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    Here are five books people have asked the Huntington Beach Public Library to remove
    • July 7, 2023

    The Huntington Beach Public Library has denied five requests in as many years to have books in its collection removed, according to library records, with the majority of materials concerning LGBTQ themes.

    One 2020 request involving now Councilmember Gracey Van Der Mark asking to remove “Gender Queer,” a graphic memoir that deals with gender identity and sexuality, ended with library officials choosing to move the book to the adult section, but refusing to outright remove it.

    “As with any book that deals with a difficult subject, there is the potential for extreme and strong reactions to what is included in a book,” now-retired Library Director Stephanie Beverage wrote in a letter sent to Van Der Mark, who had yet to be elected to the council. “That does not mean the book is without merit or needs to be removed from the collection.”

    The American Library Association says “Gender Queer” was the most challenged book in 2022.

    Other books patrons requested to be evaluated for removal included “This Day in June,” a picture book about a family attending a Pride parade; “Anne Frank: Her life in Words and Pictures;” “Open: An Uncensored Memoir of Love, Liberation, and Non-monogamy;” and “The Hips on the Drag Queen go Swish, Swish, Swish.”

    Last month, Van Der Mark lead the majority of the Huntington Beach City Council in asking city staffers to find new ways to make it harder for children to access sexually explicit books in the city’s five library branches.

    During her presentation at that June 20 meeting, Van Der Mark said she had filed a complaint for “Gender Queer” to be removed.

    “I didn’t think having images of two young people performing oral sex was appropriate,” Van Der Mark said then. “It was a battle. I did go through the process currently in place right now — not without being treated pretty disrespectfully by the former librarian.”

    In a phone interview, Beverage said once a material evaluation form is filled out, library staff meet to review the title in question. They look at book reviews, awards, the target audience and the demographics of the community. Once a decision is made, a letter is sent to the filer and Beverage said she would try to talk to them about the process that occurred.

    Beverage recalled her phone conversation with Van Der Mark discussing the library’s decision to not remove “Gender Queer” as “respectful and calm.”

    “I did explain the book in question had merit,” Beverage said. “It would be difficult, but that would be something for her to determine with her child.”

    Van Der Mark said after filing the request, she didn’t hear back for a while and began calling Beverage for a response. On the phone with Beverage, Van Der Mark said she “got a lot of lecture about why what I was doing is wrong.”

    That experience, Van Der Mark said, is part of what pushed her to write her proposal looking for options of what the council could do. Van Der Mark was elected in the November.

    City staff won’t come back with recommendations for Van Der Mark’s proposal until later in the year. A council study session is supposed to be held when ready. Van Der Mark said she didn’t have an update to provide on what they were considering.

    Current Library Services Manager Jessica Framson has denied two requests for books to be removed so far this year, according to the library records obtained.

    A library patron wanted “The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish” to be removed for what they said was “not age appropriate for preschoolers or any minor.” Framson, in a February letter, said the book would remain since it met the library’s collection development policy and the  American Library Association’s  bill of rights.

    Beverage said in her 34 years working as a librarian, she never saw a book removed, but there’s been a growing trend to challenge titles.

    “I wasn’t expecting things,” she said, “to become as extreme as they have over the last few years.”

    ​ Orange County Register