MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) — Many school districts across Middle Tennessee have worked to remove numerous books and graphic novels from libraries, but now the debate is going beyond schools.
“Could you imagine a policeman coming through the library and somebody saying, ‘I want this out of our library?'” said Vice Mayor Bill Shacklett. “Is that what we want?”
Back in June, the vice mayor was the lone member of Murfreesboro City Council to voice his concerns over the city’s new decency standards ordinance.
“There are some implications for when we try to flesh this out; there might be some unintended consequences,” he said to councilmembers. “What do we expect the public to do?”
Despite those concerns, councilmembers voted to approve the new ordinance that “promotes public decency, maintains family-friendly environments in public places, and protects against harm to minors,” according to the first page of the document.
Now, that ordinance is having an impact on the Rutherford County Library System.
On Monday, Aug. 28, the library board will consider withdrawing two books from shelves.
The first is called “This Book is Gay” and the second is a graphic novel called “Let’s Talk About It”.
“We focus on you cant do this…you can’t do that, the more inhibit kids are going to feel about graphic novels,” said Jeff Trexler. “I think the more they’re going to be harmed in the long run.”
Trexler is the interim director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. The organization was founded back in 1986 to protect the First Amendment rights of comic creators, publishers, and retailers.
‘We’ll talk to school teachers; we’ll talk to community leaders; we’ll even talk to district attorneys and sheriffs and say, ‘Hey, this is what’s in these graphic novels. This is what the law is,'” he said. “If you’re going to be having this discussion in terms of what to include and what to exclude, lets make sure that you don’t go over the boundaries of the law.”
Trexler said they’ve been keeping up with school and library districts working to ban graphic novels.
“We have comics going into schools and comics on the web and everything imaged based right now,” he said. “It’s natural…it’s almost inevitable that there would be this conflict.”
News 2 reached out to Director of Libraries Rita Shacklett, who shared this statement:
“Our current policy allows patrons to complete a Request for Reconsideration form on any material they would like us to review. The two titles listed on the August Board agenda were reviewed and found to be in violation of the City of Murfreesboro’s recent decency ordinance, thus the recommendation to remove them from our collection.”
“I think part of the reason why this battle is so fierce (and) why people are so determined to control is they recognize they are losing control,” said Trexler.
While the future of these two books is still up for debate, this issue was a concern the vice mayor was initially worried about months ago.
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“You have free will to choose, and simply saying it’s not available to you is not necessarily a strength,” Bill Shacklett said.
Trexler said their organization has been working with librarians and teachers here in Tennessee in regards to issues surrounding banning and displaying graphic novels and books.
The library system will vote on these two books at their Monday, Aug. 28 meeting at the Eagleville branch beginning at 5 p.m.