Tyler library board hears more citizen comments on book acquisitions

Public comments about book selections for the Tyler library continued to dominate board business during a Jan. 26 meeting that included a 45-minute presentation from an acquisition expert.

Laurel Crawford, head of the collections department at University of North Texas, discussed the profession and common procedures used throughout the state.

More than 50 people attended the meeting, filling the city council chambers and spilling out into the hallway. 

Three police officers also attended the meeting and at least twice, an officer had to speak out to keep order during the public input portion of the meeting.

Note: The following selection of comments do not include all the speakers who commented before the Tyler Library Board during the meeting. The comments offered here highlight the selected speakers’ main points. The entire meeting is viewable here.

Editor’s note: Because the comments at the board meeting were pulled from a video recording, The Tyler Loop is not able to verify the spelling of some of the speakers featured.

Robin Lee

“I’m not a book banner. I’m not a radical, take everything away, but I am a huge content person and I can piggy back on what some other speakers have said about looking for something to relate to and looking for something to connect to on the shelves.

“But I actually do believe there are limits that are better for our kids and better for our society, that I think almost all of us can agree upon and then figure out what to do with those limits. I think it’s a conversation that needs to be had, needs to be transparent and needs to be overwhelmingly respectful.”

Lee then read a portion of the book “Beyond Magenta” in which a young person recalls having oral sex.

“I don’t know on what planet there can be a discussion about a six-year-old loving oral sex that doesn’t break our heart. And the people who are looking for connection for that are not the kind of people who want good things for my kids or your kids or anybody’s kids.

“I would tell you inevitably anytime there is a six-year-old talking about enjoying oral sex, there is somebody who needs to go to prison, because kids do not learn that on their own.”

Rainey Castañeda

“The world at large is not responsible for raising your children. The world is not responsible for their moral fiber. You’re going to have to parent your own children. If you don’t want your child to read a certain book, perhaps don’t seek it out.

“It’s 2022. It’s a public library. It is publicly funded which means the public, all of them, get a say on what goes in it. And the public at large is not just a white, straight, Christian.”

Marylynn Smith

“Books are not one size fits all.

“My book group is not always in agreement, but we are willing to listen and learn from each other and the authors we read. Our Tyler community is diverse with varied tastes and tolerance levels just as my book group.

“It’s not easy growing up in East Texas if you’re not straight, white and Christian. Our neighbors of color deserve the chance to read history from their own viewpoints. Jewish and Muslim citizens must see themselves in stories as I did.

“Our LGTBQ community members need access to books with romance between same sex couples, which, by the way, is not pornography. And these books should be found in our public library, a city service funded by all citizens, where patrons have the freedom to choose for themselves what to read or what not to read.”

Cynthia Gage

“I think there is way too little compromise in our society these days. People have a tendency to be on one side or the other, and I sympathize and can understand some of the speakers today. 

“If in a different setting, for instance, if a person was at a playground and showed a child something he could be arrested for, that kind of material should not be in our library.”

Carter Rainey

“Removing any materials from the library because people find these materials offensive, distasteful or against their personal beliefs works counter to the principle of the library being the core of a free marketplace of ideas. Not only does it run counter to that principle but violates the principles enshrined in our constitution.”

Caroline Sanchez

Sanchez told the board she read the book “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” and believes it should be part of the library’s collection.

“This book is not porn. This book is an honest, emotional coming out story of a man who learns to love and accept who he is. Reading this book doesn’t make one gay as reading the Bible doesn’t make one a Christian.

“The person who seeks out this book has already started asking questions about themselves and their sexuality. The person who seeks out this book is someone who is in need of answers to make sense of the confusion they are already feeling.

“Banning books such as this, a resource that someon can turn to for help – because they have no one to turn to, because they have no one to discuss their feelings to, because they are to scared to talk with mom or dad because they know how their parents feel about homosexuality – is wrong and could cause that statistic [suicide rates in LGTBQ community] to increase.

“If books such as this can bring someone a sense of belonging, this book can help save lives.”

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Vanessa E. Curry is a journalist with nearly 35 years of experience as a writer, editor and instructor. She earned a B.S. degree in Mass Communication from Illinois State University and a MSIS degree from The University of Texas at Tyler with emphasis on journalism, political science and criminal justice. She has worked newspaper in Marlin, Henderson, Tyler and Jacksonville, Texas as well as in Columbia Tennessee. Vanessa also was a journalism instructor at the UT-Tyler and Tennessee Tech University. Her writing has been recognized by the State Bar of Texas, Texas Associated Press Managing Editors, Dallas Press Club, and Tennessee Press Association. She currently is working on publishing two books: "Lies and Consequences: The Trials of Kerry Max Cook," and "A Gold Medal Man, A biography of Kenneth L. "Tug" Wilson.