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Proposal to Move LGBTQ Kids' Book Sparks Censorship Fears

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Tuesday, February 22, 2022   

Efforts to move children's and young adult books with LGBTQ content to the adult section of a Northeast Arkansas public library have some local residents concerned about censorship.

At the Jonesboro Public Library, the latest book in a monthslong battle over children's books mentioning sexuality and other themes is "All Boys Aren't Blue," a young adult memoir by George M. Johnson which follows his journey growing up gay and Black.

Valerie Carroll, former library employee, organizer with Citizens Defending the Craighead County Library and a parent, thinks having such stories accessible while young people explore their own identities is crucial.

"When it comes to the library and Arkansas, LGBTQ youth in this area know that the community and the culture is, in a lot of ways, actively hostile to them," Carroll pointed out. "I think it's hugely important that there is some place where a teenager can go to see themselves. And if that place is the library, that's a beautiful thing."

The Jonesboro Library board voted three-to-two against a proposal to move the book to the adult section. "All Boys Aren't Blue" has been removed from libraries in several states, where its critics have argued the subject matter is too explicit, and parents should be the ones to decide if it's appropriate reading for their kids.

Vanessa Adams, director of the Jonesboro Public Library, said she doesn't think the issue will end with the vote to defeat the proposal. She predicts it will likely come up again at next month's board meeting.

"Moving the books is actually a form of censorship," Adams asserted. "And the reason that we hesitate to do that is because that's just the beginning. It's a slippery slope, and we don't know where it would end up. And so, that's what concerns librarians."

Adams said the library hopes to reach a compromise, with plans already in the works to create a focus group to discuss options. She hopes the issue can be resolved in the coming months when the library returns to in-person programming as COVID cases wane.


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