West Bend Library Board Rejects Restrictions

The West Bend Community Memorial Library board held a public meeting this evening to consider the request from the “West Bend Citizens for Safe Libraries” that the library remove books they consider to be “obscene” or “child pornography” from a section of the library designated “Young Adults.” (Background can be found here and here, and note that while four of the library board members were denied reappointment by the West Bend city council, they remain in their seats until replacements are nominated and approved, which has yet to happen.)

After listening to citizen voices for over two hours, the library board unanimously concluded that its existing policies regarding these texts were sufficient. As reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

The Library Board on Tuesday night unanimously rejected efforts by a local citizen group to restrict access of young adults to books depicting sex among teenagers or those describing teenage homosexual relationships.

Such books already are separated from children’s books, either in a young adult fiction section on the first floor of the library or shelved as young adult non-fiction alongside similar adult texts on the second floor, board members said.

The nine-member board listened for 2½ hours as nearly 60 people discussed the appropriateness of the library providing such books to the public before the board voted to maintain current policies.

I believe this was the right decision by the library board (but they’re not quite out of the woods yet, unfortunately).

The library board did not, however, appear to take specific action on a separate, but related, request by the complainants, whose petition also asked the Library Board to “balance” its collection of books about homosexuality with books “affirming traditional heterosexual perspectives” that are faith-based or written by “ex-gay” authors.

This is a very problematic request, a fact made clear by SOIS grad student Tony Hoffmann at his Sex, Drugs, and Intellectual Freedom blog. Time will tell if this demand will continue to be put forward by the West Bend Citizens for Safe Libraries.


  1. As the board made clear last night, the meeting was held to open the discussion, but there was technically no actual challenge on the table. The majority of the discussion focused on “moving” and “labelling” with restricting implied. Maziarka was the only speaker to suggest including the “gay convert” material, and that was addressed by a long time youth mental health worker. I think the “moving/labelling” issue was the one that most concerned me, since there has been some success with that strategy.

    The discussion began with Stone, from the OIF at ALA, addressing the legal situation and included a discussion of Wisconsin state law relative to sexually explicit material and public libraries. It was good to see the ALA physically present. One attendee brought up the Treaty of Tripoli, which generated quite a response from one board member, who used it to denounce tyranny. There were not many Bible thumpers, although one young man was concerned for the souls of the board members; another Christian mom who home schools called for the materials to be left as they were.

    Some board members expressed anger, pain or disappointment at the failure of their associates to be reappointed ot the board, and I see this morning that Dan Kleinman is running a story about a ethics challenge from a WB resident re: Alderman Vrana, who, according to the library board, never spoke with them before condemning their actions — or, non-action.

    I was actually impressed, by just about everyone. Unfortunately, as the board discussed their positions, and the decision they would reach became more apparent, a large number of the “Safelibraries” crowd walked out, unwilling to listen to the explanations of the library board members … who had just spent 2.5 hours listening to them.

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