Friday, February 23, 2024

Children’s Library Content Again Under Debate as Some Parents Push for New Policies

Jessica Tompane speaks at the Sept. 5 meeting of the Coronado City Council.

After controversy over public library content unfurled over the summer, some residents are pushing for new policies surrounding sexual content in the Coronado Library’s children’s section.

The matter arose after a preschool story time hour in June featured The Rainbow Parade by Emily Neilson as a part of its Pride Month theme. At the time, most of those against the book’s inclusion said it was not the topic they objected to, but rather, the illustrations, which included adult nudity.

But other residents decried removing the book as censorship and lack of inclusivity. Ultimately, the library opted to adjust its story time practices, including to allow for parental review of included books just before the reading.

But Jessica Tompane, who attended the story time program that sparked the conversation, said more needs to be done so parents of young children can decide when and how to introduce their children to certain themes.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s heterosexual or homosexual; that is beside the point,” she said in a phone interview. “It is anything inherently sexual.”

Tompane and 11 others spoke during public comment at the Sept. 5 meeting of the Coronado City Council, asking that the modified policies outlined by City Manager Tina Friend in a July council meeting be codified into the library’s policies.

Additionally, Tompane and her supporters requested two additional policies be codified. The first prohibits any books addressing sexuality, sexual pleasure, or fetishes from being included during children’s story time programming.

The second proposed policy outlines topics that would render a book inappropriate for the children’s library section, which is meant for ages zero to 12. Those topics include adult nudity, pornographic material, sexual acts, and implications of sexual pleasure or fetishes.

While supporters of the policy outweighed detractors at this council meeting, the matter of library content was not an agenda item and arose during general public comment. At past public meetings on the matter, residents have been split in opinion.

“I think a lot of people thought that (this issue) had been dealt with and dealt with very fairly,” said Doris Besikoft, implying that those in support of the library’s current policies would have attended had they known the topic would be broached. “I would caution you that special legislation and special rules that take away common sense and good judgment for the people who are entrusted with operating our library would be a very bad idea.

“Special legislation usually doesn’t help in the end,” Besikoft concluded. “Principles do, and we are founded on some very important principles. Please don’t revoke them.”

Tompane said she doesn’t think those books should be banned from the library, but rather, that they be moved to another section or put in a location within the children’s section that alerts caretakers of the content. She said she has checked out LGBTQ-inclusive books from the library whose presence in the children’s library she does not question, such as Rainbow: A First Book of Pride by Michael Genhart.

“It’s cute, it’s age appropriate, there’s no adult nudity,” Tompane said. “The City of Coronado does need to be representative of all people, and it is important that they have these books in the children’s section.”

At the August meeting of the Coronado Library Board of Trustees, 31 people spoke and all but one were in support of the library and its policies in place, according to Councilmember Casey Tanaka, who attended on behalf of the city. (However, others submitted written comments against current policy.)

“I report to you that it seems that the library, at the moment, is comfortable with the changes that have been made and how things are being done,” Tanaka said at an Aug. 15 City Council meeting.

Tompane said her hope is that people can look past the politicization of the issue and view it the same way society views ratings for movies and music that alert parents to potential content issues they specifically may hold.

Because the subject was raised during general comment during Tuesday’s City Council meeting and was not on the meeting’s agenda, the council was legally unable to comment on the matter, though it may be added as a future agenda item.

 


RELATED:

After ‘Rainbow Parade’ Controversy, Library will Adjust Story Time Practices — But Will Not Remove Books from Shelves



Megan Kitt
Megan Kitt
Megan has worked as a reporter for more than 15 years, and her work in both print and digital journalism has been published in more than 25 publications worldwide. She is also an award-winning photographer. She holds BA degrees in journalism, English literature and creative writing and an MA degree in creative writing and literature. She believes a quality news publication's purpose is to strengthen a community through informative and connective reporting.Megan is also a mother of three and a Navy spouse. After living around the world both as a journalist and as a military spouse, she immediately fell in love with San Diego and Coronado for her family's long-term home.Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: [email protected]

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