In the May 2009 issue of Library Journal was an update on the Topeka, Kansas decision to retain sex-related titles on the shelf at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library. A new vote by the board of 6-3 was declared, after months of consideration and to avoid a lawsuit. The decision came after many concern citizens, the ALA, and the library’s director sent letters and voiced their opinions about why the books should not be shelved behind the library’s desk, at the request of another patron. Earlier this year, a patron requested to have the four sex-related titles placed behind the library staff desk because of the “harmful to minors” law in Kansas. But the Director defended the library behalf stating, “Kim Borchers’s request violated the library’s materials selection policy, which says customers may not restrict the access of others and that the library does not label materials to make value judgments. Borchers’s request that the books be shelved behind a desk, thus requiring patrons to ask for them, would violate the library’s user confidentiality policy.” As a result the board decided to retain the four sex-related titles in the Library Health Information Neighborhood section, add a public service statement on their website, and a bulletin board alerting patrons about sex-related material.
When faced with the challenges of challenged books, every situation is different. In this case, I feel the Director and Library board handle its decision in a reasonable manner. I also like the idea of making patrons aware of their sex-related materials. I was faced with a similar situation, with a twelve year old asking for Young Adult material, which involved sex. I was a little skeptical at first, but remember what I have learned in my intellectual freedom course, “young people have their freedom to read”. I was a bit happy when the material was unavailable. I felt her parents should have been involved with her request.