In retort to the Board of Trustees of Hamilton County East Public Library (HEPL), board members Laura Alerding, Micah Beckwith, Tiffany A.H. Ditlevson, Ray Maddalone (The Undersigned)
I’ve attended the Board of Trustees meetings since September of 2022. I am witness to the evolution of the revised Collection Development Policy. I am an executive director and founder of a specialty library located in Noblesville. My ancestor was Gratia Countryman, the Head Librarian of the Minneapolis Public Library from 1908-1936, who set many of the standards that public librarians are known for today. I am a taxpayer of Hamilton County. I am a parent with children still in my home. I have a library card to HEPL and patron both locations (Noblesville and Fishers) multiple times a month.
The undersigned members of the HEPL attempted to correct misinformation being circulated in print and in the media about the revised Collection Development Policy; however, they are incorrect in their information and contradict themselves in their own statement.
Paragraph 2 of the undersigned statement.
* Please note capitals are not my own and appear in the published statement:
“We are NOT censoring, NOT banning and NOT hiding any books. Nor are we telling the Librarian what books to purchase.”
Misinformation #1 – “NOT censoring”
- The definition of censoring (noun): a person who supervises conduct and morals: such as an official who examines materials for the objectionable matter.
- The definition of censoring (verb): to examine in order to suppress
- The definition of suppress: to keep from public knowledge, to exclude from consciousness, to inhibit the growth or development of, to restrain from a usual course or action.
This board is censoring material because it has restrained the usual course of action regarding how books are placed in this government institution; they have put forth a plan to examine books in order to suppress, inhibit growth, limit expression, and exclude them from children’s consciousness.
Misinformation #2 – “NOT hiding any books”
If a book written for children is in the adult section, is it hiding the book away from children?
Under this revised Collection Development policy, if a child wants to learn about Anne Frank, the child now has to go to the adult section. The reason is that Anne was murdered in World War 2 and books including murder are not allowed in any of the kids sections (Juvenile, Middle School, High School, Previously Teen Sections) of the HEPL because of the revised Collection Development Policy. Appendix B was voted on before public comment on 4/27/23.
Do the undersigned want children to not learn about Anne Frank? Do they not want them to learn about the reality of war? Do they not want them to learn about the Holocaust and anti-Semitism?
Misinformation #3 – “Nor are we telling the librarian what to purchase”
This statement is contradicted in the next paragraph.
“This policy will be used with all books purchased in the future.”
Misinformation #4 – “The Librarian”
There is one Head Librarian at the Hamilton East Public Library, but there are many librarians at HEPL. Librarians are those with a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS). A master’s degree is 24+ months of additional study to a college degree focusing on organization, cataloging, preservation, and problem-solving in a library setting. There are at least 9 different job positions in which an accredited librarian can serve in a public library.
Because of a push to fire the Head Librarian, Edra Waterman, it is easy to interpret that the undersigned are going after one particular librarian, Edra.
On multiple occasions, at board meetings and in the press, Edra has expressed, “The library is for everyone.”
Board member, Ray, told a former librarian that his Master of Chemistry (that he got 49 years ago) was more important in library decisions than the Master of Library and Information Science degrees held by the librarians at HEPL – held by those who are currently working in their field. 5/26/22 board meeting.
Paragraph 2 of the undersigned statement:
“We are moving books that are age-inappropriate for the location that the Librarians chose to put them. These books will be moved into the general collection of the library, which is accessible by all card holders. This policy will be used with all books purchased in the future.”
Misinformation #5- “We are moving books”
The undersigned Board of Trustees are not physically moving any books. They created an unconstitutional policy that forces the staff of HEPL to move the books or lose their jobs. The undersigned board members are in a favorable position to say, “We are moving books,” (to get credits from the political parties) as well as gaslighting the librarians by putting the blame on the librarians for shelves being empty in the kids’ section in media coverage. The undersigned board members can further gaslight the staff by saying they are not moving the books fast enough. This was said by Ray on 3/30/23 and 4/27/23 board meetings.
Misinformation #6 – “Age-inappropriate for the location”
Library standards are to look at the publisher’s information and shelve materials accordingly. The board is re-writing library standards and publisher standards to suit their own evolving agenda.
HEPL receives an average of 1,000 new materials every month. There are over 340,000 materials currently in the HEPL collection. The staff does not have the resources to read every book that comes into the library, nor should they be expected to do so. Does a grocery store sample each food product before it is shelved? Does the library have a system for their selection criteria and shelving placement – yes, it’s what they went to school for 6+ years for; the undersigned has not gone to school for library science. Some of them didn’t even have a library card to HEPL before being appointed to the board.
The book Making a Baby by Rachel Greener has in its publisher information that the book’s reading age is 5-8 years old and its grade level is kindergarten-3. Most children’s books do list the reading level in the publishing information. Making a Baby is a 32-page book that is picture book size, page length, and contains colorful drawings and short sentences. This book talks about the various ways that humans make babies, and its intention is for parents and children to use the book to have a conversation about where babies come from. This is most helpful to parents with small children who are pregnant with another child. This book does contain a cartoon drawing of human bodies – something we all have, including children. This book, because of a 4-3 vote on the 11/17/22 board meeting, was moved to the adult section.
This could be done on a case-by-case basis, but the revised collection development policy has words and subject material that are a blanket statement for all kids’ books (Juvenile, Middle School, High School, and Previously Teen Sections) to be moved to the adult section immediately.
Misinformation #7 – “the Librarians chose to put them”
Please refer to Misinformation #6 as the correct statement would be the librarians followed library standards across the country and utilized their specialized training to put books where they belong.
Misinformation #8 – “correctly cataloged”
This is found in Paragraph 4
“Part of the review effort is to ensure they are correctly cataloged”
Please refer to Misinformation #6 as the books were correctly cataloged to library standards.
“The selection criteria for these moves have been approved by legal counsel and are in line with constitutional requirements for a public library. Equating moving books based on public, objective criteria is not censorship and case law support this.”
Misinformation #9 – “In line with constitutional requirements”
A government organization must have “content neutrality.” The government cannot limit expression because any patron, or even the majority of a community, is offended by its content. In the context of art and entertainment, this means tolerating some works that we might find offensive, insulting, outrageous — or just plain bad.
When private citizens use their voices to speak for or against books in this library, their actions are protected by the First Amendment. A public library does not have that same protection. When a government organization censors material, it is unconstitutional.
The previous lawyer appointed to the Board of Trustees stated more than once that the policies that were being discussed were not in line with constitutional requirements for a public library. The 2/4/22 board meeting minutes list, “Mrs. Poindexter indicated that even children have First Amendment rights to receive information and the library as a form of government and except in very limited circumstances cannot impair those rights. Poindexter reminded the Trustees that the United States Supreme Court has previously described libraries as ‘institutions of freewheeling inquiry.” Mrs. Pointdexter resigned in the same meeting where the board voted 4-3 to find a replacement for her.
Misinformation #10 – “Case law supports this”
The previous lawyer appointed to the Board of Trustees stated more than once that case law did not support this.
“The cost of moving these books is the price we have to pay to correct actions that were taken in the past. These costs are currently under Board review.”
Misinformation #11 – “price we have to pay”
A majority of the public comments have been against this policy change and against this taxpayer expense.
Misinformation #12 – “correct actions that were taken in the past”
As previously pointed out in Misinformation #6, actions in the past were in line with library standards, constitutional law, and public agreement. It can be interpreted that someone didn’t get their way in previous meetings and has a grudge.
Additional information that the public should know:
Only 4 specific books have been challenged and discussed at the Board of Trustee meetings from July 2021- April 2023
- Let’s Talk About It: The Teen’s Guide to Sex, Relationships, and Being a Human by Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan.
- Public comment at the 12/16/21 board meeting
- Board Meeting vote 2/4/22. Laura moved to have the book moved, but it failed without a second.
- Board Meeting 2/24/22 Head Librarian, Edra Waterman, stated upon review the book would be moved to the adult collection.
- A Quick and Easy Guide to Consent by Isabella Rotman and Luke Howard
- Public Comment at 12/16/21 board meeting.
- Board Meeting vote 2/4/22 Laura moved to have the book be shelved in the adult section, but it failed without a second.
- Making a Baby by Rachel Greener and Clare Owen
- Date unknown – Request for Reconsideration form.
- Board meeting 11/17/22 minutes, “Ray Maddalone moved to overturn Edra Waterman’s recommendation and move the book to the adult section. Tiffanie Ditlevson seconded. The Library Board discussed the legal risk with Ann Poindexter. The motion carried 4-3”
- Why? A Conversation About Race by Taye Diggs and Shane W. Evans
- 12/7/22 Request for Reconsideration form.
- Board Meeting 1/26/22, no vote was taken.
Because of these 4 books – only 2 of which were decided to be moved – “18,000 individual copies are impacted by this change and each will require individual hands-on attention and processing.” (Source: Operational Response Plan 2023 Collection Development Policy. HEPL January 2023).
This process of moving 18,000 books will involve significant time and effort. The catalog will need to be changed, labels will need to be changed, new and/or moved shelving will occur, and books themselves will need to be physically moved.
HEPL estimates 8,000 hours of labor to complete this new policy change that was forced upon them. The average library clerk makes in the United States is $14.08 per hour.
$14.08 x 8000 = $112,640
Add to that $20,000 that was spent on a new lawyer to “get around the First Amendment” as said by Ray at the 10/27/22 Board Meeting.
$112,640 + $20000 = $132,640
It’s not about the books
If it were about the books themselves, there would be protests at booksellers; there would be a cancel culture plan on the authors and the publishers, but there is not. There has also not been a single complaint about the same books available in the children’s section at the Gal’s Guide Library a mile away from HEPL’s Noblesville location.
It is easy to interpret that a political force is behind this. We’ve seen the same script in different states targeting only school libraries and public libraries. In our community, we have seen so few people protest books. It’s been 4 books out of 341,000. We don’t have a book shelving problem; we have the members of the Board of Trustees who are in positions to super-parent the rest of Hamilton County and want to bankrupt our public library.
It’s not about the children, either.
Undersigned member, Micah, has said that he was, “sent by God to save the children that visit the library”. If the undersigned is concerned about the children, why didn’t he mention that in the statement? Why would the undersigned send children to go to the adult section? Also, do they not know that children have the entire internet in their pockets? If they can’t find the information at the library, in the section their parents let them browse, they are going to look it up online.
Age-appropriate locations have always been a misnomer. We read at the level and in the subjects we are interested in. There is no ID check to make sure you are at least so old or so tall to look at a book in the public library. When I was 15 years old, I read all the books my public library had about world religions in the juvenile section and the adult section. We read what we are interested in. Having certain subjects removed just makes them more exciting to look for. However, the undersigned all would like the kids to be carded at the library with their age on their library card. 11/17/22 board meeting.
The undersigned has accomplished many things but this statement shows:
- They don’t like children.
- They don’t trust children.
- They don’t want children to read what they are interested in.
- They made it more enticing to read about “grossly offensive terms” and “crimes involving violence.”
- They don’t know how libraries work.
- They don’t read.
- They wasted taxpayers’ money.
- They made trouble where there wasn’t any.
- They created a bad name for our community with national media attention.
I ask for the removal/resignation of the undersigned – Laura Aldering, Micah Beckwith, Tiffanie Ditlevson, Ray Maddalone.
Books & Love,
Dr. Leah Leach