Fresno County libraries will likely see some changes in their children’s sections, with certain books deemed to have sexually explicit content being moved to other sections.
Tuesday’s decision by the Fresno County Board of Supervisors drew an immense swarm of people to the Fresno County Hall of Records leading to overflow outside of the Board’s chamber itself, yet only a fraction of them were given time to address greivances.
The big picture: The Board of Supervisors supported Supervisor Steve Brandau’s measure, dubbed the “Parents Matter Act,” on a 3-2 vote, with Supervisors Sal Quintero and Brian Pacheco opposing it.
- The Parents Matter Act will remove books that have sexually explicit materials or talk about controversial gender issues from the children’s section.
- Books will not be removed from the library altogether, just from the children’s section.
- The board voted to have the Parents Matter Act be placed on the consent agenda for a future meeting after making some amendments to it on Tuesday.
- At Supervisor Buddy Mendes’s suggestion, the county will have an 11-person committee to oversee, review and create community standards for books in the children’s section. Brandau’s initial proposal had that committee at 15 people. Each supervisor will appoint two members, and the County Administrative Officer will appoint one.
- The committee will not have the power to remove books from the library.
- Another amendment that the board voted on is to create an appeals process for the community if it disagrees with the selections from the Community Parent and Guardian Review Committee.
- The county will also publicly post a list of books moved from the children’s section and explain how to access them.
What they’re saying: Despite dozens of people showing up to address the board about the Parents Matter Act, Quintero – the chairman – limited public comment to 20 minutes and allowed a maximum of two minutes per speaker.
- Only 11 people spoke because of the limitations.
- Former Fresno County Librarian Michelle Gordon Hartman told the board that there is already selection criteria for books, making this act unnecessary.
- “We are talking about restricting access, which is a form of censorship,” Gordon Hartman said. “The library serves all of Fresno County residents, including the ones that you or I may not like. It is the right and the responsibility of a parent or guardian or caregiver to monitor and decide what their child and only their child accesses at the library.”
- Another speaker who did not identify herself opined that Brandau’s proposal is an attack on the local LGBTQ community.
- “This is nothing more than a front for a movement to erase hard-fought visibility representation and inclusion of the LGBTQ community, as 75 percent of the books opposed feature LGBTQ themes,” she said.
- Following its introduction last week, Brandau faced criticism from LGBT advocates that the measure was an attempt to outflank his principal 2024 opponent, Fresno City Councilman Garry Bredefeld. Tuesday, Bredefeld teed off over the limits on public comment on the item.
- “No matter where someone stands on any issue, EVERY person should be allowed to speak to their government officials just as we do at the Fresno City Council! What an outrage! Free speech should never be disallowed at government meetings!” Bredefeld wrote in a statement on Facebook.