Bans, censorship and challenges lead discussion at Beadle County Democrat meeting

Courtesy photo Huron Public Library Children’s Librarian Danyelle Brotherton and Director Angela Bailey spoke to the community about book challenges, book bans.

HURON — Huron Public Library Director Angela Bailey and Children’s Librarian Danyelle Brotherton attended the recent Beadle County Democrats meeting, presenting an in-depth discussion about book challenges, book bans, and censorship to several members of the community who came to hear them speak.

Bailey noted that when she was attending graduate school, the issue of book bans and challenges was not even brought up. It was a non-issue until just a couple years ago.

Brotherton explained how the library chooses new materials, with Bailey reading portions of the library policies regarding the selection process. They also explained the terminology.

A challenge is when a person or group finds something objectionable and complains. Bailey said she is happy to have a discussion with anyone who has an issue with material in the library. There is a form for them to fill out which includes a requirement that the person has read or viewed the entire article.

“A person cannot just pick out a sentence or phrase and make a challenge,” Bailey explained.

As an example, she said a man in Yankton challenged dozens of books because they included the word lesbian.

Most institutions also have a policy limiting challenges to patrons. Recently fringe groups from out of state have begun submitting challenges about hundreds of books. These are usually turned down because the group does not live in the community. Bailey said more and more these challenges are coming from radical groups trying to impose their views on others.

If a challenge is successful after being considered by a selection committee or library board of directors, then it is banned. The material may either be removed from circulation or moved to another section of the library.

“Seventy percent of parents are against banning books,” Bailey said. “We are an example of democracy in action. Materials are available for patrons to select or reject for themselves.”

Brotherton said most challenges are for sexually explicit material, obscene language, and unsuitable content. That content often includes gender issues, or involves Black, Indigenous, and people of color.

“Although most of these challenges are an effort to protect children, they are very subjective,” Brotherton said. “Censorship should not replace a parent’s responsibility to their own child.”

Troubling to them both was legislation which came up this past session. This legislation would have made it illegal for libraries to make available material harmful to children, but made no indication on how the determination for suitability would be made.

“Although this did not pass this year, it will be brought back in the spring,” said Bailey. “And legislation very similar did pass in North Dakota.”

“We believe all people should have the freedom to read and view materials of their choice,” Bailey said. “Not have that freedom of choice taken away by law.”