The Lewis County Board of Commissioners, Scott Brummer, Lindsey Pollock and Sean Swope, penned a letter last week to their appointed trustees on the five-county Timberland Regional Library board with the intent of developing policy around printed materials and age-appropriate books for children.
If well-received, the trustees will bring the concerns to the regional board for discussion. The board’s appointed trustees are Brian Mittge, of Chehalis, and Hal Blanton, of Packwood.
Mittge was recently appointed by Lewis County, so his official seat as a trustee is still being voted on by other counties. It is expected that he’ll take the position by the end of the month. The letter was only sent to them, not to any library administration.
Several weeks ago, Swope made a Facebook post sharing concerns over a pamphlet in the Centralia and Chehalis Timberland Library branches. Labeled “resources for LGBTQ+ kids,” the pamphlet shared that all patrons, no matter their age, have the right to a private account at the library.
Pollock later criticized his use of the term “groomers” in the post, saying she felt the term was commonly used as an “inappropriate, derogatory” way of thinking about people who perform in drag shows or read LGBTQ+ books with children. When Swope raised the topic of a letter to the library board on creating policies around age appropriate content though, both his seatmates encouraged moving forward with it.
“I’m frankly amazed that the policy is not already there in place,” Brummer said.
Swope said he didn’t feel it was the board’s place to come up with the policy, but to recommend conversation with the library’s board of trustees.
He and Pollock disagreed about the appropriateness of one book he mentioned, with Pollock noting it already had an age recommendation.
Swope responded that the recommendation didn’t necessarily stop kids from grabbing the books off the shelf, and she agreed, saying, “They should be able to develop a policy.”
The board settled on suggesting a rating system for books that Swope equated to G, PG, PG-13 and R-rated movies.
Already, Timberland libraries have restrictions for internet access to “adult content” by patrons ages 17 and under, Swope said.
The letter asks for “policy for printed materials … regarding brochures and other printed materials posted in or handed out” at Timberland libraries. The specifics of those policies are not defined.
Secondly, the commissioners ask the trustees to bring up discussion around a “rating system for books to ensure that books located within small kids' reach in the children's section are age appropriate. We feel that books that include crude humor, crude language, profanity, nudity, sex or horror should require parental guidance.”
Mittge, if officially appointed to the trustee seat by the July 26 Timberland Regional Library board meeting, said he does intend to bring up the topics, as the commissioners suggested.
The board of trustees, he said, is a “unique situation” where most county residents pay taxes for the library but cannot vote for their representatives. With that, he said, he felt the trustee’s responsibility is to take county commissioner requests seriously.
On the content of the letter, Mittge said, “I want everyone to feel comfortable visiting the library, but I’ve already heard from people who aren’t. … That seems to be part of the substance and I do think those subjects should be discussed.”
Mittge encouraged interested people to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or to attend the next board meeting over Zoom. Sign-ups for public comment are open until 5 p.m., one half hour before the meeting starts. Information on the board and its meetings is available at https://www.trl.org/board-trustees.