In publicly funded institutions, shouldn’t the taxpayers have a voice in, say, what’s on the shelves of a public library? 

May 26 – When a taxpayer brought up an issue with Representative Rob Kauffman about a book on the shelves in the Coyle Free Library in Chambersburg, Kauffman took it to the library board. 

The book called “The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish Swish Swish” was written by Lil Miss Hot Mess and is geared toward 1 to 6 year olds. 

The president of the library board, Franklin County Commissioner Dave Keller, said the situation would be discussed. 

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM pointed out, “The radio station did not start this little battle. This was a tax payer. The taxpayer brought the issue of a drag queen book whose target audience is 1 to 6 year olds. Now that may be fine at your home and that may be fine with your little circle of friends, double-degreed, liberal degreed, but it’s not in the library that this taxpayer is paying for. All we did was report it. Now if the keyboard cowards want to cheer on the groomers while hiding behind fake profiles, go right ahead. The drag queen book for 1 to 6 year olds is suitable for your home and the altar that you worship at, not for taxpayers and they have a voice in this.” 

The libraries are funded through county tax money. Libraries also get some state money, but you’ll note on your Franklin County taxes that a percentage of what you pay will go to the libraries. 

Attorney Clint Barkdoll said, “I think taxpayers, patrons have a vested interest in the governance of these organizations, their programming, and what’s on the shelves. I was on the Waynesboro library board for many years. I was the president of that board at one time and we would get these things that come in and it would always remind me of that old quote from the Supreme Court about what’s offensive. I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it. That’s what this falls into for me. Should you ban the Catcher in the Rye or the Grapes of Wrath? Well, no. I don’t think so. That’s classic literature, but then how about when there’s a book like you’re describing? Should that be pulled off the shelf? I think the board legitimately can say yes. These are public libraries. You don’t put everything that’s out there on the shelves.” 

What about a book that talks about how to make a bomb? Should that be on the shelf? 

Barkdoll said, “Certainly the board needs to have discretion to pull these books from the shelf and these are publicly funded institutions. That’s just how this process works.” 

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM added, “You’re talking about potential harm and that is the point. Someone, a very dear, conservative friend of mine made the case of ‘well, maybe I don’t agree with it, but I don’t agree with banning books and I want freedom of speech, so maybe it should be left.’ No, that’s the issue here. Exposing children to sexualization at a young age where their minds are not ready to accept this has been proven in research to cause psychological harm to these children. Not to mention this whole belief system that there is no such thing as male/female, that this is just an artificial construct. Well that’s a belief system. That’s fine. You might say it’s just another belief system, why can’t people be exposed to it? Again because of children’s fundamental development, male/female is one of the earliest standards that kids wrap their minds around and we don’t know the effects of shaking up that standard right now. It’s going to cause stress and anxiety in young children. That’s also potential harm. That’s why even though you might say this is just one group’s belief system and why shouldn’t it be out there because it can cause harm. That’s the difference.” 

Barkdoll noted, “It’s such a slippery slope. Libraries buy these books by the thousands and I don’t expect board members to know every book that’s coming in and out of the library, but it’s such a slippery slope if they’re allowing some of these books to remain on the shelves, well is it anything goes? Can you have pornographic materials on the shelf? Clearly the answer is no. So there’s where the library staff and then to a lesser degree the board, I think they do have discretion and authority to pull these things off the shelf when a taxpayer or a patron brings it to their attention.”

There is a process in the library where a committee considers requests like this from tax payers or patrons. 

Barkdoll said, “In this case you’re describing, I bet no one on the board even knew it was there and they’re probably thankful that a patron or a taxpayer brought it to their attention because they otherwise would have had no idea it was there.” 

Jansen said, “Lil Miss Hot Mess, the author herself in her paper on this kind of thing says this is about teaching children how to live queerly. I’m sorry, I think a lot of people would have an issue with that, especially because of the potential harm it could do.” 

PA Representative Paul Schemel said, “We have to be ever vigilant. That was a book that was in a public library, a book intended for children that promotes a drag queen lifestyle, which is a counter-cultural lifestyle that most decent people would say is indecent. We have to be vigilant and make sure those things are not there. That’s not hate. That’s love. That’s love for children and love for our community.” 

Jansen said, “Lil Hot Mess is a professor of gender studies and a drag queen.” 

Schemel said, “Everyone should ask themselves, why is it people in this category that have this belief, why are they so interested in having access to your children? Think about that. Why are they interested in having access to your children?” 

Ryan added, “And why are the people and the keyboard warriors that are out there, why are you championing this? Don’t hide behind book burning. Why are you championing this?” 

Jansen noted, “Let’s be honest, until five minutes ago everybody thought drag and drag performances were adult themed entertainment, adult-only content. They didn’t think this was appropriate for children and it is hyper-sexualized dressing up of men as women. So you’re both blurring the lines between male and female, which of course they want to say girl/boy is an artificial construct and we want children to not believe in that anymore and then they also want to say it’s okay for children to be exposed to this hyper-sexualization, which research studies and childhood development studies have shown has a potential for really significant psychological harm to children. That’s why it’s not book banning per se to get this out of a community library. It’s saying this book could potentially cause harm to the very audience it’s directed towards.” 

Schemel said, “I hope that it goes through the process and they see this for what it is, which is smut.”