Public Response

The action taken by the Board to restrict access to these books is unconstitutional. It also violates the American Library Association’s own Library Bill of Rights. No person or group of people should be able to censor information that they find morally questionable. This encroaches on the very foundation of our country. Furthermore, these books are not “obscene” or “harmful to minors”. This is a subjective and narrow minded opinion that should not be forced on our community. Where will the line be drawn? Books about art, contemporary adult novels, health and wellness books, and even the bible contain sexual and other material that parents may not want their children to read. Ultimately it is a parent’s responsibility to monitor their children and set their own individual limits. The public library should be a place where access to information is not limited by another person’s beliefs.

Posted by Summer Ludwig
February 25, 2009 at 08:54 PM

The library is not a babysitting service. They should not be responsible for making sure that children don’t read non-fiction health books that parents don’t want them to. I’m sure those four books are not the only four in that section with naked illustrations. What about them? And when you’re done with those, what about the romance novels with half-naked illustrations actually on the cover? And then from there, we can move on to other offensive things. Like books about religion. Just think, in a few years, half of the library’s catalog might be available by request only. That would be a good time to be a librarian. They’ll have so much work to do, they’ll have to hire more.

Posted by Debra
February 26, 2009 at 01:50 PM

Those who sit on boards and in places of leadership in our community have a responsibility to protect our youth.  In the case of restricting access to certain books, some may call this censorship.  I call it common sense.
It is obvious to me that we do not want our children reading just anything.  What about literature that encourages suicide, explains how to murder their teacher, or how to make money through drugs and prostitution?  To contend that no book should ever be restricted in any way is short-sighted and possibly dangerous.

Do we really not get it?  Our kids are bombarded with inappropriate words and images, and it doesn’t take a genius to see that this is having a huge negative impact on them and on society as a whole.  A library has the potential to be a safe haven in the midst of this onslaught.  Is this “babysitting”?  To the extent that the library has a parental role while its young patrons are there, yes.  If the library wants to be viewed as a safe location for the children of our community, they must show themselves to be trustworthy.  If a parent deems these sexually explicit materials appropriate for their child (not likely), they are free to check them out.  It should not be the library’s role to decide this.
The board made the correct decision, and I applaud those who had the courage to vote with common sense.

Posted by David Epps
March 07, 2009 at 01:16 PM

I would like the Library Board to reconsider the restrictions they are placing on four books in the library. Common sense dictates that if these four books are offensive to a group of individuals then there are other groups or individuals who will be offended by another four books and their “Expression of Concern” will also have to be addressed. Four books at a time the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library will be dismantled. That would be a shame and make no sense at all.

Posted by Ann Foster
March 18, 2009 at 09:59 AM

The restrictions on these books for minors is not only “acceptable,” but necessary.  The library is funded by all property owners in Shawnee County.  As a community we have a responsibility to guide our children in what is appropriate material for their eyes and developing minds.  No minor needs to be exposed to this.  Period.  If you, as an adult would like to check out these books, you are welcome to do so.  It is common sense to keep things that children can not process and do not need to be exposed to out of their reach.  Let’s let children BE children while they can.  They’ll have to grow up soon enough!

Posted by Heather Simnitt
March 18, 2009 at 12:44 PM

Strange, isn’t it, how 4 books promoting healthy sexual activity amongst consenting adults can cause more stir than the profound level of violence in movies, computer games, comic books, cartoons, etc.  Which content is more “harmful to minors?”

TSCPL is correct to leave those books right where they are.  If your child picks up one, maybe it’s a good time to act the parent and talk to the child about his/her reading choice, and help them make choices that are more appropriate for them.

Posted by Thom
March 31, 2009 at 10:57 AM

Where will the line be drawn?

Will the library restrict anything that is deemed offensive? Free and unrestricted access to all, please. Take a cue from the library that was featured in the Topeka Capital Journal. The library had the same issues but exercised its mandate to uphold the First Amendment.

Posted by fred
April 03, 2009 at 01:20 PM

I would like to applaud the board for their courageous decision not to restrict access to the four books in question.  These books pose no more danger to minors than do any of the other hundreds of books in the library that deal with sensitive subjects such as sex or violence.

It remains an important question why these four books were chosen.  There are many books in the library that someone could claim are potentially offensive or harmful to minors.  A search on the word “sex” in the library catalog returns over 950 items.  Should those be restricted as well?  And what about the books describing the atrocities of the holocaust or other acts of violence and destruction.  How are books on sex worse than this?

There is no rational reason to restrict access to the four books in question based solely on the objection of an individual or even a group.  This is a public institution and decisions such as these should be made based on objective evidence, not the opinions of a group of people who happen to have a problem with sex in general and with homosexuals in particular.

It is ultimately the responsibility of parents, not the library staff or board, to determine what children are mature enough to view and read.  If parents are concerned about their children viewing these books then it is their responsibility to supervise their children and put that limit in place.

The library staff does an outstanding job of situating books with sensitive materials in areas of the library that are designated for adults and that measure is reasonable and sufficient.
Any more “protections”  must be up to parents, if such are even necessary at all.  As Dr. Harder pointed out, kids are going to the children’s section of the library, not the adults’ section, and so this is a wholly manufactured crisis – a non-problem seeking an unneeded solution.

Posted by Brian Thomas
April 19, 2009 at 04:49 PM

Thank you TSCPL for not bowing down on the decision to not censor contents at the library.  Parents should oversee their children while using this valuable public service and not allow them engage in activities that are not appropriate for them.  Raising children is a parent’s duty, not the library.

Posted by Kate
May 19, 2009 at 07:57 PM

This is quite ridiculous and petty frankly.  First there are no laws being broken and second this is what they “Believe” so there should be no further dealings with this.  It does not matter what they believe is right or wrong, that is a matter to be dealt within the family and or religious practices and not forced upon the public.  If they want their children restricted from those particular books TEACH THEM why they are inappropriate.  I don’t need the community to tell me what is appropriate for my child LET ME be the parent.  Ultimately, if those four books are approved, this will open a door for many other people to voice their opinions on what they “believe” to be offensive and if that’s the case I may just pick four random books each month and waste the board of trustee’s time just because they will have too.

TSCPL Staff, You are great and thank you for not taking those books off the shelf.

Posted by Justin
May 19, 2009 at 10:38 PM

This is an issue with an historically obvious ‘slippery slope’.  Books don’t have content ratings, and if they did the ‘adult’ section would have to be 3/4 of the library, possibly more depending on who’s standards you base it on.  Since people can’t agree on standards, it’s a fool’s game to try.  I feel the library should have what it has and the onus should be on parents to monitor and potentially restrict what their children do.

Posted by Kenneth Taylor
June 21, 2009 at 06:12 AM

Books should not be banned, these titles should be in an Adults check out only, in reserved area!! This is America, all books should be available for reading!! This individual doesn’t have the right to repress books because she isn’t interested in the subject or thinks the subject is risque!

Posted by Alice M. Harnisch
June 24, 2009 at 05:17 PM

It is amazing to me how the defenders of these four books have had to reframe the debate in order to avoid looking like kooks.  They have alleged that the books are being “censured”.  However they are not being burned or even locked away.  They are merely placed away from children’s eyes.  This is noble.  Another person comments that they promote healthy sexual activity amongst consenting adults, and cause a stir.  It should be noted that it is a felony in Kansas for children to engage in sex (KSA 21-3612(a)(5) and KSA 3516(a)(3) for example), and by virtue of that fact, these 4 books are contributing to the delinquency of a minor.  It is good that this should cause a stir, and I am glad that the library is avoiding a practice that could be argued being party to child molestation.

Posted by Scott Bowman
June 29, 2009 at 03:52 PM

I think that the want to restrict books due to their sexuality is ridiculous. There are sexual inferences everywhere, and the distinction between what is and is not appropriate for young eyes is culturally and relatively subjective. Any attempt to establish guidelines such as that would not only be highly problematic but arbitrary at best, and wholly ineffective.
While this is not “burning” books the thought we should censure expression of art and literature from younger adults is ridiculous… The kids are in a library they’re not tagging walls.Yes in Kansas it is illegal for children to have sex, while i will not get into the conservative dogma that floods this state, we should not let it infiltrate the library and creative thought as well. But it is not illegal to READ a book or entertain new concepts of sexuality, and what that means. it leads to an increase in tolerance especially since they’re being exposed to queer culture that is not prevalent in Kansas as much.

If YOU feel that your child should not read that book then dont let them check it out. But why restrict it’s access from other people?

Posted by Alyssa
July 03, 2009 at 04:05 PM

Quite frankly sexuality and what is appropriate sexual expressions is subjective to any culture. Saudi Arabia or other Mid Eastern countries view our daily television shows and shorts as an over display of sexuality, but we do not see adult only sections for them. Due to its highly subjective nature it would be impossible to determine what should and should not be restricted. let alone the benefits of NOT having it restricted. One of the books is specifically about gay relationships. While there is not very much exposure in Kansas to alternative cultures and views, it gives the opportunity for children to be exposed to it and tolernace increased. Yes, it is illegal for children in Kansas to have sex, while I will not get into the wave of conservatism that floods our state, it is not illegal for a child to read a book. ANY BOOK. They are in a library, when did that become a bad thing? Frankly, if YOu have a problem with the book then dont let your child check out books without your approval. But it is no one elses responsibility to restrict your child’s reading list. Especially in a manner that stifles thought, and is insensitive to other cultures.

Posted by Alyssa
July 03, 2009 at 04:10 PM

If the Pilgrims were alive now we would all be in shakles. I don’t think these should be open to anyone under 13 or maybe 16 yrs old. In these times our teens know more about sex then we did at their age. And I would want my children able to research their feelings not be afraid of them and to know that they are ok.

Posted by Susan W.
July 05, 2009 at 08:17 AM

I am concerned about the proposed policy change of charging late fees.  I have always been extremely impressed with our library.  I would like to keep it available to all Topekans. Having a fee charged for late books could discourage use of the library.  Is that really the goal?  I have always felt my tax dollars that support the library have been well spent.  I will continue to support increases in library funding through our tax dollars so everyone can take advantage of this great Topeka resource. No late fees, please!

Posted by Barbara Petty
July 19, 2009 at 10:18 AM

Mrs. Borcher’s position is sound, when she references the guy in “Black Beauty” who claimed that too many people take the position that it is not their business, as an argument for not getting involved in matters that affect all of us.

That is, if we have the power to plead the cause of the poor and the needy, or relieve the oppression, whatever the form it may take, and we do not, we are guilty at best, of neglect, and worse yet, of by our silence, endorsing the actions that we have failed to take a stance against.

I do not know about you all, but I for one do not want to take the chance that there is any misunderstanding with God, concerning my position about whether or not it is okay to KNOWINGLY, allow materials that are WITHOUT A DOUBT inappropriate and more likely than not HARMFUL to minors.  Unequivocally, it is NOT OKAY, clearly it is absolutely unnecessary, under any scenario to have these materials available to minors.

The fact that any individual could in good faith make the argument FOR these sorts of materials to EVER be available to minors, is just perverted and shameful.  The city and county governments have no business whatsoever, in the form of the public library, or otherwise, to be a party to such outrageous folly.

Put the books way way up under lock and key somewhere where there is no possibility of a minor getting their hands on them!

Posted by Katherine Phelps-Griffin
July 31, 2009 at 06:49 PM

Parents should take responsibility for the material their children are checking out. I suggest that parents teach their children about sex and stop acting shocked and shaken when they are exposed to sexual content in their everyday life. As a child I was taught about sex from an early age and that helped me to make sound choices and decisions. I am 21 with no kids and have a healthy wonderful relationship. Restricting access is no replacement of good parent supervision

Posted by Mercedes Swanagan
August 03, 2009 at 05:22 PM

As the daughter of a librarian, I know the importance of access to books and not censoring what people can read. As a parent, I also appreciate wanting to keep inappropriate materials from minors.  However, when a child is old enough and motivated enough to find books on sex, it is because they really want to learn something.  I support the library board and staff in their decision.

Posted by Susan Stover
September 07, 2009 at 08:08 PM

Oh glorious library!!  This is the best investment of tax dollars possible.  What a wealth of knowledge, entertainment, adventure, romance, and joy are contained within these walls.  Thank you to my fellow tax payers for this unmitigated wonder!!

Posted by Joyce
September 11, 2009 at 10:04 AM

The books should remain on open shelves.  No one person should ever decide what a person of any age should read.

Posted by Cindy Stafford
September 12, 2009 at 07:42 PM

Being a mother of 4 children, I agree with many of the comments that have been made here.  If a child of any age is interested enough in sex to check out a book from the public library, I think they are old enough to read that book.  In today’s society they are much more likely to search the internet will be more graphic then any book could be.  I feel these books should be available to everyone.  As parents it is then our responsibility to monitor what our children are reading and answer their questions as they arise.

Posted by Lorene
September 22, 2009 at 12:45 PM

Does Mrs. Borcher not know how she came into this world? Is Mrs. Borcher a virgin? How backward can we be? Maybe she would also like to have the Westboro Baptist Church set up a permanent display in the lobby! Give it a BREAK! Topeka already suffers from enough extremism!

Posted by CSE
October 02, 2009 at 08:37 PM

Dear Topeka Library and Board of Trustees:

Two years ago I moved to another City.  This City is huge, as well as the revenue coming to the library, but unfortunately, nothing compares to the Topeka-Shawnee County Library.  From your collections to the people serving in your facilities, you are the best.

I guess when you live in Topeka, you use the library, you take things for granted.

I apologize for never taking the time to tell you what a great job you do, from selecting the books, your on-line services to the staffers at the main library and the bookmobiles.  All of you make a superb job at the library.  I am very thankful for your existence.  I hope my new library will copy your operations plan, it will bring this city’s library to a brand new level.

Please extend my gratefulness to all Staff from your wonderful organization.

Posted by Leticia Arzate
October 12, 2009 at 12:25 PM

Leticia – thank you so much! It’s always nice to hear customers say “you are the best!”

Posted by David Lee King
October 13, 2009 at 10:43 AM

For all of my life I have belonged to a military family so i have frequently moved around to many places. I can honestly say majority of the cities i have lived in have libraries that charged late fees. When i moved to topeka two years I ago I felt that Topeka was the exception not the rule. I am glad that Topeka is now charging late fees and that should encourage people to return their books in a timely fashion so that others can check them out. Also Topeka Library has a very convenient online option to renew books without having to come to the library. People that dont like the late fees can either return their books on time or not use the library. I personally have incurred late fees and I apy them without complaining because they are valid. The library has an email reminder option and they offer due date receipts with books check out as well as online accounts to check the status of anything that is checked out. I stand behind the library 100% with their decision and wish that people would quit whining and complaining.

Posted by Sadie
November 05, 2009 at 11:58 AM

I would like to say that the TSCPL is the greatest public library I have ever been to.

When the DVD Dispenser first came a year or so ago, it was great. A year or so later, I have come to dread standing in line for 30-40 minutes to return a video game or movie. One time I stood in line for twenty minutes with my six-year old son and three-month old baby girl and the Dispenser broke down, I left the line and five minutes later it was working again, 45 minutes later as the library closed I finally made it to the front of the line. I used to not worry too much about returning something, but now it costs a dollar a day in late fees (which is fine, whatever, but buy another Dispenser).

I have tried to wait to see if maybe the line will get smaller, it only grows like a snake. If you go at certain times during the weekdays there is no line, on weekends or evenings, forget about it. Yes, part of the problem is that people use their brothers, cousins, and uncles library cards, but part of is that the DVD Dispenser is SSLLLLLOOOOOOOOOOOWWWW. Maybe TSCPL could talk to the people over at Redbox about getting a faster dispenser. At Certain times during the day the DVD Dispenser is being overloaded with patrons, it’s probably going to break down soon from overuse.

I think it is time for the library to look at investing in another Dispenser, one for games, one for movies, or figure out a different system of dispensing games and movies.

Posted by James
December 07, 2009 at 06:07 PM

James – Thank you for your comments.  I really appreciate your suggestions.  This is a current concern for us as well and something we are talking about to figure out what the best solution is to the lines at the dispenser.  Just so you know, when we were investigating the dispenser, we tried to talk to Redbox and other similar vendors.  They were not interested in working with libraries at that time.  We will check with them again to see if they have changed their minds.  We don’t have any answers yet, but your comments help us. Thanks again.

Posted by Rob
December 07, 2009 at 06:25 PM

I advocate fervently the position that said Mrs. Borchers has taken to protect young children and students who are guests of the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library. I understand that the freedom of the adult reader must not be hindered in this process, however, the restriction of these books to minors would not have any negative effects concerning the welfare of minors who may wish to read said books. They might be unhappy, but that is not appropriate and they should not have the opportunity to get into trouble with those materials.

Necessarily, The action requested by Mrs. Borchers is not restricting to any appropriate freedom of topeka readers who are minors. I see Her request fit and necessary as far as very appropriate.

…in concurrence with “The Protect Minors from The Possible Vices of said Possibly offensive sexual books ….movement..begun by Mrs. Borchers.
-Miranda Toburen …a diligent and concerned High School student

Posted by Miranda Toburen
December 17, 2009 at 12:25 AM

It is not the responsibility of the library or it’s staff to teach children and young adults the respect and sensitivity that such materials require, nor is it their job to act as censors.  It is the job of each and every parent to do those things.  Likewise, it is not for Mrs. Borschers or anyone else to regulate and censor our library.  If you are uncomfortable with it, then don’t participate as a patron.

Posted by Andrew
December 17, 2009 at 02:46 PM

In the library, as in life, there are things we all can agree are wonderful and things we’ll disagree about the respectability or appropriateness of.  Life doesn’t decide for your children what they should observe, neither should the library decide what they should read.  I’m all for content warnings, but censorship and restriction of availability is a slippery slope to a very bad place.

On a bit of a tangent, the “if you don’t like it, don’t use it” response that keeps popping up has no place here, in my opinion.  Open discussions are no place for confrontational ‘love it or leave it’ stubbornness.

Posted by Kenneth
December 17, 2009 at 03:12 PM

Slippery slope scenario #2.  If we allow such materials as “The Joy of Sex” and “The Joy of Gay Sex” to be available to all who come to the library including children “whether you like it or not”, what else should be available?  How far does the freedom for all adulthood reach?  Should we have a section in the middle of non-fiction (or maybe it would be more appropriate in the fiction section. . )  labled Human Sexuality with all levels of pornographic materials available? Where are the “Debbie Does Dallas” videos located?  Shouldn’t they also be left out in the open for all library participants to have free and equal access to them?

Of course not! We do have standards and we do have limits.  I think it is agreed that not everyone has the same concept of where those lines are drawn.

Posted by Katie
December 28, 2009 at 10:47 AM