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Hamilton East library board suspends policy for reviewing books for young adults

Hamilton East library suspends book reshelving policy

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — The Hamilton East Public Library Board on Thursday afternoon voted to suspend the moving of specific books in its young adult section pending a future meeting about its Collection Development Policy.

Board member Michelle Payne said, “We need to take responsibility and accountability” on the language and requirements of the policy.

The board oversees the libraries in Fishers and Noblesville.

Board member Tiffanie A.H. Ditlevson is a Republican candidate in the November election for an at-large seat on the Fishers City Council. She called for the board to suspend the movement of materials until a meeting about the policy can be held. That motion passed unanimously.

Ditlevson said, “I would like to suspend that section of the Collection Development Policy that deals with reviewing and moving materials until we can have a meeting to hash this out. I think this is the closest we’ve come to collaboration in the last eight months and I am really happy to hear this kind of conversation.”

No date has been set for a meeting to discuss the policy. It was unclear if the board would schedule a special meeting for the discussion.

Edra Waterman, director of the libraries, asked the board for clarification on the change in the shelving policy. The board indicated anyone still can file a reconsideration form to flag books in the young adult section, and the titles would be moved to the adult section until the board updates its policy.

Waterman asked, “So just to clarify from an operational standpoint, there is a paragraph in the policy that relates to placement, age-appropriate placement. Are we suspending that until we figure it out?”

Ditlevson replied, “Yes.”

Waterman answered, “Because we already make decisions.”

“Let your (book-reviewing) readers know they are paused,” Ditlevson said.

“We will probably pause them,” Waterman said.

“Yes,” Ditlevson said.

“And we will go ahead and do our work the way that we always have? And the reconsideration process is still in the policy?” Waterman asked.

“Correct,” Ditlevson said.

“So if anybody finds anything in the meantime, we can put that through it?” Waterman asked.

Ditlevson confirmed.

The controversy over reshelving young adult titles caused a large crowd to show up at Thursday’s meeting. The board had to set up an overflow room for people to participate in the meeting.

The updated policy has been under scrutiny from community members after it was revised in December 2022 and reviewed this year in January and April. The policy became more widely discussed after Indiana author John Green posted about the policy calling out the decision to move his most popular novel “The Fault in Our Stars” from the young adult section to the adult section.

Board member Ray Maddalone at the Thursday meeting said Green’s book did not need to be moved because the sex scene in the “young adult” novel was not was not explicit and instead was “vague.” He made a motion to move the book back to the Teen Zone, but later withdrew his motion.

Waterman, the libraries’ director, told the board at the meeting that she disagrees that the discussion of sex in Green’s novel is not explicit enough to require it to be moved to the adult section.

Waterman said Thursday that the policy for reviewing books written for teens and young adults is too vague. “Give us a clear policy and we will do our best to implement it.”

Library staff had been operating with a zero-tolerance policy, but board secretary Ray Maddalone walked back that notion. “If something is on the fence, we want it to be left,” Maddalone said.

“Absolutely the opposite,” Waterman responded. “The operational response plan is clear, that if there is any question, we age it up and that would mean moving ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ to the adult collection.”

Board member Andre Miksha agreed with Waterman’s understanding of the policy. “My understanding is yes, while there would be some grace extended, the policy itself is looking to be applied very specifically. Obviously, it was a message to me and seemed like to Edra (Waterman) and her staff it would be reasonable to say all of those terms should be narrowly construed and harshly enforced.”

The Collection Development Policy requires strict attention be given to nudity, alcohol and drug use, profanity, violence, and sexual content before a book is placed in the children or teen sections. If a book discusses any of those topics, it is then reshelved in the adult section.

The policy overrides recommendations from the publishers, authors and librarians on where to shelve books.

Laura Aldering, the library board president, is also a member of the Noblesville School Board. The school board had appointed Aldering to the library board, but, on Aug. 15, voted to replace her with Noblesville teacher Bill Kenley. Aldering’s term on the board will end Saturday.

As a result, the library board’s nominating committee met at 2 p.m. Thursday, an hour before the full board meeting. The full library board has seven members.

During the nominating committee meeting, Aldering suggested Ditlevson replace her as president. Maddalone suggested Miksha or Craig Siebe as president. A discussion occurred about whether Ditlevson can serve on the Fishers City Council and the Hamilton East Library Board at the same time, but an attorney said the library board can discuss that prospect if she’s elected in November.

The committee suggested new board officers: Ditlevson for president, Craig Siebe for vice president, Maddalone for secretary, and Miksha for assistant secretary and treasurer. The full board later approved the recommendation in a 4-3 vote

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