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Little Free Libraries respond to Central Bucks library policy

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As the Central Bucks School District’s new library policy continues to stir controversy and concern and Pennridge School District considers a similar policy, some area Little Free Libraries plan to expand their offerings.

With a stated mission of – “Building Community. Inspiring Readers. Expanding Book Access,” the homemade libraries allow users to take a book or two and also add one, or more, if they like.

“It’s a most lovely, wonderful thing,” said Marlene Pray, of the LFL project.

As an organizer of Little Free Libraries of Doylestown and Beyond, Pray said, “They celebrate literacy and community.” She’s had a LFL in front of her home for eight years. There are about 25 LFLs in the larger Doylestown area, estimated Pray, who has long been a Doylestown community activist.

The school district’s new policy, which has drawn criticism from organizations such as the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the Education Law Center, The American Association of Librarians and others, uses words such as “inappropriate” and “sexualized content” to describe what books won’t be permitted in school libraries. A group chosen by the superintendent will determine if the content is “age appropriate.”

Some parents expressed support for the policy at a recent school board meeting, saying they appreciated the district “protecting” their children. District officials have consistently said the policy is not book banning.

Among the books objected to by some, is “Heather Has Two Mommies.” Published in 1989, the story is about a non-traditional family where a child is being raised by her biological mother and her partner. Others include “Lawn Boy,” “The Bluest Eye” and “Gender Queer.”

With the books targeted for review in Central Bucks and Pennridge school districts, some Little Free Libraries are adding several titles, said Stacey Smith, a Pennridge parent who is part of the Pennridge Improvement Project.

“We are very concerned about any LGBTQ+ or gender identity topics, especially in the elementary school level where they (the school board) seem to be very concerned about what the publishing industry considers “age appropriate.”

Pray stressed, “This is not a battle against CB’s policy, it’s a commitment to ensure people have access, we want to support accessibility. Little Free Libraries can play an important role in pushing back against censorship and banning.”

When library books involving issues of gender identity were questioned in Pennridge last fall, Smith and others organized a book drive for works by a diverse group of authors. Hundreds of books were donated and “sprinkled in” to the community’s Little Free Library.

Titles such as “Maus I:A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History,” a highly acclaimed graphic novel about a man’s survival of the Holocaust, and “Maus II,” as well as “V is for Vendetta,” a controversial dystopian, science fiction graphic novel, are among the books being placed in local LFLs.

Here are the 10 most challenged books of 2021, according to the American Library Association:

1. “Gender Queer,” by Maia Kobabe

2. “Lawn Boy,” by Jonathan Evison

3. “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” by George M. Johnson

4. “Out of Darkness,” by Ashley Hope Perez

5. “The Hate U Give,” by Angie Thomas

6. “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” by Sherman Alexie

7. “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” by Jesse Andrews

8. “The Bluest Eye,” by Toni Morrison

9. “This Book Is Gay,” by Juno Dawson

10. “Beyond Magenta,” by Susan Kuklin

The number of library books being challenged in 2021 was 729, more than double the number in 2020, according to the ALA. It is the highest number since the association began recording the data in 2000. The actual number is likely much higher, the ALA said, as many challenges go unreported.

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Central Bucks School District

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