Correction, Nov. 23, 2022: This article has been corrected to properly identify the person who started a petition in support of Homer Library Director Dave Berry’s decision to leave challenged children’s book in the children’s section. Lisa “Red” Asselin started that petition.
Update: This article has been updated to clarify that the challenged children’s books are temporarily out of circulation while Library Advisory Board members review them.
Public testimony on the issue of removing books from the Homer Public Library children’s section which a citizens group says has LGBQT+ content ran almost four hours at Tuesday’s Library Advisory Board meeting, with 68 people speaking in person or via Zoom.
Following testimony, the board voted to discuss and potentially vote on the appeal at its Jan. 17 meeting. Board chair Kate Finn said that would give board members time to read the 56 books (including some in a series) on a list petitioners asked be removed from the children’s section.
The books in question have been temporarily moved to Homer Public Library Director Dave Berry’s office so the board members can review them, but as each title is read by all members, it is put back into circulation in the children’s section.
About 150 people filled the Cowles Council Chambers, with a standing-room crowd at times overflowing into the City Hall lobby — the largest crowd since the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2017 hearings that led to an attempted recall of three Homer City Council members.
A citizen’s group had submitted a petition with about 510 signatures asking that 54 children’s books be removed from the children’s section. Library Director Berry denied the petition, and petition leader Madeline Veldstra appealed his decision to the Library Advisory Board as outlined in the Homer Public Library Collection Development Policy. Tuesday night, the board listened — but took no action — to testimony on the appeal.
Berry suggested three responses to the appeal: uphold his decision, grant the appeal and remove out of the children’s section all the books, or remove only some individual titles.
Public testimony on Tuesday ran about two-to-one in support of Berry’s decision to deny Veldstra’s petition and leave what she said were LGBQT+ related books in the children’s section. Several speakers identified themselves as gay or lesbian and spoke about how having children’s books like “Heather Has Two Mommies” reflected the reality of their children’s lives. One gay man called the attempt to remove LGBQT+ books “homophobic.”
Most of the testimony in support of removing the books came from parents or grandparents who said the innocence of their children should be protected and not exposed to what they called sexual themes. They made a point of saying they didn’t want to ban the books and sought to move them to their own section outside of the children’s library.
In October, Veldstra sent Berry a list of books in the children’s section she said her research showed are marketed as LGBQT+ related.
Veldstra’s petition read, “We, the undersigned residents and parents of Homer and surrounding areas, do hereby petition that the Homer Public Library remove all books promoting transgender ideology, drag queens, homosexuality, and all other books which are intended to indoctrinate children in LGBTQ+ ideologies from the children’s and juvenile sections of the library. If the library must have them, we petition that a section outside of the children’s area be designated for such books so that parents who do not wish for their children to stumble across these confusing ideas may allow their children to browse freely.”
Following the notice of an appeal, Lisa “Red” Asselin, started a counter-petition in support of Berry’s decision. By Tuesday, about 970 had signed the petition.
That petition reads:
“Any decision to remove the selected books from the juvenile collection undermines the Library’s policy for free access to information, including for minors: ‘Individual or group prejudice about a particular item or type of material in the collection may not preclude its use by others.’ Creating a special section for select children’s books is violating policy and effectively isolating both the information contained in those books and the families who identify with the characters and themes in those books.
“In addition, we the undersigned actively support the inclusion of LGBTQ+ representation in our children’s library as a reflection and celebration of the diverse community we live in, within a free nation.”
The petition cited library policy that states: “Responsibility for the reading choices and information access by children rests with the parents and legal guardians, not the Library …. The Library encourages parents to be involved with their children’s reading and library use and will work with parents to find materials they deem appropriate for their children.”
Here are the titles the petitioners have asked to be moved outside of the children’s section of the Homer Public Library. All the books are available in print at the library, and the titles with asterisks are available in other formats:
1. A Crow of His Own by Megan Dowd Lambert; 2. A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Marlon Bundo; 3. A Family is a Family is a Family by Sara O’Leary; 4. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson*; 5. Big Bob, Little Bob by James Howe; 6. Black is a Rainbow Color by Angela Joy; 7. Drawing on Walls: A Story of Keith Haring by Matthew Burgess; 8. Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers; 9. George by Alex Gino*; 10. Grandad’s Camper by Harry Woodgate; 11. Heather Has Two Mommies by Lesléa Newman; 12. Home at Last by Vera B. Williams; 13. It’s Okay to Be Different by Todd Parr; 14. Julián at the Wedding by Jessica Love; 15. Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love; 16. Keeper by Kathi Appelt; 17. Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing by Kay Haring; 18. Littles and How They Grow by Kelly DiPucchio; 19. Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson and others*. (The library owns volumes 1-12 of the Young Adult graphic novel, plus Lumberjanes: Unicorn Power!, a novelization for younger readers.; a. Lumberjanes: Beware the Kitten Holy; b. Lumberjanes: Friendship to the Max; c. Lumberjanes: A Terrible Plan; d. Lumberjanes: Out of Time; e. Lumberjanes: Band Together; f. Lumberjanes: Sink or Swim; g. Lumberjanes: A Bird’s-Eye View; h. Lumberjanes: The Infernal Compass; i. Lumberjanes: On a Roll; j. Lumberjanes: Parents’ Day; k. Lumberjanes: Time After Crime; l. Lumberjanes: Jackalope Springs Eternal; m. Lumberjanes: Unicorn Power!; 20. Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino; 21. Mr. Watson’s Chickens by Jarrett Dapier; 22. My Footprints by Bao Phi; 23. My House by Byron Barton (item is on order but has not arrived yet); 24. One Family by George Shannon*; 25. Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag by Rob Sanders; 26. Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall*; 27. Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg; 28. Stella Brings the Family by Miriam B. Schiffer*; 29. Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution by Rob Sanders; 30. The Adventures of Honey and Leon by Alan Cumming; 31. The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell; 32. The Hips on the Drag Queen go Swish, Swish, Swish by Lil Miss Hot Mess; 33. The Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue*; 34. The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris* (The library owns volumes 1-3. a. The Magic Misfits); b. The Magic Misfits: The Second Story; c. The Magic Misfits: The Minor Third; 35. The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman*; 36. The Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Streets by Gayle E. Pitman; 37. They, She, He, Me: Free to Be! by Maya Christina Gonzalez; 38. This Day In June by Gayle E. Pitman; 39. Two Grooms on a Cake: the Story of America’s First Gay Wedding by Rob Sanders; 40. Were I Not a Girl: The Inspiring and True Story of Dr. James Barry by Lisa Robinson; 41. What Are Your Words? A Book About Pronouns by Katherine Locke.