Worcester County

Permanent book borrowing plot backfires

MILLBURY, Mass. — Call it the library’s “Universal Understanding”: what you borrow, you return.

But that is a concept apparently lost on an unidentified patron of the Millbury Public Library -- who took out four books last fall.

“They were checked out on her library card back in October,” said Ann Dallair, Millbury Library Director.

As a member of the CWMARS (Central and Western Massachusetts Automated Resource Sharing) library consortium, Millbury automatically renews borrowed items, such that they can be checked out for a total of six weeks.

But when that six week mark arrived, the four books never came back -- which prompted CWMARS to send out a request for the books -- or enough money (about $70) to cover them.

At that point, the patron sent an email back.

“She clearly stated that she had no intention of returning these items,” Dallair said. “As she doesn’t believe that these items belong, as she would quote, unquote say, in a children’s library.”

The four books all deal with LGBT issues -- and none were shelved in the children’s section of the Millbury Library. In fact, all were shelved in the young adult section -- physically distant from the children’s area.

Three of the titles, “Jay’s Gay Agenda,” Gender Queer” and “Camp” are meant for readers ages fourteen and up. The fourth book, “Lawn Boy,” should have been in the adult fiction area of the library -- an honest mistake on the library’s part, Dallair said.

That’s something she communicated to the patron who hadn’t returned the books -- with the promise “Lawn Boy” would be properly shelved once they got it back.

They still haven’t gotten the original books back -- but that doesn’t mean the Millbury Library is missing the titles -- thanks to one Jeff Raymond, a former Library Trustee -- and now with the group “Friends of Millbury Library.”

“I had heard at the Trustees meeting that a number of books had been taken out and not returned,” Raymond said. That led the lifelong resident of Millbury to donate some other books to cover those missing. But social media posts about the incident left a bad taste with Raymond -- and that’s when he decided to do something bigger.

He organized a book drive centered around the missing four titles.

“That quickly exploded,” Raymond said. “And what I thought was going to be about a dozen books became over 250 pledged. So now I have enough for every central Massachusetts library and then some.”

Raymond said it’s important to have LGBT books in the library available for teens because of possible struggles with sexuality. But, he’s taken some heat for his activism -- with some accusing him, even, of aiding pedophiles.

Raymond said he did what he did because freedom to choose is important -- for everyone.

“It’s not up to somebody else to decide,” he said, “if you don’t want it in your house then you don’t take it out from the library.”

As for the patron holding on to the books -- until they’re returned, Dallair said she’s lost privileges at the dozens of libraries that make up the CWMARS consortium. Worse, she could face fines of $100 to $500 for each of the missing books, depending on what the Trustees decide to do when they meet next month.

Tuesday night, the Massachusetts Family Institute responded to an earlier request from Boston 25 News for comment on the situation in Millbury. “There are an increasing number of books with explicit sexual themes being marketed to young teens and even to pre-teens,” said Mary Ellen Siegler, Director of Communications and Research for the organization. "

“Shockingly, our public libraries are including these books in their collections. It used to be that adults, like the local librarian, understood it was inappropriate and harmful to expose minor children to lewd sexual material. Not any more. There is a vast body of research that demonstrates the harm of exposing children to sexual content. Early exposure to pornography has been linked to poor mental health, negative sexual behaviors and attitudes, pornography viewing in adulthood, and more. Parents should be wary about the books being promoted to their children, and should no longer assume their local librarian is making wise choices regarding book selections for children and teens. Likewise, town and city leadership should safeguard the health and innocence of the children in their community by implementing policies protecting them from graphic sexual content in local libraries.” Siegler continued.

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