Woman may burn sexually explicit library book
Posted on August 10, 2004
SIMMS - Jessica Christy scanned the shelves of the library and found a book on urban legends.
She took it home and found the first chapter was "Crazy Little Thang Called Sex." It vividly described sexual activities and fetishes. The book was not something Tina Woodruff of Simms wanted Jessica, her 14-year-old granddaughter, getting off a library shelf.
It is filth," Woodruff said. "It made me want to throw up."
Despite her disgust for "Urban Legends" by N.E. Genge, Woodruff has not filed a complaint with the Tioga branch library where Jessica checked out the book. Woodruff would rather pay for the book and burn it.
Leandro Huebner / Photo Editor
Tina Woodruff holds the book "Urban Legends" outside her home in Simms in southern Grant Parish. Her granddaughter, Jessica Christy (right), checked the book out from a public library in Tioga without realizing it contained explicit sexual references. Woodruff doesn't think the library should loan the book to a child. Sitting in the background are family members (front row, from left) Dylan Christy, 9, Dalton Christie, 11, (back row, from left) Gerald Beck, 18, James Milligan, 14
"I don't want other kids being able to get their hands on this," she said. "My 9-year-old grandchild could have picked this up."
Rapides Parish Library Director Steve Rogge said the best course of action in such a case is to file a complaint. Library visitors can fill out a Request for Reconsideration form at their branch.
The complaint is passed to Rogge's office and is given to a staff of book selectors. He and the staff research the book and review the complaint. Once a decision is made, the complainant is contacted with the results.
"Urban Legends" has not received any complaints against it, and it has been on the shelf for about four years, Rogge said.
He said that even if Woodruff burns that copy, the book might be on a shelf at another branch and that the library could choose to replace the copy.
Joe Cook, executive director of the Louisiana ACLU, said the law requires that certain procedures be followed when there is a formal objection to a public library book.
"If there is an objection, there is due process," Cook told The Town Talk.
Proper procedures must be followed or else a "vocal minority" could control which books are on the shelves at libraries, he said. If those procedures are not followed and a complaint is made to the ACLU, the ACLU would investigate the matter, Cook said.
Jessica Christy said she was interested in urban legends and wanted to read more. She did not open the book inside the library.
"I wouldn't have picked it up if I would have seen what was inside," Jessica said.
The teen did not get past the first few pages before taking it to her grandmother. Woodruff said the child walked in and said, "Maw Maw, I can't read this."
She thought perhaps the stories were too scary for the teen until she looked down at the pages. The definition of a certain four-letter word was on one page along with an information box about a sexual device.
"I would have never thought a child could just check something like this out," Woodruff said. "I am so proud that she didn't read it."
Woodruff admits she didn't look at the book when her granddaughter checked it out. She thinks the library should monitor such books.
"They should at least look at what they are putting on their shelves," Woodruff said.
She thinks the library should at least put books like the one her granddaughter checked out behind the counter and require proof of age so that only adults could check it out. The book was in the fiction section of the library.
Rogge said the parish's libraries serve the entire public and offer a wide variety of selections. What one parent deems offensive, another may see as an appropriate book, he said. There are no restrictions on what any visitor may check out.
Trained professionals make the selections of books for libraries, Cook said.
While noting he is not familiar with the "Urban Legends" book, Cook said, "It is important that we respect the freedom to learn and read."
Libraries should offer a wide range of reading materials for various age groups, he said.
"Supervising what children check out of the library is not necessarily the responsibility of the librarian," Cook said. He added that parental discretion should be exercised on which books a child checks out of a library.
Rogge agreed. "We can't be the parents," he said.
Cook said he hopes Woodruff doesn't burn the book, as she has threatened to do.
Books should not be subject to being banned from a library because it offends an individual, Cook said.
"That's why we have a First Amendment."
Book banning remains a problem at libraries, Cook said, noting some of the books drawing the most objections are classics such as "Huckleberry Finn" and popular contemporary works such as the "Harry Potter" books.
Woodruff said she is trying to keep kids on the right track, and such material works against it.
"It could have ended up at the school," she said.
Mandy M. Goodnight: 487-6465; [email protected]