PHOTO #1: Mayor Jeff Bauknight addresses the Victoria Public Library advisory board during a meeting Sept. 13 in the library’s Bronte Room.
The Victoria Public Library advisory board on Sept. 13 adopted an updated collection development policy that affirms the Victoria Public Library’s commitment to offering materials that reflect the interests of the Victoria community without excluding different points of view.
At the start of the meeting, Mayor Jeff Bauknight thanked the board for their hard work and clarified that the City Council does not recommend removing or relocating books because of LGBTQ content.
“We do not want to violate residents’ first amendment rights or attack LGBTQ perspectives,” Bauknight said.
At previous meetings, City Attorney Allison Lacey has advised library board members about court rulings related to library collections. Previous rulings have found that removing or relocating materials because of LGBTQ content is a violation of first amendment rights.
Discussion of age-appropriateness continues
Bauknight told the board members that most City Council members wanted the board to take some type of action regarding what some believe to be sexual content (regardless of sexuality) in the children’s and young adult sections of the library. He suggested two possible solutions: moving the books to the adult section or creating a separate section for certain children’s books so that only a parent or guardian can access them.
Later in the meeting, City Manager Jesús A. Garza explained to the board that such practices could not be included in the collection development policy because they relate to placement of books in the library, not inclusion or exclusion of materials. The board expressed interest in learning more about library staff’s book placement processes. These processes will be discussed at a future meeting.
Under City code and state law, it is illegal to display or distribute harmful materials to minors. However, as Lacey has explained at previous library board meetings, sexual content does not necessarily meet the legal definition of “harmful” if it appears in a literary, artistic or scientific context.
The City code is available online at www.victoriatx.gov/citycode. State law may be viewed at www.statutes.capitol.texas.gov.
During the board’s August meeting, the board approved the creation of an optional restriction for juvenile library cards. Parents or legal guardians can choose to sign their children up for a restricted juvenile library card, which means the parent or guardian must be physically present when materials are checked out, and only items with a juvenile call number can be checked out on the card.
A collection for our community’s needs
The updated policy clarifies that the library should consider “recommendations from the public” and “current and anticipated needs and interests of the public” when developing its collection.
Library Director Dayna Williams-Capone explained that library staff already take these things into account, and the updated policy simply makes that clearer.
In a column published earlier this year, Williams-Capone used the library’s religion section as an example of how the library builds its collection based on predominant viewpoints without excluding alternative perspectives.
“Because our community is mostly Christian, our collection primarily features books about Christianity, and these are the titles that tend to be checked out the most,” Williams-Capone said. “However, we also offer books for residents who want to read about many other world religions.”
Community input leads to new books
Williams-Capone reminded the board that the library takes community input seriously, and even if a request is denied, it can still influence the library’s collection.
When a resident asks the library to remove a book from its collection, the resident has the option of suggesting a different book to take its place. In the past year, the library has received 46 removal requests that included recommendations of different books.
Library staff reviewed the requests to determine whether the suggested alternative books would be a good fit for the library’s collection. As a result of this process, the library added 28 books to its collection that offer different perspectives from those discussed in the contested books.
“Including a book in our collection doesn’t mean we are endorsing it or that we value one book over another,” Williams-Capone said. “Our goal is to provide access to a variety of books and ideas for residents to choose from.”
Explaining the appeals process
The updated policy includes a detailed description of the process of appealing the library director’s decision if the director decides not to remove a book. The update describes the practices that the library already uses for its process of appealing books to the library advisory board. It is not a policy change.
The description also clarifies that the board’s decisions in the appeals process should be based on the library’s collection development policy and their own assessment of the community’s needs and interests.
To learn more about the Victoria Public Library, visit www.victoriatx.gov/library.
To read the updated collection development policy, visit www.victoriatx.gov/library-policies.