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Moves of young adult books at Fishers, Noblesville libraries date back to 2022

Community upset with reshelving books in Hamilton East library

FISHERS, Ind. (WISH) — The decision to reshelve young adult books at the Hamilton East Public Library facilities in Noblesville and Fishers stems from its board’s recent updates to the Collection Development Policy.

That policy has been updated on three occasions — December 2022, January 2023 and April 2023 — according to a footnote on the document.

Complaints about specific books came as early as July 2021. As a result, the library staff, with the approval of the board, launched a two-part reorganization of the Teen Zone, where books for young adult are displayed.

Minutes from Feb. 4, 2022, and Feb. 24, 2022, board meetings show more concerns were expressed, this time about sex education books for high schoolers being available for middle schoolers.

So, in the first phase of reshleving, the high school books were moved to the adult section, and the middle school books were moved to the children’s section.

“That way people wouldn’t have to be concerned that their middle school kid, looking for a book about puberty, might read a book that was actually about sex,” said Kara Hwang, a Fishers resident.

Library Director Edra Waterman described that change as a common approach for nonfiction titles, and many patrons were on board with the change.

The change affecting nonfiction titles appears to be why “Attucks!: How Crispus Attucks Basketball Broke Racial Barriers and Jolted the World” by Phillip Hoose was moved to the adult section from the young adult section. “Attucks!” tells of the Black high school basketball team that broke the color barrier to win a state championship in 1950s Indiana.

Recently, concerns have been expressed that the 2018 book “Attucks!” was moved as a result of the most recent changes to the Collection Development Policy and its reshelving efforts.

The second phase of the recent reshelving efforts culminated in the creation of two sections in the Teen Zone: the middle school section and the high school section. Library staff took about five months to sort those books, completing the task by a July 28, 2022, board meeting.

In the current and third reshelving effort, library staff is required to read all of the books in the Teen Zone from cover to cover to keep them shelved with other young adult (YA) books. If a library reviewer finds a single violation of the latest policy, the book is then reshelved in the adult general section as a result of the updated Collection Development Policy. The 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.

The policy also notes any book containing “explicit descriptions of sexual conduct” will not be shelved in the teen or children’s sections.

The board first discussed the latest update of the Collection Development Policy during a June 23, 2022, meeting prior to the library staff finishing the second phase of sorting the Teen Zone, according to the meeting minutes.

A draft of the updated Collection Development Policy was presented by library board members Laura Alerding, Tiffanie Ditlevson and Ray Maddalone during an Aug. 23, 2022, special meeting.

The policy was ratified in a 4-3 vote on Jan. 26, 2023. Alerding, Micah Beckwith, Ditlevson and Maddalone voted “aye.” Michelle Payne, Andre Miksha and and Craig Siebe voted “nay.”

The third reshelving effort is ongoing. Library staff said they have reviewed just over 25% of the high school collection. According to the July 27 meeting agenda, as of July 20, 1,385 books had been moved from the Teen Zone into the adult section. Only 474 of the books reviewed through July 20 remained in the Teen Zone.

The latest effort was estimated to cost $335,000 over the two phases, according to the Operational Response Plan shared in March.

The library has faced backlash after Indiana author John Green called out the board policy when his most popular novel, “The Fault in Our Stars,” was reshelved. It was not immediately clear what triggered the book to be pulled.

Alerding over the weekend shared a statement with News 8 about the decision.

“Upon reviewing the page(s) of “The Fault in Our Stars” book that were the basis of the Director’s and review staff’s reason to move the book out of the Teen section,  I believe there was an error in implementing the Collection Development Policy and that this book should be moved back to the Teen section immediately.  The Board of Trustees will discuss further what went wrong with the review process at the next public board meeting.”

Laura Alerding, president of the Hamilton East Public Library Board

The next public meeting is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. Aug. 24 at the Noblesville library.

Alerding will be leaving the library board. She was originally appointed by the five-member Noblesville School Board, and her term will expire on Aug. 26. The school board on Tuesday night chose not to reappoint her to the library board. She will be replaced by Bill Kenley, a longtime Noblesville Schools teacher of English. Alerding and another Noblesville School Board member voted against Kenley’s appointment.

Kenley sent a statement to News 8 after his appointment.

“I care deeply about education and literacy and am proud to represent Noblesville Schools on the Hamilton East Public Library board. At this time it would be premature of me to take a side on any issue without first studying the organization, its needs, and its current practices. I look forward to joining the board, learning more about the library, and serving the community in this role.”

Bill Kenley, Noblesville Schools teacher