Contact Form

    News Details

    Huntington Beach council will consider a children’s library book review board
    • October 15, 2023

    Huntington Beach city libraries might soon have a community board reviewing children’s library books to determine if materials “meet the community standards of acceptance” and would need to have books containing any sexual content be placed on shelves designated for adults.

    Councilmember Gracey Van Der Mark, who has pushed for the city to make it harder for children to access sexually explicit books in city libraries, is proposing the new board and other changes the City Council will consider on Tuesday.

    “All of this is to really empower the parent,” Van Der Mark said. “We are simply giving the parents more control over what their children have access to.”

    When the council first talked about making it harder for children to access sexually explicit books at city libraries, it pushed many residents to voice their ardent disapproval. The proposed resolution is the clearest sign of what major changes could be coming.

    Van Der Mark’s proposal would mandate that no city library allow children to access books or other materials that contain “any content of sexual nature.” It would require a parent or guardian’s consent to access those materials, whether they are intended for children or adults.

    Van Der Mark’s resolution also would require city libraries to receive approval from a community/parent-guardian review board to obtain new materials intended for children containing any sexual content or references. She is proposing each of the seven members of the City Council would appoint three people to be on the board, which would meet at least twice a year and could reject by a majority vote material recommended to the library.

    Dina Chavez, a board member of the nonprofit Friends of the Huntington Beach Public Library, said the proposed resolution isn’t needed and is an insult to librarians. The library purchases about 9,000 children’s books a year, Chavez said, and the proposal “will absolutely disrupt operations of the library.”

    “It’s all based on a completely ridiculous idea that there was pornography in the library,” Chavez said. “There never was and there isn’t now.”

    The board would have the power to subject books already in circulation to review and move them to the adult section. Van Der Mark said if the board is created she didn’t think they’d have a whole lot at first to review. She said librarians are already reviewing books, but this would bring the community into the process.

    Chavez said if she was asked to be a member of the review board she would refuse so as to not give it legitimacy.

    So far in 2023, no books have been challenged for review under the existing process. The Huntington Beach Public Library has denied five requests in as many years to have books in its collection removed – one of which came from Van Der Mark in 2020.

    City staffers on Tuesday will also present their research and library policy changes they’ve been working on the last few months. Their recommendations for new policies include a new library card that would require parental permission for checking out books, raising the age for minors needing to be accompanied by an adult in the library and updating processes for book recommendations for children and families.

    City staffers formulated their ideas after having research meetings with the publishing industry, other city managers and library systems and the public, officials said.

    In their report to the council, staffers said they were told by Penguin Random House, the largest publisher in the U.S., that the publisher wouldn’t release anything that would raise red flags under the Miller Test, a legal test for determining if something can be considered obscenity, and the company has a multi-level review process that includes going over illustrations.

    It also uses third-party companies to identify content levels for children’s books.

    Van Der Mark said her proposal will allow parents to have more input on what books their children can access and more changes could be made.

    “This is the beginning,” Van Der Mark said. “As issues and concerns come up, we could fine-tune it. We have to be flexible about this because it’s never been done before.”

    The council is set to review the staff member’s presentation and proposal during a 4 p.m. study session on Tuesday and Van Der Mark’s proposal during the regular portion of the meeting at 6 p.m.

    Related Articles

    Local News |

    Irvine police will launch a new ‘first responder’ drone program this month

    Local News |

    Advocates horrified over mysterious fate of small animals

    Local News |

    Mission Viejo ordered to pay more than $715,000 in attorneys’ fees, judge says

    Local News |

    Orange County Soccer Club to call Great Park home for another 5 years

    Local News |

    Orange could start requiring lobbyists to register with the city

    ​ Orange County Register