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'This book was a life line': Majority of citizens' emails show support for Meridian Library

Out of the first 137 pages of emails in one document, those in favor of keeping the library outnumbered those against the library, 52-3.

MERIDIAN, Idaho — Throughout almost 1,500 emailed and mailed correspondence from Meridian citizens to the Ada County Commissioners regarding dissolving their library district over a petition, a majority of those emails voiced heartfelt support for the Meridian Library District (MLD).

Out of the first 137 pages of emails in one document provided by Ada County on its website, those in favor of keeping the library outnumbered those against the library, 52-3. Other emails were questions about the petition, pages of books or filed documents. 

One woman, Deborah, wrote in an email that she was so poor growing up, she had no source for entertainment -- so she would spend time at her local library. Her daughter later became a library director, she wrote.

"My mother was a regular visitor to the Meridian Library District, voraciously reading biographies to enrich her mind until she battled dementia, and even then, friends would stop by and read to her. Now that I’m retired, I visit the Meridian Library several times a week," she wrote in the email.

The response is due to the petition filed in February by a small citizens' group, the "Concerned Citizens of Meridian" asking Ada County Commissioners to dissolve the Meridian Library District. The group claims certain material in libraries are harmful to children -- like books about puberty and sexual orientation. 

The group claims MLD has refused to provide financial transparency, shut down public discourse at meetings, and refused to discuss minors having "access to obscene and sexually explicit materials." It also claims the MLD refused to communicate with speakers at board meetings, allowed minors to obtain material targeted towards sexualization, that the MLD "continues to provide facilities for sexual indoctrination of minors by the Queer Straight Alliance" and that the board has a member who "supports chemical and surgical castration of minors."

One book, "It's Perfectly Normal," which details a teen's changing body, was brought up in the emails as well as within the Idaho Legislature last year. Amid claims that children could access the book with no parental supervision, the book actually remains in the "Parent - Teacher" section of the Meridian Library.

Commissioners had to hold a hearing on the petition, which was attended by hundreds of Meridian residents on Monday night. After four hours of testimony, the board decided to hold another hearing on Wednesday. 

Even so, the emails show a majority of Meridian citizens support their library.

Another citizen, Kelissa, wrote that when she became a stay at home parent she struggled with postpartum depression.

"Some of the days got very dark and sometimes I had scary thoughts," she wrote. "(The library) gave me somewhere to go, helped me make friends and gave me ideas of things to do with my baby at home! It saved us!"

A resident, Sue, wrote that the one book parents might think is inappropriate for their child may be a life line for another.

"These books are not smut or porn, they are potential sources of education. I can vividly remember when I gave my 11-year-old stepson a book regarding his changing body. This book was a life line, as it opened up communication between us regarding sex and sexuality." 

A Meridian couple also wrote, "We believe the effort is driven primarily by thinly‐veiled bigotry among those who feel it is they who should decide what constitutes appropriate reading material for everyone else... Ultimately, it is up to parents to decide what is suitable for their children, and their children alone."

Other emails supportive of dissolving the district said that the petition is about protecting children -- similar to what Concerned Citizens of Meridian group member Mike Hon said in the Monday night meeting.

Hon said they do not want to get rid of the library; they merely want to reestablish it with different leadership. If voters decide to dissolve the library, he said they will immediately submit another petition to reestablish the library district with a board that is in line with community standards. 

A Meridian resident, Janet, wrote in an email that the petition is to save the children of Meridian. 

"No more pornographic material should be available to minors!" she wrote.

Another couple from Meridian in a joint email wrote the following, "Children having access to pornographic and explicit material is damaging and we as taxpayers don't want our money supporting content that harms children."

After the next hearing on Wednesday, Ada County Commissioners have 10 days to decide whether or not to put the dissolution of the district on the ballot. 

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