The St. Marys City Commission did the right thing this week when it voted 4-0 to renew the city’s lease with the Pottawatomie Wabaunsee Regional Library for another year.
The city’s Grinch did the next best thing by staying away from the meeting. According to the Topeka Capital-Journal, “Absent from the vote was outgoing vice mayor and current state Rep. Francis Awerkamp, a Republican, who vowed last month that “I will fight that woke ideology until the day I die.”
Fighting against banning books is not “woke ideology.” This whole kerfuffle started over complaints over a children’s book, “Melissa,” by Alex Gino, about a transgender child. The book has since been removed from the library.
“Melissa” was previously published by the title “George” until April 2022. Here’s the synopsis:
“When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl.
“George thinks she’ll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte’s Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can’t even try out for the part ... because she’s a boy.
“With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte – but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.”
Even after the library removed this controversial book from its shelves, the city commission tried to insert a “morals clause” into the lease contract. This would have stipulated that the library not “supply, distribute, loan, encourage, or coerce acceptance of or approval of explicit sexual or racially or socially divisive material, or events (such as ‘drag queen story hours’) that support the LGBTQ+ or critical theory ideology or practice.”
Library Director Judith Cremer said parents can request that staff limit their children’s access to certain books.
Check out kid reviews for “Melissa” online at Common Sense Media https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/melissa/user-reviews/child
One thing was clear Tuesday, the community members don’t want their library to close. Applause broke out after the city commission’s vote.
There are probably still a lot of parents in St. Marys who don’t want their children reading a book about a child who wants to be accepted for who she is, but restricting access to information and thought endangers tolerance and doesn’t help students learn to think for themselves.