The Hamilton East Public Library Board, which serves Noblesville and Fishers, meets this Thursday at 6:15pm at the Noblesville Library, 1 Library Plaza, Noblesville. Recently the conservative majority changed the library's collection development policy, and is now requiring library staff to screen all of its books for "offensive material." For those who would like to attend and speak out against censorship and the people falsely claiming that the library houses and promotes pornography, I am sharing what we think are the most important current talking points.
You can sign up to speak when you arrive at the meeting. You must live in the library’s service area (Noblesville and Fishers) in order to speak. Arrive 15-30 minutes early because comment time will be limited to 30 minutes total and later arrivals might not be allowed to speak.
- Avoid using the word “ban.” Board members are adamant that they are not banning books and will tune you out (or shout you down). Instead use “moving books,” “censorship,” obstructing access,” or “restricting access.”
- The library director, librarians, and employees are not the problem. It is the conservative majority on the board that is forcing them to screen and move books.
- Proponents of book censorship are using an incorrect definition of “obscenity,” which under the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the First Amendment requires a book as a whole to lack “any serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.” It is disingenuous and purposely inflammatory to call an objective title on human sexuality “pornography.” See definitions of these terms below.
- As bad as SB 12 is, in its current form it makes a distinction between school libraries and public libraries, giving employees of the latter a legal defense against prosecution for “distributing materials harmful to minors.” As such, we cannot hold public libraries to the same expectations as school libraries. One of the conservative board members admitted in the special meeting on Tuesday that he thinks SB 12 is “a bad bill.” (No word whether his objection is that it doesn’t go far enough, which is something we’ve been hearing from Moms for Liberty.)
- The current mandate of the board to screen the existing collection and new acquisitions for “objectionable material” is a waste of time and money. In addition to the $20,000 spent on a second legal opinion, library staff estimate the project will span 8,000 hours, which amounts to more than $100,000 based on the minimum pay rate. Forcing the library to start the project before the complete mandate is clarified will result in wasting even more money.
- The current processes for challenging books should be sufficient. Just because the outcome of many challenges does not satisfy the complainant does not mean that the process was flawed or wrong. There is an item on the HEPL agenda regarding the new process of finding volunteers to serve on the Reconsideration Appeal Committee to review challenged books and make a final determination. (Related: SB 12 includes a statewide appeal process for challenged titles in school libraries, but for now that does not apply to public libraries.)
- Legislation and policies that seek to censor materials on targeted topics hurt libraries because librarians become fearful of prosecution or termination. This limits them from curating diverse collections that represent a range of values in the community.
Material or performance harmful to minors: A matter or performance is harmful to minors for purposes of this article if: (1) it describes or represents, in any form, nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or sado-masochistic abuse; (2) considered as a whole, it appeals to the prurient interest in sex of minors; (3) it is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable matter for or performance before minors; and (4) considered as a whole, it lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors. (Source: Indiana General Assembly)
Obscene matter or performance: A matter or performance is obscene for purposes of this article if: (1) the average person, applying contemporary community standards, finds that the dominant theme of the matter or performance, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest in sex; (2) the matter or performance depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct; and (3) the matter or performance, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. (Source: Indiana General Assembly)
Pornography: Pornography–"porn" or "porno" for short–is material that depicts nudity or sexual acts for the purpose of sexual stimulation. However, the presence of nudity or sexual acts in piece of media does not necessarily make that media pornographic if the purpose of that media form is something other than sexual stimulation. Pornography can take the form of photographs, videos, written material, audio recordings, or animation, among other media formats. (Source: Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute)
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