Residents sound off to commissioners in library saga

Kevin Bennett sits next to the sign he brought as he waits his turn to speak at Wednesday's county commissioners meeting. (RJ Morgan/County 17)

A group of concerned citizens regarding controversial books at the Campbell County Public Library (CCPL) continued to make their voices heard at Wednesday’s regular meeting of the county commissioners.

A dozen or so parents and library patrons waited more than two hours to be able to make their voices heard to the commissions, who could only listen as it was during the public comment portion of their meeting.

The controversy surrounds recent decisions by library director Terry Leslie to keep nearly two dozen books on the shelves in the children’s and teen sections at the library, despite having received several requests for reconsideration from members of the community.

The members of the community who spoke brought hand-held signs to display their frustrations. Their requests range from moving the books into the adult section to as far as termination of the director and staff members.

Several signs were displayed by citizens at the county commissioners meeting Wednesday where more concerns were voiced over challenged books at the Campbell County Public Library.
(RJ Morgan/County 17)

In a recent interview with County 17, Leslie said that, in the last month, 22 books have been formally challenged, the most she has ever seen at any library during her career.

Some of the citizens said they were told by library staff that it’s the parents’ job to read any questionable book before making the decision to allow their children to read them. As far as the recall requests, the management at the library reads the challenged books and then forwards their recommendation to Leslie. If that answer is not to the liking of the challenger, then it can be appealed to the library board.

The residents addressing the board on Wednesday made it clear their patience are running thin.

Priscilla Hixson was the first the speak. She told the board about her conversations with people at the recent county fair who were not clear about what all the fuss is about.

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“Most people do not know what we are really talking about. But when I show them photocopies of what is in some of these books, many times they stop reading because they couldn’t stand it,” Hixson said. “You can’t expect parents to read all these books first,” Hixon added. “If you have three kids and they check out 10 books while at the library, parents can’t read all those first. That burden should not be put on parents.”

Helen Hayden was next to address the commissioners and she used an example from one of the 22 questioned books that she said is shelved in the children’s section.

“Porn magazines have covers that note that anyone under the age of 18 can’t legally buy or watch porn. Adults are encouraged to learn more about an R-rated movie before taking their children,” Hayden explained. “I found this book ‘How do you make the baby?’ by Anna Fiske in the children’s section where any child can check it out or view.

Hayden provided commissioners with printouts from the book and reviews that are posted on Amazon regarding the criticism of the material. She went on to tell the board that children like playing house, and how no parent would approve of two children reenacting actions that are portrayed in the book.

Commissioner Bob Maul advised those making public comments to be mindful of what they say or read because it is broadcast on television where children can and do hear these remarks. That drew immediate comments from a few in the audience, including Kevin Bennett.

“Mr. Maul pointed that what was read in some of these materials is not appropriate for the television. I agree, but if it’s not appropriate for the TV, then why is it being put in front of teenagers (at the library)?” Bennett asked. “Why in front of children? If we can’t even say it on television, how in the world are underaged children suppose to be safe from this? This itself proves our case.”

Susan Sisti also pleaded for the commissioner’s help.

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“I listened to you going over your list here and your care for the community and I was really touched,” said Sisti as she broke into tears. “It hurt me to hear you take good care of all these things. But a group of citizens has come to you and you don’t care about this most horrible, vile, erotic porn that belongs in an adult bookstore. We’ve been coming to you for three months and you just don’t care. There’s a problem when you don’t care about the most vulnerable, and that’s our children.

She said the board can do better in overseeing the library.

“We have gone through the review process and we will continue to do so,” Sisti said. “Two (books) have been denied so far.”

Sisti added that books on witchcraft, satanic rituals, drinking blood and eating toads are also inappropriate for young children in the ages 4-9 section.

Ed Sisti, the pastor at Open Door Church, said the biggest problem is clear and it’s not the false cries of censorship.

“There’s an 800-pound gorilla in the room and it’s called socialism. It’s everywhere, and it’s in our library,” Ed Sisti said. “It’s seeking to divide families. That’s been an old Nazi tactic for a long time.”

Ed Sisti went on to explain that the library is promoting the current problem by offering a “banned book week” at the end of September. He continued with several other concerns.

“Our library doesn’t have unrestricted reading. Reading here is restricted to the inventory on hand, which is very one-sided,” Ed Sisti said. “The library says all citizens have to be able to learn about all sides of an issue. In our library, you don’t find all sides, but you can easily find one side – the progressive socialist side.”

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Ed Sisti finished by reiterating the group isn’t asking for too much.

“Commissioners, commonsense shows we are not here for censorship,” Ed Sisti closed with. “We just want to move the books.”