Ahead of the Meridan Library District budget hearing, dozens of people came forward during the public comment portion to share their positions on disbanding the Library District and banning the books.
However, this was not an item on the agenda. The public comment period lasted just over two hours on Wednesday evening. The lengthy meeting was prompted by efforts by a social media group called the Idaho Liberty Dogs, and others, to remove material that members found objectionable. A message from Meridian City Council Member Liz Strader drew attention, telling his followers, “extremists…literally want to dissolve the library district.”
At the start of the meeting, a council member indicated that he had received 50 written comments. 49 were in favor of the library catalog and one person was concerned.
Board Chair Megan Larsen told the room what the process of disbanding a library district would look like. First, a person would have to create a petition and obtain more than 50 qualified signatures from voters in the district, and then it would be submitted to the Ada County Board of Commissioners. They would then hold a public hearing within weeks of receiving the petition. After the hearing, the commission would have ten days to make an order regarding the petition, and eventually, an election would be held, and it would be up to the people to decide whether the district stays or goes.
“If Ada County Commissioners have determined that disbanding the library district of Idaho’s second-largest city is somehow consistent with state public policy regarding libraries, then a election takes place and voters will vote yes to dissolve the district or no not to dissolve the district,” Larsen said. “If a majority of voters vote yes to dissolve the district, all assets of the district, such as buildings, books and equipment, would be turned over to the County Commissioners for disposal.”
That didn’t stop people from showing up and sharing their thoughts on banning the books and breaking up the neighborhood. One side came together to demand that the library remain diverse, the other felt that certain books should not be available for children.
Maintain the status quo
Garret Castle, a resident of Idaho, shared his personal experience of being bullied as a child and how the library helped him understand what was happening and why it was happening.
“Basically the story was that a lot of people wanted to call me gay, and I wasn’t, and I could feel what it was. I didn’t know (at) 12 how to fight opinions of that kind of anger,” Castle said. “I think the thing we should remember today is that what we reflect in ourselves is what our children become. If we are angry and hateful, then our children will assume that, and they will treat the people around them that way. This is not what I want with my children. And so hopefully we still support diverse inclusion here.
There were over 40 people who came forward to testify in favor of maintaining a diverse library. Rebbeca Gomez was one of them.
“As a parent, I want my children to have access to various books, and I believe it is my responsibility to monitor what my children read, not the librarians and not the government restricting access to certain books is counter-intuitive to American ideals of freedom,” Gomez said. “We should be free within our society from oppressive restrictions and messages about our way of life, our behavior or our political opinions. freedom. This group that works to restrict what others can borrow laughs at the word. I ask our fellow Meridians to join me in supporting the library and ask other groups to leave the library alone .
Restrict or remove certain books
On the other side were people who believed that the library was placing pornographic books in the children’s section and demanded that these be removed. Many of them identified themselves as members of Concerned Citizens of Meridian. About 13 people expressed concerns about books in the library. One book referenced multiple times was Gender Queer, a graphic novel that explores gender identity and sexuality.
“We are not asking to ban books, nor to dissolve the library, which is a rumor started by some council members on social media. We are simply asking the library staff and the board to work with us to alleviate this issue and create a truly safe space for our children,” said Mike Hon. Hon ran for a seat on the Meridian City Council and later for the Idaho Legislature.
After the publication of this story, Strader rebutted Hon’s comment that library funding was a “rumor” and pointed to a screenshot of a Facebook post by Phil Reynolds, which she says helped organize people against the library.
“We had a face-to-face meeting on May 26 (with members of the library board)… We presented our concerns to this panel and found them to be quite unresponsive to our requests for cooperation” , said Hon. “We have suggested a number of other ideas to restrict this content to people of appropriate age, including verifying identity before payment and even just moving the books to an area clearly marked for adults. However, the panel would have none of that. They raised concerns about censorship and First Amendment violations. Although, as already stated, we support the right of people to write what they want to publish it, share it whenever they want.
Another woman who wanted to see some of these books made less accessible to children asked rhetorically how children who can’t buy cars can make decisions about sex.
“I agree with the comments that people are responsible parents and keep track of what their children read, but could you please put the books in the adult section and let the adults make the decision to take them to their children and educate their children as they would like that’s what I would like to see. And I think that’s a compromise. I’m not asking you to ban the books. I’m not saying you’re horrible because you put the books on the shelves,” Mary Bowers said. “Children can’t make the decisions that adults make. That’s why they don’t buy cars. They don’t buy houses. How can they make decisions about adult sex I’m not saying sex is wrong, sex is good and normal, but it doesn’t belong on the shelf where a five year old can grab the book and looking at these images is simply not acceptable.
Larsen noted that if a meeting to disband the library is scheduled, appropriate notice will be posted on social media and on the website.