BIBLIOPHILES — Piper Wiles and Linda Pingrey hold signs protesting book removals in school media libraries outside of a Volusia County School Board meeting April 25.

Questions about whether Volusia County’s libraries watch what books and other materials come into them for use by their patrons — and if the libraries field or have fielded demands for the removal of any items — have come to the fore.

The attention-getting subject emerged April 18, as the County Council considered abolishing the Library Advisory Board, rather than appointing new members to it.

That line of discussion was a springboard for other matters.

“How do we monitor what type of books are actually being put in our libraries, so that inappropriate material is not there where children can have access to it?” Council Member Don Dempsey suddenly asked. “How do we monitor the materials that are actually being out in the libraries, so that if we have something controversial we can vote on it or the board can vote on it? How do we monitor what’s being given to the kids?”

County Attorney Michael Dyer said there is a process for handling complaints about books and other materials available to the public, and County Manager George Recktenwald recommended the council, including its five new members, get a full briefing on the county’s library system.

“I would like to have [Library Services Director] Lucinda [Colee] come in and talk about what we do and how we do it,” Recktenwald told the council. “We have a very large library system. … I would like her to come and describe what we have.”

Dempsey readily agreed to have the county administration bring back information on the libraries and how books and other materials are selected for public use.

“Is there some process now?” Dempsey pressed.

“Are you thinking of this for children only or for adults, as well?” Council Member Troy Kent asked Dempsey.

“I would think adults could handle this,” Dempsey replied.

“I just wanted to make sure you weren’t talking about telling adults what they can and cannot read,” Kent said.

In response to a query from The Beacon regarding the targeting of particular books or other materials for possible removal from the libraries, county government spokesman Clayton Jackson said there is a review process.

“The library has a reconsideration of library materials policy,” Jackson wrote in an email to The Beacon. “A library user may complete a reconsideration form stating why they would like the item reconsidered. The firm is available at all branches. Library staff review the item and provide any additional information to the collection development manager, who decides the outcome. If the library user requests further consideration beyond this step, the request is escalated to the library director for a final determination.”

Currently, Jackson noted, there are “no complaints under review.”

The most recent challenge, however, came “earlier this month.”

“The [Library Services] division received a request for reconsideration of a board book entitled, ‘ABC of Equality,’” he wrote. “When considering the audience being under the age of five, the book was removed out of an abundance of caution because it was determined that the book was too complex for learners in this age group to conceptualize.”

That book, written by Chana Ginelle Ewing for children, uses letters of the alphabet to teach words. For example, “A is for Ability, B is for Belief,” intended to teach children that all people should be treated fairly, according to the website

For his part, County Chair Jeff Brower said he wants to learn more about “how they’re managing the children’s sections of the libraries.”

In any event, the County Council’s future discussion of the libraries and how materials are chosen for purchase, may attract a large audience.

“You might have a pretty good turnout because there are a lot of people concerned about this,” Dempsey said.

That presentation on the county’s library system may come as soon as May 16, which will be an evening meeting.

Volusia County has a network of 14 public libraries. Library Services has a 2023 budget of almost $32.7 million. The agency has almost $9.8 million in its fund balance, or reserves. Most of the funding for the libraries, more than $21.7 million, comes from an ad valorem tax of 46.35 cents per $1,000 of taxable property value imposed countywide.

The biggest operating expense is, not surprisingly, personnel, which accounts for almost $11.8 million.

Council Member Jake Johansson moved to “get rid of the Library Advisory Board,” as a cost-cutting measure, as the council looks ahead to budget season and concerns about inflation-driven increases in the costs of wages, fuel, insurance and other items.

On a note related to the selection of library materials, The Beacon asked Jackson if the county’s public libraries carry popular monthly periodicals that many men find interesting.

“Volusia County Public Library does not subscribe to Playboy, Penthouse or any other such magazines, nor have any library users approached us about subscribing and sending such publications to the library,” he concluded.

Where this started
The discussion regarding “appropriate materials” comes on the heels of a similar movement in Volusia County Schools. Like the library system, the school district has a policy for “book reconsideration.” Recent School Board meetings have been packed with both supporters and detractors of the policy, which is set to be updated based on new state law.
Supporters say that some books, particularly those dealing with sexuality, abuse, and drug use, are inappropriate for children in high school, while detractors say in addition to there already being a rigorous vetting process, removing the books amounts to censorship.
— Eli Witek


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