MILLBURY, Mass. – Call it the library’s “Universal Understanding”: what you borrow, you return.
But it’s a concept that has apparently been lost on an unidentified patron of the Millbury Public Library – which published four books last fall.
“They were checked out on her library card back in October,” said Ann Dallair, Millbury Library Director.
As a member of the CWMARS (Central and Western Massachusetts Automated Resource Sharing) library consortium, Millbury automatically renews borrowed items so they can be checked out for a total of six weeks.
But when the six weeks came, the four books never came back – prompting CWMARS to send a request for the books – or enough money (about $ 70) to cover them.
At that point, the patron sent an email back.
“She clearly stated that she did not intend to return these items,” Dallair said. “Since she does not believe that these objects belong, as she would quote, unquote say, in a children’s library.”
The four books are all about LGBT issues – and none were put on the shelf in the children’s department of the Millbury Library. In fact, everyone was placed in the section for young adults – physically remote from the children’s area.
Three of the titles, “Jay’s Gay Agenda”, “Gender Queer” and “Camp” are intended for readers aged fourteen and up.The fourth book, “Lawn Boy,” should have been in the library’s fiction area for adults – an honest mistake from the library side, Dallair said.
This is something she communicated to the patron who had not returned the books – with the promise that “Lawn Boy” would be properly shelved when they got it back.
They still have not got the original books back – but that does not mean the Millbury Library is missing the titles – thanks to a Jeff Raymond, a former Library Trustee – and now with the group “Friends of the Millbury Library.”
“I had heard at the board meeting that a number of books had been taken out and not returned,” Raymond said. It prompted the lifelong resident of Millbury to donate some other books to cover the missing. But posts on social media about the incident left a bad taste in Raymond – and that was when he decided to do something bigger.
He organized a book drive centered around the missing four titles.
“It exploded quickly,” Raymond said. “And what I thought would be about a dozen books was promised over 250. So now I have enough for all the central Massachusetts libraries and a little more.”
Raymond said it is important to have LGBT books in the library available to teens because of possible struggles with sexuality. But he has taken some heat for his activism – with some even accusing him of helping pedophiles.
Raymond said he did what he did because freedom of choice is important – for everyone.
“It’s not up to anyone else to decide,” he said, “if you do not want it in your house, do not take it out of the library.”
As for the patron who keeps the books – until they are returned, Dallair said she has lost privileges at the dozens of libraries that make up the CWMARS consortium. Worse, she could face fines of $ 100 to $ 500 for each of the missing books, depending on what the trustees decide to do when they meet next month.
On Tuesday night, the Massachusetts Family Institute responded to an earlier request from Boston 25 News for a comment on the situation in Millbury. “There are a growing number of books with explicit sexual themes being marketed to young teens and even to pre-teens,” said Mary Ellen Siegler, director of communications and research for the organization. ”
“Shockingly, our public libraries include these books in their collections. It used to be that adults, like the local librarian, understood that it was inappropriate and harmful to subject minors to fornication, sexual material. No more. There is a large amounts of research showing the harm of exposing children to sexual content.Early exposure to pornography has been linked to poor mental health, negative sexual behaviors and attitudes, viewing pornography in adulthood and more.Parents should be wary of the books that promoted to their children and should no longer assume that their local librarian makes wise choices when it comes to book selection for children and teens, as well as city and town management should ensure children’s health and innocence in their communities by implementing policies that protect them against graphic sexual content in local libraries. ” Siegler continued.
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