After controversy erupted over a preschool story time book selection, the Coronado Public Library will revise its practices for sharing youth programming content – but it will not remove books from its shelves.
“We have done this to put more power and control into parents’ hands,” said Coronado City Manager Tina Friend. “We believe in the ethos of being a place for all, having a lot of viewpoints represented, and letting people curate their reading for themselves.”
Residents flocked to the July 18 Coronado City Council meeting, split in support of and in opposition to a June story hour highlighting books centered on a Pride Month theme. In particular, some parents balked at the inclusion of the book The Rainbow Parade by Emily Neilson.
The book features a young girl whose mothers take her to a Pride parade, where she feels at first that she must remain on the sidelines until she discovers she can join in.
A few public commenters excepted, the bulk of objectors questioned the book’s illustrations over its topic. The parade depicted in the book includes some individuals fully or partially nude.
Supporters of the library called the objections an attempt at censorship and urged city lawmakers to allow all books and topics, both for the sake of social inclusion and also to protect the right to free speech.
“I know that some people think (the book) is totally innocuous and others think it’s something they’re not interested in,” Friend said. “Looking at it again, I saw the illustrations and I can see why some parents would not be comfortable. It’s in my view that it was not an appropriate selection.”
The library has implemented three changes to the story time hours it holds twice a week for toddlers and preschoolers.
- First, the library will post its scheduled topics for story hour programs a month in advance on its website.
- Second, in the past, books for story time were left on the shelves until just before the program started to leave them accessible to others. Now, the chosen titles will be displayed 10 to 15 minutes prior to the program’s start, giving parents the chance to review them.
- Finally, library staff will review their chosen books more closely. No books will be removed from the collection, and Friend reminded the council and public of the library’s policy that any child under the age of eight be accompanied by a parent or guardian to ensure material accessed is approved by the child’s family. The children’s section of the library is designed for ages zero to 12, so its range of maturity of subject matter is broad.
The meeting was unusually packed with spectators and members of the public waiting to comment.
“No group should be able to veto or remove materials from the library,” said Carl Luna, president of the Friends of the Coronado Public Library, speaking on behalf of the organization’s board. “Allowing a subset of individuals to dictate what the experience will be to others is antithetical to the library’s mission, established best practices, industry standards, and protection of freedom of speech.”
Critics of the story time selection insisted they were not attempting to ban books, and merely wanted more discretion in story time content.
“I will never call for a ban because that goes against my personal values and our Constitution,” said Yulina Cameron during public comment. “I also am not here to discriminate against (the LGBTQ+ community’s) right to children’s literature that they identify with.”
But Cameron questioned the appropriateness of Rainbow Parade.
“We as adults are the guardians of our children,” she said. “We do this already as a community. We guard our children’s innocence and tiny minds to exposure to social and adult content by not displaying or promoting books on violence, guns, drugs, alcohol use. Why is sex the exception?”
Some, though, remained unconvinced by those saying they did not support censorship.
“I am opposed to the banning of books,” said Amy Steward, “or any effort that leads the way to the banning of books. I keep hearing, ‘we’re not here to ban a book, but…’’”
Click here to watch all public comment related to this issue.
This is not the first time Rainbow Parade has come under fire, and book bans in general are on the rise, so much so that in June, President Biden created a new position — book ban coordinator — at the Education Department.
Most banned or challenged books are anchored on heavily politicized topics, particularly on LGBTQ+ topics. The same week Biden announced his new book ban coordinator, Missouri enacted new library guidelines that included the removal of LGBTQ+ titles from children’s and teens’ sections.
But some challenges have arisen in the last decade for less polarizing issues. Dr. Seuss’s Hop on Pop, for example, was challenged in 2014 for allegedly encouraging children to exhibit violence toward their fathers, while the Captain Underpants franchise came under fire for promoting disruptive behavior.
Passion was high during the nearly 90 minutes of public comment on the topic of the library and its story time selections.
“It was really beautiful to witness the level of civility with the undercurrent of passion we’re hearing on both sides,” Friend said. “Our library is a community hub, it provides a lot for us all and it is a place of welcome.”
Video of the book being read aloud (not in Coronado):