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The director of the Pella Public Library spoke at last month’s library board meeting in support of keeping the book “Gender Queer,” a vulgar, sexually inappropriate book, on the shelf. The director, a person called Mara Strickler, noted public libraries are “guided by the principle of intellectual freedom.”

“Which is defined as the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction,” she said. “Regardless of any one person’s personal opinion of an item, the removal of a title or limiting access to an item due to its content goes directly against library policies and the professional ethics of intellectual freedom and the freedom to read.”

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Strickler said selections of materials are made to “provide depth and diversity of viewpoints” to the collection.

“The inclusion of the book ‘Gender Queer’ in the library’s collection is consistent with library policy and professional ethics,” she said.

Prior to purchasing the book, staff received a request from a member of the community for the book. Staff also read professional reviews of the title and evaluated the library’s existing collection on the subject.

“Using all of these criteria, as well as the fact that this is currently a high-demand title which is difficult to borrow from other libraries, library staff determined that it was an appropriate purchase for the adult collection,” Strickler said. “Per our policies, we provide materials for people of all ages and interests, and we respect parents and families to manage what materials are viewed and borrowed. Parents are expected to help their child know where they will find materials that will fit their interests and maturity and set appropriate boundaries for their child.”

Strickler said due to the book’s “mature subject matter,” it is shelved in the adult section.

“The book under discussion obviously does include some explicit content,” she said. “This does not violate Iowa law or library policy.”

The fact the book addresses issues such as gender identity, sexual identity, family dynamics, consent and body dysphoria, Strickler said it demonstrates literary value.

“It has a clear narrative and meets standards for both artistic and literary merit,” she said. “The removal of a title based upon content would not only go against the established role of the trustees and the existing policies approved by the library, but it would open the door to the removal of many other established works that have literary and artist merit, historical value and cultural significance.”

This doesn’t appear to be Strickler’s first go-round with a book being challenged. It appears while she was in Algona a group requested the book Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights be removed and replaced. The library kept the book, which is described as a “powerful argument” for killing an unborn baby as a “moral right and social good.”

The challenge then was resolved by discussing the library’s collection development policy with the group and agreeing to purchase a book of the group’s selection.

Strickler has also held prominent positions with the far-Left Iowa Library Association. She was incoming Vice President/President-Elect in 2018 when the Iowa Library Association received the 2018 Downs Intellectual Freedom Award from the faculty of the School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The Iowa Library Association was cited for “their sustained commitment” with these three examples:

  • 2015: For working with the American Library Association (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom to reinstate Sherman Alexie’s Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian in the Waterloo (IA) Community School District curriculum.
  • 2017: For defending the retention of Peter Chbosky’s Perks of Being a Wallflower in the AP English curriculum of Hempstead High School in Dubuque after the book was challenged.
  • 2018: For offering support and guidance to the Orange City Public Library following challenges to the inclusion of LGBTQ books in the library’s collection and a subsequent burning of those books by a nonresident that was shared on YouTube.

If you are not familiar, you can review the images Strickler is defending here.

Author: Jacob Hall

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