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Hamilton East library updates policy on kids’ access to books with offensive terms, crimes

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — At an explosive board meeting Thursday night, the Hamilton East Public Library voted to update its collection development policy to further clarify what terms and themes violate it.

Books that violate the policy must be moved from the children’s or teen sections into the adult section.

The policy added one appendix that defined a list of “Grossly Offensive Terms” and another appendix that lists “Crimes Involving Violence” that would not meet the criteria.

The updated document also edited the wording of the policy.

During the vote, Craig Siebe, the board’s assistant secretary and treasurer, suggested amending the language in the document from “would violate” the policy to “could violate” for both the lists of offensive terms and violent acts. All board members agreed.

After the vote, Board Member Tiffanie A.H. Ditlevson left early, and a member of the audience directed an expletive at her when she walked past him.

When Ditlevson asked him what he said to her and to repeat it louder, the man stood up and said the expletive again, then directed it to the board. That caused police officers manning the meeting to escort him out as he called them “pigs.”

Discussion about the policy involved back-and-forth amongst board members and Library Director Edra Waterman.

Addressing the board, Waterman said, “Good faith on both sides. We’re not trying to do anything bad here.”

Ditlevson responded to her, “I think good faith has a lot to do with it. We’d like to see some movement, some collaboration. To be honest, we’ve been trying to do this for the last six-nine months, and I think this is the first time we’ve gotten to the point of collaborating, and I think if your staff had taken the bull by the horns months ago and helped us by collaborating, you guys would have been presenting a policy to us.”

Toward the end of the meeting, Board Secretary Ray Maddalone questioned the estimated cost of over $335,000 to complete the review of over 18,000 books in the middle and high school sections, as well as the review of the children’s books.

A packet of information given to the board showed a breakdown of the personnel needed to complete the review. Waterman explained the breakdown includes hiring temporary employees, expediting the review of the books, and the permanent staff needed.

During the meeting, 11 people spoke and no one explicitly spoke in support of the idea of moving books intended for children and teens to the adult section.

Cindy Michaels of Fishers said, “Why are a small group of people able to determine what the children of our community can and cannot read? And why is this board determined to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money to force the values of some members and some citizens on the majority of the citizens?”

Matthew Rhea of Fishers said, “I’m confused about the problem you’re trying to solve. I’ve never experienced anything in the library that I thought was inappropriate or objectionable. As a parent, I believe it’s my responsibility to watch out for my children, not to have other people watch out for my children. I don’t know why other people think they need to help me with my children’s education,”

In the public comments at the meeting, many spoke in favor of adding a separate section for flagged books instead of integrating them into the adult section.

Katy Rogers of Noblesville said, “Our family supports the idea of a family resource collection or a parenting selection area near the children’s book area or in the children’s books or in the teen section instead of putting the books in the adult section. We don’t need to send children into the adult section.”

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