Abilene City Council pauses library book policy changes to consult city attorney

The council will take action at its next meeting on March 2.

By Paige Taylor, KACUFebruary 24, 2023 9:27 am, ,

From KACU:

Thursday’s Abilene City Council meeting drew a large crowd as citizens continued to express concerns over material found in the city’s libraries.

The Abilene City Council was supposed to take action on the collection development policy for the Abilene Public Library. However, the item was removed from this meeting’s agenda due to a request to consult with the city attorney before they vote.

But citizens who had gathered to speak on the issue during the meeting’s public comment period went ahead with their planned comments. More than a dozen people spoke against the proposed policy, with many reading excerpts and holding up pictures from books they deem obscene, including “Lucky, The Handmaid’s Tale” and “All Boys Aren’t Blue.”

Connie Howard, who read a passage from “Foul is Fair,” says this is a fight for children’s minds and souls. “I’m not wanting to censor books. I’m wanting children not to be exposed at young ages to such trash. It wasn’t in a library when I went to school. Matter of fact, books were put out for parents to go through before they were ever put on the shelves.”

Kayla Hewett was one of a small number of residents who spoke in favor of the proposed policy changes. Hewett says that context is important, and there are disagreements when it comes to what age is appropriate for certain books. “Those are decisions parents can make, taking into account their individual family’s beliefs and values and maturity level of their children. The fact that some parents would prefer their children not to read these books at any age, does not mean the public library can choose to exclude them for all patrons.”

Abilene City Manager, Robert Hanna, noted that most of the books mentioned are found in the adult sections. He says this topic is very personal to him, and he takes it very seriously. “And to think that I don’t or suggest that I don’t is offensive. I’m offended. I’m offended by some of the stuff you’ve read. I wish to God I could pull it from the shelves. That’s not the way the law works. I apologize for being emotional on this topic, but it is something very dear to me.”

The council will take action on this item at the next city council meeting on March 2.

Correction: In a previous version of this story KACU reported that residents who were in favor of the new policy language read excerpts from books they found offensive. Those people, including Connie Howard, who was quoted, were protesting the new language. Kayla Hewitt, who was also quoted, spoke in favor of the policy.

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