Hamilton East Public Library board ratifies revised collection policy


The Hamilton East Public Library Board of Trustees ratified its revised library collection policy during its Dec. 21 meeting. The policy was revised in November.

The revised policy states that patrons can request reconsideration of specific items in the collection within a specific collection/location at the library by completing a Request for Reconsideration Form online or at any library location. The library director, along with the manager and selection librarian, will review the request and the director will respond to the request within six weeks.

“The material remains in the collection during this review,” the new policy states. “The material will be reviewed in its entirety and not on portions taken out of context.”

If the requestor does not find the director’s response acceptable, the board will appoint a review committee to read, view or listen to the material. The committee consists of a librarian on the library staff, a current board member and a local citizen not affiliated with the library and appointed by the board.

The policy states that the committee will have reasonable time to read, view or listen to the material in question, and will make a formal recommendation to the board. The board will consider the recommendation and the original request before making a final determination.

In November, board Vice President Michelle Payne — who was secretary at the time — proposed an action plan for the collection development policy following a survey of patrons. She stated that in 533 survey responses, “Stop book banning/censorship/Improve board/Trust librarians” were recurring themes.

The HEPL board already had suspended and then rescinded a controversial policy that led to library staff removing numerous books from the teen section and reshelving them in the general/adult section of the library.

“The public has spoken on this topic — many times and in multiple formats,” Payne stated in her proposed action plan. “The majority of public comments this board has heard at meetings plus the majority of emails we have received during the past year have indicated that patrons do not support the (reshelving) policy.”

Payne stated that some sections from the 2022ƒ policy should remain intact. For example, the policy provides information on the role of parents in the library.

“Parents should be aware that children have access to all materials in the library,” the policy states. “Library staff do not monitor or censor the reading selections of children. It is the responsibility of the parent to monitor their child’s access to materials while in the library.”

The policy encourages parents to accompany children in the library.

“Parents or legal guardians have the right and responsibility to determine what is appropriate for their own children,” the policy states. “The library relies on parents to be involved with their child’s use of the library and to guide their child’s selection of library materials in keeping with their family values.”

Payne also stated she wants to keep the inclusion of a review committee for the reconsideration request.

For solutions, Payne stated she wants to conduct a “parental responsibility” information campaign through library communications, among other solutions. She also stated material moved from the Teen Zone to the general/adult stacks could be reshelved as needed and as determined by librarians.

“We might never fully agree on revisions to this policy, yet all of us can agree to a fresh start,” Payne stated. “Then, we can truly work toward future compromises related to the collection and for the overall success of this library and its staff, management and director. It’s fiscally responsible and reasonable to act now, and our patrons will ultimately benefit from all of us moving forward.”