South St. Louis County-based Citizens Against Pornography is taking steps to see that parents are informed about sexually explicit material in books targeting young-teen readers — books that can be found throughout the St. Louis County Library system.
Citizens Against Pornography, along with other concerned citizens, appeared before the St. Louis County Library Board at its Monday, Aug. 18, afternoon meeting.
The group presented a petition bearing signatures of about 150 citizens. The petition calls on trustees to establish a seven-person “Adult Advisory Committee” to provide input and advice to the board “regarding the appropriateness of material for young readers.”
The seven-person committee would be chosen by the Library Board from each of the county’s seven county council districts.
As evidence of its case, the anti-porn group submitted seven examples of sexually explicit excerpts drawn from young teen books currently available on St. Louis County Library shelves. None of those examples, which dealt explicitly with sexual subjects, could be reprinted in this newspaper.
“We’re afraid that parents and grandparents have no idea what may be in these books,” said Carl Hendrickson, chairman of Citizens Against Pornography. “‘Looking For Alaska’ sounds like a travelogue, maybe something to do with geography. ‘Escape From Egypt’ sounds harmless enough.”
Others books singled out by Citizens Against Pornography for containing explicit sexual material include: “Alice On Her Way,” by Phyllis Naylor; “Growing Up Gay In America” by Jason R. Rich, “The Little Black Book For Girls: A Book on Healthy Sexuality” by Youth For Youth; “Rainbow Boys” by Alex Sanchez; and “Making Sexual Decisions: The Ultimate Teenage Guide” by Kris Gowen.
Hendrickson said his group is not interested in removing books from library shelves. Instead, he and others would like to see books either carry warning labels or be moved to a library’s adult section.
“Labeling is done with movies and TV programs, but with books the parents simply don’t know what their children are reading. St. Louis County Library does have a teen advisory committee, but we think adults should have some input — a group of parents reviewing these books,” Hendrickson said.
Jean Weinstock, president of the five-member St. Louis County Library Board, said members will be taking the group’s request seriously. She said a workshop on the matter will be scheduled for late September or early October.
She said the St. Louis County Library system does provide complaint forms to allow for adult input. Those complaints are reviewed by the library’s administration team. She said the library is in the process of setting up a materials review committee.
Hendrickson said the complaint process is reactive rather than proactive.
“We would like an adult advisory committee to help the library board by going through the books and deciding whether there is adult material,” Hendrickson said.
Hendrickson said his group was approached by concerned parents who objected to the content of certain books found in the teen section of the Daniel Boone Branch Library in Ellisville. An online check showed that many of those same books are available throughout the St. Louis County library system.
“Our goal is not to censor. We are against censorship. We realize that we have books that we may disagree with, while another group may want something taken out of the libraries that we find wholesome,” Hendrickson said.