Parents, community members argue over DougCo library content

Heather Willard
Jessica Fredrickson speaks to the Board of Trustees on Wednesday, April 26.Photo byHeather Willard

Heather Willard / NewsBreak Denver / April 27, 2023

(Highlands Ranch, Colo.) Concerned community members packed both halls of The Douglas County Libraries Highlands Ranch branch Wednesday during the regular Board of Trustees meeting.

Many came to show support for including LGBTQIA books in the library's children's and young adult sections after Lone Tree father Adam Rutan posted a photo of a book titled “The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish Swish Swish” that he saw in the Lone Tree library’s children’s section.

Discussion during the meeting centered on all LGBTQIA content available for youth in the library.

Some attendees said the book’s content is sexual, perverted and “proselytizing criminal acts.” Others called it affirming, a way to expose children safely to a broad spectrum of perspectives, and useful in providing a good framework of the world.

By 8 a.m. Thursday, the Douglas County Libraries had received four written collection appeals through the formal appeal process so far this year, according to Amber DeBerry, a library public information officer. She said one came in earlier this year, and three were received on April 26.

In 2022, the library district received five formal appeals. It received three in 2021.

“At this time, none of these appeals (2021-April 2023) moved forward to the Board of Directors in the formal appeal process,” DeBerry said.

According to the library’s policy manual, the executive library director handles all content appeal requests. The director’s decision on the content can be appealed to the Board of Trustees for a final decision.

Some speakers at the Wednesday night meeting called the content appeals process “arduous” and methodical. One was Aaron Wood, an online content creator who ran for Colorado GOP chairman and is part of a political group called Freedom Fathers.

According to the library district’s policy manual, ʺthe District will make every effort to correlate our content choices with community demand and interests. The District seeks to build a market driven inventory rather than any preconceived philosophy or bias. The District seeks content customers demand regardless of the content’s origin, background, or particular viewpoint.”

“Looking through your library catalog with keyword searches, it seems that a vast majority of books, transgender books, 9%, are in the catalog for children,” Woods said. “Whereas if I search Christianity or Christian, 7% are for children. 2% of the books, when you search for Christian, are for children.

“So my question again, too, is who is part of the approval process to allow what I deem is pornographic material in front of our children?” Woods said.

A library website search shows 143 results for “transgender,” and 21 of those items are listed for children. Another 45 are listed for a teen audience, and 77 for adults. A search for LGBT presented 185 results of which 21 were children’s and 23 were for a teen audience.

A search for “Christianity” returned 3,808 results, of which 79 were listed as children’s books and 19 as teen. “Christian” returned 13,364 results, of which 1,056 were listed as children’s books and another 132 were listed for teens.

Many parents spoke about how they would prefer their children not see anything LGBTQ related and that perhaps those topics should be “locked away,” similar to how Blockbuster stores protected pornographic content.

However, many objected that this was narrow-minded and that the content in these children's books is age appropriate and important to experience, if the parent allows.

“There are some people who do not want those diverse stories read, especially if those stories represent the experiences of LGBTQ community or people of color,” said Jessica Fredrickson, a Parker resident. “Both of those experiences are represented in titles discussed here tonight.”

According to the Challenged Materials in Colorado Public Library 2021, released in September 2022, there were 20 challenges in 2021. Most of the challenged items’ audiences were children (57%) and young adult (26%). Of the 20 challenges, nine items concerned LGBTQ topics and three concerned race/racism.

As a result, two items were dropped, 3 items were moved and 13 had no change.

Michael Clarkson, a Castle Rock father, spoke about how he struggled with his identity as a child, being told that purple was unsuitable for boys.

“I’m a member of the LGBTQ community; my son is trans — I didn’t get to grow up seeing the LGBTQ community represented in any form of media, but my son gets to see it,” Clarkson said. “Being exposed to the entire spectrum of humanity is key to the emotional wellbeing and development of children as they’re growing up.

“These children that grow up that don’t get gender affirming care are significantly more likely to commit suicide,” Clarkson continued. “I’d rather have an alive son than a dead daughter.”

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Public safety reporter in DougCo, Denver metro. Previously: Pueblo Chieftain public safety reporter, Athens Messenger associate editor. Caffeine fiend, cat mom and lover of all things spooky.

Broomfield, CO

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