Guest Column

Library Board Doesn’t Understand Constitutional Rights

Most disturbing is the complete lack of transparency and opportunity for public input

By Valeri McGarvey

In another very thinly disguised indication of their intent to censor books, three of the Flathead County Library Board of Trustees once again betrayed their duty to protect our community’s right to read. This group of trustees voted to pass a policy change proposed by David Ingram, in a complete dismissal of usual policy procedure, which will enable them to vote to remove Gender Queer from the library collection, in spite of strong support and interest from the community in this title. 

It is a very specific policy for selection criteria that is clearly directed at one page of this graphic novel housed upstairs in the adult reading section. This policy was not well thought out; in fact, the specific language of this policy likely applies to many books and DVDs currently in the collection. Despite recommendations and strong censure from senior library staff, three of the five trustees voted to accept the new policy. Most disturbingly, was the complete lack of transparency and opportunity for public input. Most of the policy motions passed at the meeting were not agreed upon during the policy committee’s three-hour meeting earlier this month, nor were they included in the board materials. The first time the public heard the language of these motions were when they were made at the May board meeting. It seemed clear to more than just me that these motions were decided on prior to the meeting in what I can only assume was another back-channel method by some of the trustees. Once again ignoring the advice of senior library staff, the board plunged ahead to put the library in danger of a lawsuit for censorship. 

No matter how you want to phrase it, it is still censorship. Trustee Adams was unsuccessful in removing words that he has “no appreciation for,” words that are “buzz words” and apparently meaningless to a public library: words such as Censorship and Intellectual Freedom. He failed this time, but we need to keep paying attention. A final thought: in David Ingram’s candidacy for state Legislature, he has claimed in his campaign materials to be a protector of our constitutional rights. This latest action proves that he does not understand what those rights are, or that he wants to pick and choose which rights he supports.

Valeri McGarvey lives in Kalispell.