BOISE, Idaho — Ada County Commissioners are now in possession of a petition to dissolve the Meridian Library District.
A group called The Concerned Citizens of Meridian accuses the Meridian Library District of allowing materials in their libraries targeted towards sexualizing minors and providing facilities for sexual indoctrination of minors.
They also claim that the Library District refuses to discuss policy on the matter and has shut out conversations at open meetings.
“Honestly, I'm a bit saddened. We know at Meridian Library that we are a beloved and vibrant part of this community,” Meridian Library Board of Trustees Chair Megan Larsen said.
Larsen responded to the accusations Thursday and said the library had 45,000 card holders and hundreds of thousands of visits to the location every year.
"So it's really sad that a small group of folks are willing to dissolve the library, shut it down completely, rather than let families make their own choices about what they want to read, as they've done for nearly 100 years in Meridian," Larsen said.
The attention on libraries in Idaho has magnified in recent years, with campaigns and community conversations about what content should, and should not be, in libraries.
Larsen believes it is a small group making big accusations.
“I think this is a vocal minority. Thinking back to our levy in 2019 that passed with a supermajority of voters that were very excited about the new branches that we're bringing to Meridian unBound where we're sitting right now, our Orchard Park branch, that is to open this spring, and then a South branch that is on the way," Larsen said. "Voters told us clearly that they wanted to expand library services and that they valued the services that we provide.”
She continued that the library district places great importance on parental involvement in the content their children access and that the message has been very clear to the concerned group.
“We have communicated, we've met with them," she said. "We've shared the tools that they can use to monitor what their children are checking out, how they can find materials that fit with their interests and values."
Larsen added that cases like this have gone through the courts in the past.
"In Nampa, they faced a similar issue when they tried to put a book behind the desk and there was a challenge to that, and they had to have the board back off of that," she said.
Larsen agrees that there is content in their system that contains what some families may consider controversial for their children to consume. However, other families may have different thoughts.
They have to serve the whole community, not one segment.
“Not everybody wants to check out those books and read them together with their children. And that is fine, right? Those are individual choices that folks can make. What concerns us is attempting to impose those choices on every family and to decide the small group of folks decide what is right for every family. We know the needs and interests are very diverse,” Larsen said.
Promoting the sexualization of children is a serious claim. The petition also claims that Meridian Library District “continues to provide facilities for the sexual indoctrination of minors...”
So, what does Larsen make of that claim?
“Indoctrination is such a loaded word. We make materials available on a wide variety of topics, presenting a wide variety of viewpoints as is clearly outlined in our collection development policy," Larsen said. "Representing a variety of voices and making sure that we have materials that are a diverse and inclusive collection because our population that we're serving is diverse and inclusive."
Through social media discussions regarding the topic, there appears to be a reasonable number of individuals who don’t understand just what it is the petition intends to accomplish.
To be clear, it wouldn’t just clean out the board, it cleans out the entire system.
“They would need to dispose of the assets of the library. They've been very clear on that. It says on the press release on their website they must dispose of the assets so the library would go away completely, Should the voters vote to dissolve it,” Larsen said.
Certification of the petition would likely involve public testimony, something that Larsen believes that, with enough participation from the community, would reflect just how Meridians feel about the accusations and claims in the petition.
"We hear from our patrons all the time about their strong support of the library and how they value the services that we provide," she said. "So, I would expect a strong showing up support for Meridian Library District.”
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