of the district’s collection. “Our library recognizes that the community served has a clear standard of supporting, nurturing, and educating its citizens – at every age – and in response to all aspects of the human condition,” he said. “This community standard is true for all people, including people who identify themselves somewhere in the LGBTQIA universe. Public libraries in Gunnison County offer people access to 1.9 million items within a matter of days upon request. Our libraries directly contribute approximately 50,000 physical volumes to this collection. Included in our community’s physical collection are only a handful of books that give people a safe, healthy way to investigate gender, sex, and sexuality. In other words, topics related to gender, sex, and sexuality are not a focus of the libraries’ collections.”

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