Board of Education Carroll Report

Carroll County Public Library’s Defense of Sexually Explicit Children’s Books Raises Eyebrows

In a recent statement issued by Andrea Berstler, the executive director of the Carroll County Public Library, a seemingly contradictory stance was taken regarding the presence of sexually explicit children’s books in public libraries and schools. While Berstler defended the library’s commitment to freedom of speech and expression, she stopped short of condemning the decision made by public schools to remove these controversial books from their school media centers.

The statement was issued in response to 58 sexually explicit books identified in school libraries, a situation that many Carroll County parents deem inappropriate for the school environment. The age-inappropriate materials have been submitted for reconsideration by the local Carroll County chapter of Moms for Liberty, a parent-rights group, and a coalition of local parents. A school committee will assess these submissions to determine the fate of the books.

Among the contentious titles is “Let’s Talk About It,” which contains cartoon depictions of sexual acts.

Excerpts from “Let’s Talk About It” – Found in Liberty High School Media Center.  Parts of the image have been censored due to the sexually explicit content.

Berstler’s statement, which emphasized the importance of freedom of speech and access to diverse perspectives, has sparked heated debates within the community. Critics argue that her defense of the public library’s right to host explicit content for children contradicts what seemingly was an endorsement of the removal of such material from public schools, raising questions about the library’s role in fostering genuine intellectual freedom.

In her statement, Berstler quoted Benjamin Franklin, underlining the necessity of free speech for a thriving society. However, many community members are now questioning the library’s interpretation of “freedom of speech” when it comes to controversial children’s literature. 

Out of the 58 books in question, the public library already hosts at least 29 of these titles in the adult section. While Berstler reiterated the library’s commitment to hosting these books in public libraries, the inclusion of explicit material in the children’s collection has once again raised concerns among parents, educators, and community leaders.

Some critics have accused Berstler of hypocrisy, suggesting that her defense of free speech is selective and inconsistent. They argue that while the library claims to support diversity and inclusivity, the presence of sexually explicit content in the collection contradicts these ideals.  Additionally, in 2021, while thousands of school and public libraries across the nation banned Dr. Suess titles that were far less controversial, CCPL did not invoke the intellectual freedom argument to protect these books.      

The debate has divided the community, with some supporting the library’s stance on freedom of speech, while others express concerns about the potential impact of explicit content on young readers. The issue has reignited discussions about the boundaries of intellectual freedom and the responsibilities of public institutions in shaping the minds of the next generation.

As the community grapples with this divisive topic, the Carroll County Public Library’s role in curating its collection and the balance between freedom of speech and age-appropriate content continue to be subjects of intense scrutiny and debate. 

The full statement from Andrea Berstler of the CCPL can be read here:

Correction:  Previously Informed Carroll stated that CCPL joined thousands of public libraries across the nation in banning Dr. Seuss titles that were far less controversial.  While several Carroll County Public Library branches do not carry the banned Dr. Seuss titles, we cannot state with evidence that CCPL banned these titles.  

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