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Old Lyme library will keep two sex-education books in the teen section

"Gender Queer" by Maia Kobabe is held as a selection of banned and challenged books are seen during Banned Books Week 2022 at the Lincoln Belmont branch of the Chicago Public Library on Sept. 22, 2022.
Chicago Tribune
"Gender Queer" by Maia Kobabe is held as a selection of banned and challenged books are seen during Banned Books Week 2022 at the Lincoln Belmont branch of the Chicago Public Library on Sept. 22, 2022.

The Old Lyme Public Library’s Board of Trustees met Tuesday and decided to keep two adolescent sex education books in the library’s tween-teen section.

The meeting was held after local residents sent two letters to the Old Lyme-Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library saying the books “Let’s Talk About it: The Teen’s Guide to Sex, Relationships and Being a Human” by Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan and “You Know, Sex: Bodies, Gender Puberty and Other Things” by Cory Silverberg and Fiona Smith should be removed from the library’s tween-teen section.

The first letter described the books as “unbecoming of our community values” and requested a review of the material within the two books. “A library must maintain the public trust, and that is why we, as parents, grandparents, citizens of Lyme and Old Lyme are speaking out,” the letter said.

“To be clear: we are not advocating banning any books. We are mindful of the conversations taking place nationally. Our concern is specific to the age-appropriate content within the Teen/Tween room.”

But according to a statement from the Board of Trustees, the books met criteria laid out in the library's policy.

"The Old Lyme Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library recognizes that many materials are controversial and that any given item may offend some patrons," the statement said.

The library board said that parents should assume unaccompanied children have full access to the library, including the adult collections.

"Limiting access to content is the responsibility of the parent," the statement said. "If you feel you need to accompany your child to the library or any particular collection, we welcome and encourage your presence."

The library board also expressed its support for the library staff and "condemns wholeheartedly the inappropriate and unwarranted censure of professionals we believe are doing their jobs with the utmost professionalism."

Katie Huffman, director of the Old Lyme public library, said the request to remove books from libraries has been happening on a larger scale lately.

“There seems to be more legislation cropping up that’s supporting the notion of removing books or limiting access and that of course is challenging and of concern. The degree to which it’s happening and the number of people who are engaging in the process is significantly higher than anything I’ve ever seen in my lifetime for sure,” Huffman said.

According to Huffman, in the seven years that she’s worked in the Old Lyme library system, no books have been removed or moved to another section at the request of a patron.

The library has also received letters in support of the two books. Huffman said she’s received a petition from over 400 people in the community requesting the continued presence of the two sex-education books in the tween-teen section.

“We’ve received dozens of individual letters in support of keeping the books where they are,” Huffman said. “A lot of people are citing the freedom to read and the idea that excluding content isn’t the way they want the library to operate, that it should be up to the individual to make decisions about what’s appropriate.”

“Let’s Talk About It” by Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan was also questioned at the Fairfield Public Library. The Board of Trustees voted unanimously in October to keep it in their teen section with no restrictions.

In June, Newtown faced the attempted ban of “Flamer” by Mike Curator and “Blankets” by Craig Thompson from the high school’s library. The effort caused weeks of debate, including the resignation of two school board members. In the end, the board of education voted unanimously to keep the books on the library’s shelves.

Attempts to censor and ban books in libraries are spiking across the nation. According to the American Library Association, there were 1,269 attempted book bans in 2022, which is a significant increase from 729 books in 2021.

“Each attempt to ban a book by one of these groups represents a direct attack on every person’s constitutionally protected right to freely choose what books to read and what ideas to explore,” said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom.

“Their aim is to suppress the voices of those traditionally excluded from our nation’s conversations, such as people in the LGBTQIA+ community or people of color.”

Connecticut Public's Jennifer Ahrens contributed to this report, which has been updated.

Lesley Cosme Torres is an Education Reporter at Connecticut Public. She reports on education inequities across the state and also focuses on Connecticut's Hispanic and Latino residents, with a particular focus on the Puerto Rican community. Her coverage spans from LGBTQ+ discrimination in K-12 schools, book ban attempts across CT, student mental health concerns, and more. She reports out of Fairfield county and Hartford.

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