Community members again address library board members about teen section books, while others protest censorship

COLUMBUS, Ind. — The Bartholomew County Public Library board continued Monday to listen to public input about its teen section materials while continuing t0 evaluate its selection policies and procedures.

A total of 20 speakers from a crowd of about 60 people took the microphone within about an hour of discussion in the library’s Red Room. It marked the third such large public meeting over the issue of sexually-oriented books located in the teen section.

The issue first arose earlier this year when a 19-year-old female member of Columbus Blessed Life Fellowship saw titles that caused her discomfort and eventually led church leaders to be concerned for younger teen readers or other library visitors even younger, said one of the speakers at the library’s latest board meeting Monday.

Donna Robbins, who co-ministers at the church with husband and Pastor Andy Robbins, was among the speakers.

“This is not an LGBTQ issue, which is what I think that many in this room think it is,” Robbins said before about 60 people in The Red Room. “And it is not about banning books, contrary to what we have been accused of.”

In part, she said she worries that the more prominently displayed, mature material, if discovered by a younger reader, “could become a gateway to pornography.” And she added that studies show that a pattern of exposure to pornography damages the brain.

Her husband repeated his request that he has mentioned at other meetings: “All we’re asking is to relocate these materials into the general part of the library so they’re not right in the kids’ faces.”

But perspectives differed among the 20 speakers, nearly half of whom had spoken at two other previous meetings on the issue. Others told the couple and other conservative Christians to worry about their own kids’ reading material and that they in turn would supervise their children’s perhaps differing book choices.

“Your concern is very much OK when it comes to protecting your (own) children,” said Steve Schoettmer. “But it’s very much out of place when you want place upon our children the same restrictions you would place upon your own.”

Still others were more succinct.

“I don’t expect our library to be run like a church,” said Stephanie Carmer.

“This is a public space,” said Kimberly Hoffman. “Many churches have their own library and that’s great.”

A couple other speakers asked the conservative Christians how they would feel if someone either limited circulation of the Bible or tried to ban it as some countries have done.

Throughout the approximate one hour of public comments, many speakers, both conservative and liberal, praised the library board and library staff for a wide range of services and resources appealing to thousands of residents through the years. Others such as the Robbins and additional speakers praised the board for taking time to hear concerns.

For more on this story, see Wednesday’s Republic.