Jessamine library to move its collection of graphic novels

awilson1@herald-leader.comDecember 4, 2009 

The graphic novel that got two employees fired and launched a book-banning campaign in Jessamine County is being recataloged, along with other graphic novels with mature themes, to the adult section of the library.

Critics had contended that Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier was shelved in a section of the Jessamine County Public Library that was too close to the young adult fiction. They also said it was too obscene for young readers and too similar to comic book material.

The graphic novels that belong in the teen section will be moved as well, library director Ron Critchfield said.

The move was prompted by recent public outcry about censorship, book placement and whether certain books belong in the Jessamine County collection. It comes after a heated November library board meeting in which more than 100 people came to voice their opinions to the board about who — the library or parents — is responsible for what children check out.

In September, library employee Sharon Cook, who had checked out Moore's graphic novel repeatedly to keep it off the shelves, was asked to relinquish it because a library patron had put a hold on it.

Cook and another employee, Beth Boisvert, went into library records to discover, they say, that the hold was requested by an 11-year-old girl. Both women judged the book to be pornographic and inappropriate material for a child.

The graphic novel, which contains drawings of sexual activity between adults, was one of Time Magazine's top graphic novels of 2007 and has been acclaimed in literary circles.

The women were fired for breaching library policy.

When told of the decision to recatalog the books, Boisvert deemed it "very good news."

Cook was more cautious. "It would appear that the library is trying to soothe its tax base by moving the graphic novels," she said. "This is a situation that already exists in other libraries and so is not a new nor creative solution. This very simple solution is one step in the right direction. We can hope that this is the first step in JCPL being more responsive to its tax base."

Critchfield explained that the decision was made after "we researched options, contacted legal counsel and diligently worked to discern how to address concerns. As a result, JCPL took action to address public concerns in cooperation with the practices and procedures of the library and respect for First Amendment rights."

In recent weeks, Critchfield, who has a doctorate in information science in addition to a bachelor's degree in religion from Centre College and a master's degree in theological studies from Duke, has been threatened with physical harm because of his defense of a library's duty to provide material that not everyone approves of.

The Thursday announcement, he said, was well-received by "a number of persons in the community who use the library (and) local government officials."

Cook and Boisvert are continuing to dispute their denial of unemployment benefits after their firings. Both blame Critchfield specifically for "signing the papers denying the claims." Both have in-person hearings Dec. 15 with state unemployment officials. Cook said a representative from the library is expected to attend.

Critchfield said he has not been notified of the hearings. He also said he has signed only the forms indicating their status as former employees.

"I can't deny or give them unemployment benefits," he said. "The state of Kentucky decides that."

The next Jessamine library board meeting is Dec. 16. No agenda has been posted.

Reach Amy Wilson at (859) 231-3305 or at 1-800-951-6397, Ext. 3305.

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service