ST. MARYS, Kan. (KSNT) – A disagreement over an award-winning children’s book could result in one Kansas town losing its public library.
St. Marys City Commission is working to determine whether to shut down the Pottawatomie Wabaunsee Regional Library after a resident complained about the book, “Melissa.”
“Melissa,” formerly titled “George,” is the story of a young fourth-grade boy who identifies as a girl and desperately wants to play the part of Charlotte in “Charlotte’s Web.”
Residents packed city hall Tuesday night to hear whether the city commission would renew a lease for the library or make plans to start a city-run library. No decision was made.
Following a challenge of the book at the Pottawatomie Wabaunsee Regional Library, the city commission of St. Marys asked the library to remove the book.
When the director of the Pottawatomie-Wabaunsee Regional Library Judith Cremer appealed to the council, they responded by refusing to renew the library’s lease which expires on Dec. 31.
So far, nearly 1,800 people have signed a Change.org petition asking people to support the public library and its services. The petition asked people to show support for the library.
“What I would encourage people to do is, we’re all still one community. We’re all still one the same team, we’re all still trying to do the same thing which is to serve the community to the best of our ability. So, if people have used this library, had experiences here, we’ve helped them to do certain things, they should share those stories because I think we have made a big difference in a lot of people’s lives, but they’re the ones that need to tell that story not us.”Judith Cremer, Director of Pottawatomie-Wabaunsee Regional Library
During a city commission meeting on Nov. 1, commissioners told Cremer the city was considering several options, including a city-run library, or if the library was unwilling to recognize and respect the city commission the city could run the library with a city-appointed board with local oversight.
Cremer told KSNT she had concerns St. Marys would have a library if the regional system were forced to leave. Cremer said she had real doubts that the city would be able to tax a city library when they are already taxed for a regional system.
Cremer said the situation has been difficult for the staff and added she hopes commissioners take that into consideration.
“The book sat on the shelf for five years, it needs to be here. It’s there for whoever needs it. Everyone has the right to access any information they need. We just want to take care of everyone and do our jobs,” Cremer said.
The director said the book would be placed in the banned section of the library, which means you would have to ask for it to borrow it. According to the library, the book has been “detained” by a citizen, so the library has been unable to remove it.
During the City Commission meeting on Nov. 15, a parent said he took the book so it couldn’t be returned to circulation.
According to the American Library Association, the book remains one of the 10 most challenged books.
If you would like to listen to the St. Marys City Council meeting, click here.