August 23, 2023

Niki Kelly: Book banning, reshelving has reached ridiculous heights

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Niki Kelly reports on politics at the Indiana Capital Chronicle, but she takes a look at the education beat here, determining that “some conservatives going much further than obscenity” and should be stopped.

For several years I have heard ridiculous allegations that school and public libraries’ shelves are brimming with pornography and obscenity. But I think it’s clear now the censorship goes much further than that — to the detriment of society as a whole.

Concerned parents are pushing the issue too far under the guise of protecting kids from smut.

Indianapolis author John Green last week brought national attention to an ongoing attempt by the Hamilton East Public Library to move young adult books to adult sections. And while he got a reversal, hundreds of other books have been similarly mislabeled — the issue is far from over.

The turnover of four appointments last year at the Hamilton East Public Library introduced new members — including conservative hardliner and pastor Micah Beckwith — who set their sights on limiting access to books, especially in the children’s and young adult section.

The board passed a new policy that focused on profanity, violence and crime — even listing specific crimes and curse words that are unacceptable for younger readers.

The Indianapolis Star reported that the shelves of the Teen Zone were gutted as librarians and staff conducted a review of thousands of books expected to cost the library system serving Fishers and Noblesville around $300,000.

And make no mistake, reshelving materials in ill-suited library sections is censorship all on its own.

Green learned on social media that his bestseller, “The Fault in Our Stars,” had been moved to the adult section. The coming-of-age book chronicles the lives of two teens living with terminal cancer diagnoses.

Yes, there are a few curse words and the teens have sex but it is not explicit — and it’s likely milder than anything teens could easily find online today.

Green called the move “ridiculous” and wrote a scathing letter to the board. Hamilton East Public Library Board President Laura Alerding blamed the removal on the library staff, whom she said misinterpreted the board’s new book relocation policy. (Alerding has since been replaced as a library board member.)

First off, the decision was made due to a policy the board passed. Blaming the librarian is a farce.

And second, what about the hundreds of other books that were moved at that location?

Read the full op-ed here. 

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