HAMILTON COUNTY, Ind. — There are lots of empty shelves at both branches of the Hamilton East Public Library as books were pulled to undergo a review of their content.
The review comes after the library board passed a new policy that said materials in the youth, middle school and high school sections should be “age appropriate.” Books containing pictures of nudity or sexual content or descriptions of sexual content can not be on the shelves in those sections.
The library said more than 18 thousand copies are impacted by the change.
The review is focused heavily on books in the library’s “Teen Zone” because leaders said the children’s collections are already in compliance with the new policy.
Staff will also be reviewing books for profanity and violence. Until the books can be reviewed they will be off the shelves and unavailable, according to a library spokesperson.
“I think it’s a good idea for parents to know what students are reading, their children especially,” said patron Jennifer Britting.
The changes have been controversial. Some, like Britting, say they want to have control over and know what their kids have access to.
“I believe in freedom of speech. I believe we should be able to say what we need to say,” Britting siad. “As a parent, because I have three children of my own, it would be a good idea for parents to have that conversation with their kids and know what they’re reading.”
Others we spoke to feel like decisions about what their kids can access is being made for them.
“We as parents get to make that choice and we should have to make that choice for our children not other people’s children,” said Shari Wilhite.
Board member Micah Beckwith, who supports the policy, said he believes it’s the board’s duty to set standards. He pushed back on characterizing this policy as a “ban,” saying the books will still be in the library but not in the teen section.
By the time the review is complete, the library said it believes roughly half the books that are currently housed in the teen section will have be moved to the general, adult collection.
In order to complete the review in one year, the library said it would need to hire extra staff. The organization said some books would need to be read cover to cover.
Estimates revealed that would cost the library upwards of $300 thousand. That cost would be for staff to not only complete the review, but maintain compliance going forward.
“I think the money could definitely be better spent elsewhere,” library patron Jacob Shillings said.
Shilling and others we spoke to said standards aren’t a bad thing as long as they don’t go too far.
“If you don’t want it at your house then don’t let [your kids] check it out,” Shilling said. “If they’re going to come by it in passing, you can’t prevent kids from seeing anything out in the real world.”
FOX 59 reached out to the entire library board for comment. Beckwith was the only member to return our call.
The library said as books are reviewed, they will be returned to the shelves in whatever sections is in compliance with the new policy.