RUMFORD — A display of banned books, the source of much Facebook debate in recent days, will remain at the Rumford Public Library, according the the library’s board of trustees.

Seventy people gathered Sept. 11 in the Children’s Room at the library to debate the display, which three members of the local clergy said in a letter to trustees was not appropriate for a public library serving the families and people of the River Valley.

The message from the audience was one of acceptance and diversity.

The two-page letter was received Sept. 6 by Rumford Library Director Tamara Butler, signed by Dan Pearson, pastor of the Rumford Baptist Church, Justin Thacker, pastor of Praise Assembly of God., and the Rev. Nathan March of Parish of the Holy Savior.

Pearson, who was present with Thacker, opened the discussion.

“I do want to apologize for some of the wording in the letter,” he said. “I did not want to alienate the gay community.”

He said they thought their letter would be presented to the board of trustees.

“I think it was unfortunate it was posted publicly, before we had a chance to have a discussion with this small group or to revise some things in it that created some of the hoopla,” Pearson said.

“None of us that signed that are interested in banning or destroying any books. I don’t know how that rumor got started. There was concern because a few of the books on the banned book display, front and center, were displaying sexual themes that we thought were not appropriate for children, especially. Displayed prominently up front, when they’re coming in there.”

The display coincides with national Banned Books Week, Sept. 23-29, celebrating  the freedom to read and highlighting books that often draw challenges in schools and libraries.

Half of the books on this year’s American Library Association Top 10 Banned Books list tell stories of LGBTQ characters.

Debbie Carver, a Mountain Valley High School teacher, said she agreed with the part of the clergy’s letter that indicated that the library should not be “promoting values that contribute to the community, and should not be promoting a certain religious view, set of morals or political views over and against another.”

“That is why we’re all here, for that. Then when the letter gets into things like homosexuality, that’s where I think a lot of us have an issue. I’m not going to tell you what to believe. I don’t want to tell you how to raise your kids. Just like I don’t want you to tell me how to raise my kids,” she said.

Thacker said he felt the display was in an area that was not age appropriate for children.

“All this was to make a suggestion. You can take it or leave it. It was not meant to be a firestorm,” he noted.

Pastor Cindy Christie said she was asked by her congregation at the Rumford Point Congregational Church to be at this meeting to say, “We support the library.”

Each month, the Rumford Public Library has a themed book display.

Mary Ann Fournier said, “I’ve been coming to this library just about every day since I was 5 years old, and I now work here.”

June was Pride Month, and as a member of the LGBTQ community, she did a pride display.

“I had ‘Two Boys Kissing’ and ‘My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness’ on that display (books also on the banned books display),” she said. “My question is why didn’t anyone come to me and complain in June?

“And you want me to hide the LGBTQ books that are like bibles to some of these children. Some of these books are stolen by some of these LGBTQ teens because they don’t want their parents to know they’re checking them out,” she said.

Mitzi Sequoia said the gay pride display was the first time since she moved to Rumford in 1996 that “anyone ever even acknowledged the gay community or alternate lifestyles.”

After trustee Chairwoman Carolyn Kennard closed the 105-minute discussion, people slowly began to exit the room. Those who stayed for the next 15 minutes heard trustees Kennard, Jane Shuck, Linda Macgregor, Maureen Cook and Jerrold Cohen vote unanimously to leave the current display intact.

Kennard said, “By moving that (display), it would be a form of censorship that we cannot do, under any circumstance.”

Trustee Linda Macgregor noted, “This was really interesting because people used the opportunity to talk about feelings they have not talked about before and needed to.”

She also expressed thanks to Pastors Pearson and Thacker, who “sat up front, said they wished they had done it differently, and they took it.”

Prior to the meeting, library Director Tamara Butler said she had not acted to take down the display herself because “if anyone reads the American Library Association’s Freedom to Read, we are not to avoid controversial subjects.

“Those books are perfectly appropriate for a banned book display. We did it before, and other libraries do it. The display is to remind people of the freedom to read, lack of censorship … that’s the reason for it,” she said.

The banned books display at the Rumford Public Library will remain, trustees voted last week. (Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times)

Debbie Carver, a Mountain Valley High School teacher, was one of 70 people attending the Rumford Public Library board of trustees meeting last week on a display of banned books.

Pastor Dan Pearson said the banned book display at the Rumford Public Library showed “sexual themes that we thought were not appropriate for children.” Trustees voted last week to keep the display. (Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times)

Mitzi Sequoia said the Rumford Public Library’s Gay Pride display in June was the first time since she moved to Rumford in 1996 that “anyone ever even acknowledged the gay community or alternate lifestyles.” She spoke at a meeting last week of library trustees, who voted unanimously to keep the display. (Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times)


Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: