Norris asks library board to withdraw from ALA, rescind collection policy
September 16, 2022
On September 15, Adrienne Norris, one of the organizers of the recall petition seeking to unseat four of the five Boundary County Library board members who either voted in June to adopt a new Materials Selection and Collection Development Chapter to its policy manual or who weren't there to cast a vote, sent the following letter to the library board, asking for immediate withdrawal from the American Library Association and repeal of the June policy amendment.
"On March 24th, former Director Glidden joined the American Library Association without prior authorization or approval from the Board of Trustees," she wrote. "To pay for this membership she used library funds that caused the library to go over budget under the category of ‘Dues and Subscriptions.” This in turn requires the Board to reallocate funds from another budget category to cover that deficit.
"Because Ms. Glidden was not authorized to spend these funds, and she was not authorized to unilaterally take action to join a membership organization, her unapproved action should be null and void.
"For this reason, I respectfully request that the Board cure this violation by adding an agenda item at the next scheduled meeting to terminate the membership with the ALA effective immediately.
"Additionally, I request that the Board adopt a clear policy stating that the Director must receive prior approval from the Board of Trustees before entering into contracts or memberships with third parties and that any future Director be fully comprised of the policies that govern this Library.
"Second, on June 16th, this Board did not merely update its collection policy. It adopted an entirely new policy using recommended language obtained from the American Library Association drafted by former Director Glidden without prior authorization of the Board.
"It is not the job of the Director to draft policy. It is the job of this Board. The policy proposed by Ms. Glidden and adopted by 4 of the 5 Board members may be in accordance with the views of the American Library Association, however it is not in accordance with Idaho Code.
"The ALA’s views and the views of Ms. Glidden do not take precedence over Idaho Law. Idaho Code 18-1513 states: 'It is hereby declared to be the policy of the legislature to restrain the distribution, promotion, or dissemination of obscene material, or of material harmful to minors. We do not have to guess about the definition of what Idaho Code considers to be obscene because it has been clearly defined in Idaho Code 18-1514. Material is obscene if it portrays: nudity, sexual conduct including any act of masturbation, homosexuality or sexual intercourse. The definition of 'materials' is anything tangible which is harmful to minors, whether derived through the medium of reading, observation or sound.'
"Libraries also use the Miller test when deciding which books can lawfully be placed on shelves. Without going into further detail and due to my time constraint of three minutes, I will simply say that sexually explicit materials showing sex acts will typically not pass the Miller test adopted by the United States Supreme Court.
"Therefore, I respectfully request that this Board add as an action agenda item to their next scheduled meeting that they will consider repealing the collection policy adopted on June 16th, and adopt a policy that is in accordance with state and federal laws.
"This is not a request to ban any books. This has never been a request to ban any books. This is a request that the policies that govern this Library and its collection choices be in accordance with the laws that govern our state. No more, no less.
"Finally, I respectfully request that the Board remove all the recently updated language from its bylaws that were obtained by associating with the ALA. Thank you for your consideration of these matters. I welcome any further discussion with any Board member regarding these requests."
The policy in question reads partially, "The Boundary County Library Board of Trustees recognizes that given the increasing emphasis on frankness and realism of materials including those that explore social, sexual and ethical issues, some members of the community may consider some materials to be controversial and/or offensive," the policy reads. "Selection of materials will not be affected by any such potential disapproval, and the Boundary County Library will not place materials on 'closed shelves' or label items to protect the public from their content. In the case of controversial issues or views, the Boundary County Library will not advance one perspective without regard for the other(s).
"Within the constraints of budget and space, the Boundary County Library will provide, to the extent practical, materials that present varied perspectives. Materials that are written in a sensational or inflammatory manner or that do not meet other selection criteria, especially with regard to accuracy of factual content, will typically not be selected."
The policy does not ignore or discount any of the diverse views of the community served by the public library, but recognizes that groups or individuals may find Boundary County Library materials that do not support their opinions, beliefs, or views, but establishes procedures open to all patrons through which individual concerns can be addressed, beginning with discussion, to written complaint through adjudication in a court of law.
"Relying on the principles of intellectual freedom and equal access for all, the Boundary County Library makes available a diversity of ideas and information to support an informed citizenry and a democratic society," the policy continues. "The Boundary County Library upholds the right of the individual to access information, even though the content may be controversial, unorthodox, or unacceptable to others."
The full policy can be read here.
The Miller Test is the primary legal test for determining whether expression constitutes obscenity. It is named after the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Miller v. California.
In that case, according to law professor David L. Hudson Jr., assistant professor of law at Belmont University, Melvin Miller mailed five unsolicited brochures to the manager of a restaurant and his mother containing explicit pictures and drawings of men and women engaged in a variety of sexual activities. Miller was prosecuted for violating a California law that made it a misdemeanor to knowingly distribute obscene material.
In his majority opinion, Chief Justice Warren Burger outlined what he called “guidelines” for jurors in obscenity cases. These guidelines are the three prongs of the Miller test. They are:
(1) Whether the average person applying contemporary community standards would find the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest;
(2) Whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law; and
(3) Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.
Miller argued that there should be a national obscenity standard, not one based on local community standards.
But the majority disagreed, writing that “it is neither realistic nor constitutionally sound to read the First Amendment as requiring that the people of Maine or Mississippi accept public depiction of conduct found tolerable in Las Vegas, or New York City.”
Mike Weland, Publisher
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