GEORGETOWN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Elected officials in Georgetown Township have instructed the township superintendent to review any material in its public library that is not age-appropriate.
The finance committee gave the guidance during its Oct. 18 meeting, the minutes posted online show.
“Discussion took place on the appropriateness of some of the material in the Georgetown Township Public Library,” the minutes read. “The consensus of the Committee was to direct the Superintendent to review and remove any material that is deemed to be inappropriate for children and youth.”
It’s unclear whether the guidance means Superintendent Daniel Carlton will field complaints or whether he will make decisions proactively.
After a viewer contacted News 8 with worries about the instruction, News 8 started calling township leaders.
The board says the library falls under its jurisdiction because it is run by the township and funded by taxpayers.
Georgetown Township Supervisor Jim Wierenga, who said he was unavailable for a video interview Tuesday, said discussion of the matter was not based on a specific complaint but rather a response to a national conversation.
Wierenga said that the community must be good gatekeepers to protect kids.
The Georgetown Township library director declined to comment and referred News 8 to the township superintendent, Carlton.
Carlton, who declined to speak on camera, said he is not currently reviewing any books. He would not say if any specific titles will be under review in the near future.
The American Library Association says it is seeing more cases in which community members ask that a book be removed from a collection.
“We’ve seen an uptick in challenges, constant challenges to materials dealing with LGBTQIA persons and experiences,” Deborah Caldwell-Stone, the director of the Office of Intellectual Freedom with the ALA, told News 8.
The Georgetown Township Library says it has no recent book challenges.
In Kent County’s Byron Township, trustees recently discussed whether the graphic novel “Check, Please” — which is about a young hockey player who is gay and includes swearing and drinking — should be taken out of circulation, with some saying it was not appropriate for children. The executive director of Kent District Libraries said the title will not be removed from the library.
Reviewing Georgetown Township’s library policy manual, Caldwell-Stone said that if someone had a complaint, they should bring it to the attention of library staff and, if the matter is not resolved, write a written complaint for review.
The ALA says only trained librarians should make removal decisions to protect First Amendment rights and should follow established procedures.
“We firmly believe that a parent certainly has the right to guide their own child’s reading but we believe that they shouldn’t dictate what other families have access to,” Caldwell-Stone said.
“There’s an old saying in library land that every good public library has a book in it to offend everybody in a community because of the need to serve so many diverse information needs and interests,” she added.