MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) — It’s no longer just school libraries; the Rutherford County board overseeing all county public libraries voted to remove four books from the shelves on Monday.
The Rutherford County Library Board cited Tennessee State laws surrounding obscenity and the city of Murfreesboro’s recently passed decency ordinance when removing, “Flamer”, “Gender Queer”, “Let’s Talk About It”, and “This Book is Gay” from libraries.
“Gender Queer” was kept in libraries because it is categorized as an adult book.
“It’s very clear the library was out of bounds by not following the Tennessee State law that passed two years ago,” said board member Shawn Wright. “The Murfreesboro ordinance brought a spotlight to a law that was already in place. As far as censorship goes, the library already censors. They censor movies; they censor video games; those are also forms of art.”
The board also made a directive for different library cards to prevent children from accessing books for adults. Once implemented, there will be a juvenile, young adult, and adult library card. A parent will be able to give their child access to young adult or adult books, but that would not be the default.
One board member asked if this means a high school student doing a book report on a historical figure like Clarence Thomas or Andrew Jackson.
“Unless their parents gave them permission to have the profile where they could,” the library representative said.
A newly formed group, Rutherford County Library Alliance, called removing these books an infringement on First Amendment rights.
“We should be teaching our kids about all types of sex. Education is power,” said Keri Lambert.
However, the board said they are not attorneys and are simply following city and state laws.
“This board is not First Amendment attorneys; we are not judicial. In the aspect of deciding the First Amendment or violations thereof, our job is to adhere to laws, local ordinances, and state laws, and as long as those laws are still in the book, that’s what we’re tasked to do,” said Rutherford County Library Board Member Steve Sullivan.
The American Library Association (ALA) has had a Library Bill of Rights for nearly a century. The document states, “Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.”
It also adds, “people, regardless of origin, age, background, or views, possess a right to privacy and confidentiality in their library use.”
The library board said the ALA has been promoting some of the books they discussed and librarians should not be blamed for these books being on shelves.
“That’s what they’ve been drilled into their heads to do is to support the ALA, and we have to like do some retraining before we like crucify him,” said one board member.
While the majority of books discussed and all the ones removed contain LGBTQ themes, the chair was adamant they were not targeting a specific group.
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“This is not an attack on homosexuality, queer, gay rights, transgender,” Sullivan said. “It just so happens that the books being questioned are taking a route to describe their belief and using children put up child pornography potentially to do that. So, this is not an attack on those rights.”
Sullivan also explained while the books they voted to remove will not be on library shelves moving forward, they will still be available digitally.