Nearly a month after a resident group sought to ban or restrict books at the Wellington Public Library, the city council voted in favor of a resolution that would prevent the council from restricting access to materials in the library.
Resolution 5-2 passed. Regent John Jeter voted against the decision, and Regent David Wiegand voted to abstain, which counts as a “no” vote, City Manager Patti Garcia said.
The decision was brought up by Trustee Rebekka Dailey in response to a board meeting on August 9, when a group of residents led by Kristen Jeter – wife of trustee John Geeter – expressed concern about “sexual content” in the list of books available at Wellington Public Library. Kristen Jeter submitted a list of 19 books to the board that included such popular titles as “Fifty Shades of Gray” by E.L. James, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky, and “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison.
Kristen Jeter said during an August board meeting that she had concerns about books that “go into too much detail about a sexual act,” and that they are not appropriate for children. In her comments Tuesday night, Kristen Jeter referred to the books as “pornographic material,” and said the public library should not “certify children for reading pornography without parental permission.”
At the August 9 meeting, some residents demanded that the book be banned. Kristen Jeter told the board on Tuesday that she never wanted to ban books but wanted the library to impose more restrictions so that children could not access books without a parent’s permission. During the August 9 meeting, I asked the board of directors to place 19 books where children would not be able to access them without permission from an adult.
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The vast majority of residents who thronged to the boardroom on Tuesday made public comments to the board in favor of the resolution effectively outlawing any ban on books in the library.
“Kids deserve a place to go to explore and learn,” said Wellington resident Dylan DeLihoe. Delehoy opened his remarks by saying that the need for the resolution “paints a sad picture of our city”.
A younger Wellington resident also chose to address the board of directors.
“I’m not being rude, but you can’t tell me what I can and can’t read,” Sienna Zadina said.
Comments from both residents and trustees expressed a desire for the town to find common ground.
“We need to come together and do what’s best for this community,” said John Hunter, a Wellington resident. Hunter described the decision as a good step forward for the community. “We can find a way around this.”
Many of the comments brought tears to the public and guardians as two residents shared strong personal testimonies of surviving suicide attempts and sexual assault as public libraries gave them access to books that made them feel understood and less isolated.
After just over an hour of public comment, the board took a five-minute break before making their own comments and voting on the resolution.
Loyal Tim Mayor Ashley MacDonald thanked residents who “had the courage to share the stories of survivors today. I don’t have the courage to share my survivor’s story today, but had it not been for the public library, MacDonald would have stopped and choked her tears before continuing with her comments.” “I didn’t get my education from pornography.”
Dailey also spoke about the decision to refer to the books as pornography.
“The allegation that (library) employees provide child pornography is clearly not true, it is disgusting,” Dailey said.
“This isn’t about left or right, this is about parenting,” MacDonald said. “I don’t want anyone in this room telling me how to raise my child and I’m not going to tell you how to raise kids.”
As the acting library board, said John Jeter, their job is to make decisions about what books do and don’t end up in the library, something the library already does regularly. He said he could not support the decision because it did not “support the mission of the library.”
David Weigand, who ultimately abstained, said he would like to discuss the decision in a working session to include terms, as discussed by Jon Gaiter, to develop guidance on how the Library Board makes decisions about which titles to include. He also said that he would support the development of information for parents to inform them of the content of some of the books available in the library.
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Trustee Shirrell Tietz also said she would support a discussion of the Library Board’s guidance on how to determine which titles are included in the library, but ultimately voted in favor of the resolution.
Mayor Clare Chaos agreed with MacDonald that this was ultimately a paternity issue.
Guardian Brian Mason also voted in favor of the resolution, noting his time in the Marine Corps, where he said he fought to protect those very liberties.
After the board made its decision, Kristen Jeter told Colorado she was happy to bring up the issue and hopes that by highlighting, the board may make changes later.
“It’s sad that they don’t want to protect the children,” she said.
What in the resolution approved by the Council?
An official resolution passed by the City Council on Tuesday night sets out the mission of Wellington Public Library “to serve and reflect each member of our community in an enlightened, democratic and united approach.”
It also states that the board cannot “censor, suppress, remove, censor, or place age restrictions on ideas or information in our public library.”
Wellington Public Library has age limits for library cards. You must be at least 12 years old in order to register for a library card, and anyone under 18 must have a parent’s signature on an application for a library card, Wellington library staff told the Coloradoan newspaper. Children 11 and younger can still review the books, but they must be on their parents’ library card.
“The vision of the Wellington Public Library is to advance curiosity, knowledge, and exploration while promoting a safe and inclusive place for our community,” RossLaGenèse, director of Wellington Public Library, said in a statement emailed to Colorado. “The Library is grateful for the support of the Mayor, Board of Trustees and the community to continue the Library’s mission of providing access for all.”