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MY TURN: Obscene materials in libraries

by MARIANNA COCHRAN/Guest Opinion
| February 10, 2023 1:00 AM

“Half a truth is often a great lie.” — Benjamin Franklin

On Jan. 27, the Coeur d'Alene Press published an article about the Jan. 25 Coeur d'Alene Public Library board meeting where I and other citizens gave public comment about incendiary kids’ books — not just passively included in the collection — but being put forward to them.

A significant portion of my comments were omitted, however.

To illustrate how corrosive the kids’ library collection has become, I read blatantly pornographic passages from the teen book "Boy Toy" by Barry Lyga. The book’s title describes its theme: the 12-year-old main character has an ongoing sexual relationship with his married teacher. Graphic descriptions of sex abound. Only a sliver of many descriptions of seduction were read. But it was enough to demonstrate the book’s unsuitability for minors. This site provides numerous excerpts: https://bit.ly/3jECFHf

Not only is this book included in Coeur d'Alene’s Teen collection, but the library staff had featured it on display. “Hey kids, pick me!” Eerily similar to stealthy tactics child groomers use. Among the thousands of books that could be displayed, why this one? It’s rife with lurid, steamy passages; for kids and about kids. Reprehensible.

Other citizens may retort: “Books about child molestation shine a light on this horror.” Certainly, there’s value to books intended to help molestation victims recover. When packaged as salacious pornography, this is not that.

For well over a year, stalwart citizens have been civilly and respectfully voicing reasonable concerns regarding hundreds of inappropriate children’s and teen Coeur d'Alene library books to this board. They’ve presented facts, studies and testimonials, yet have been rebuffed and ignored. So, a wake-up call was needed.

After completing my comments, the board chair announced that I don’t reside in Coeur d’Alene. More dismissal. Never mind that I’m a member and taxpayer of the Community Library Network, which has a reciprocal relationship with the Coeur d'Alene library. As a library devotee, I relish the convenience and amenities of the beautiful Coeur d'Alene library. But, I’ve been astonished over the last 16 months while researching thousands of books and discovering the abundance of corrosive books located locally for kids.

Impossible to understand how anyone can defend porn for kids in libraries. Nevertheless, some say, “If you object, don’t read them.” “Don’t try to tell impose your values on others.” “Censorship is un-American.” No argument from me regarding what adults want to read.

“No holds barred” doesn’t apply to minors, however. In fact, Idaho has very clear laws specifically identifying what’s illegal regarding minors and obscene materials:

18-1513 “… the policy of the legislature to restrain the distribution, promotion, or dissemination of obscene material, or of material harmful to minors … such materials are a contributing factor to crime, to juvenile crime, and also a basic factor in impairing the ethical and moral development of our youth.”

18-1514 specifically defines a long list of what constitutes “obscene materials.”

How then do these obscene materials get into libraries? 18-1517 gives a “defense” to “a bona fide school, college, university, museum or public library.”

Although libraries sadly have the legal exemption to provide these materials, statute 18-1514.6(a)1 defines “materials harmful to minors” as those which “appeal to the prurient interest of minors as judged by the average person, applying contemporary community standards.”

Is obscenity for kids our community standard? Reminds me of the saying, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” Not as cerebral as a Ben Franklin quote, but applicable. We don’t have to allow for this if we make our library administrators aware. cdalibrary.org/about/board-of-trustees/

In 2022, the Community Library Network conducted a patron survey wherein an analysis of the written comments revealed patrons were opposed to obscenity for minors by 30%. Clearly, the community standard supports making changes to the collection.

Since Ben Franklin is credited as one of the founders of the lending library, what might he think of the materials available to minors in our modern public libraries? I submit that this quote is indicative:

“Where sense is wanting, everything is wanting.”

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Marianna Cochran is a Rathdrum resident.