Citizens outraged over graphic children’s book at Liberty library share concerns with council

Liberty resident Whitney Brents addresses Liberty City Council on Tuesday about a questionable children's book she found at the Liberty Municipal Library that shows graphic images. The book has since been pulled from the library collection.

Community residents packed the council chamber in Liberty Tuesday night to address concerns regarding a children’s book that discusses sensitive sexual matters. The book, titled “Tell Me: What Children Really Want to Know About Bodies, Sex and Emotions” was recently discovered on the shelves at the Liberty Municipal Library by library patron Whitney Brents of Liberty.

The book at the center of the controversy was written by German author Katharina von der Gathen and poses questions such as “What is porn?”, “Are there different penises?”, “Why can’t young children have sex?” and “What goes on in a sex shop?” The questions are written in a scrawling handwriting that gives the appearance that children actually wrote the questions. Accompanying the questions are cartoon images that, among others, show several adult penises, a man with a very long penis wrapped around his body, a man looking at porn and a couple having sex. While the images in the book are drawings, not photos, the protesting citizens believe the book to be a form of cartoon porn that has no place in the library.

Upon finding the book during a visit to the library with her children, Brents brought it to the attention of Library Director Dana Abshier and the book immediately was removed from the shelves. Concerned that such a situation might be repeated in the future, Brents shared images of the book on social media, and before long, people began sharing their own concerns with a commitment to appear at the Tuesday city council meeting.

At the start of the meeting, City Manager Tom Warner assured the citizens, some from neighboring communities who claim to patronize the library, that the City has already put a new policy in place to ensure that books are more fully reviewed before being placed on library shelves.

“We are currently checking each title in the juvenile section to verify it is catalogued properly. From now on, when an employee completes an order card, the book will be reviewed by the library director prior to placement,” he said.

Rev. Gideon Watson with First United Methodist Church of Hardin encourages Liberty City Council to keep striving to stop books with questionable or obscene content from being placed in the young children’s section at the library.

The city manager explained that the book in question was purchased in May 2020 with funds from the library’s memorial trust fund, which comes from donations. Since that time, the book has not been checked out a single time. Prior to its removal, the book was among a collection of 60,000 titles being offered at the library.

“It was catalogued for the juvenile section. This was the recommended age group by the publisher. It was originally displayed in the juvenile section on the top shelf. We are not sure how it got to the lower shelf,” Warner said. One possibility is that another patron may have inadvertently moved the book to the section for young children.

The new policy requires that every new book be reviewed by at least four individuals on the library staff before it is placed on shelves, he explained.

Addressing the city council in public comments, Brents thanked the city council for their willingness to hear her concerns. She described an appreciation for the library and its staff for their kind and helpful service, and assured the council, city staff and Mayor Carl Pickett that her concerns were those of a parent and she has no vendetta against anyone at the library.

“I love the library. I love books. I love knowledge. I love walking into that building full of books. I love that my children can go there and get books that we don’t have at our house where I personally collect books. I love that I can go there and learn things, and continue my self-education. That is why this issue is so important to me,” she explained.

As the library is a taxpayer-funded entity, Brents believes it should cater to the needs, values and desires of the patrons in the community.

“Yet the trends I have noticed are in opposition to what I know of our community. It seems that instead of taking cues from the community at large, the parties responsible for content curation are using professional reviews to give us all the latest and current social trends,” she said.

Brents claims that she frequently sees books on display that appear to lean to one side of social issues even though the library is required to have content neutrality.

“Is there an agenda being pushed by employees of the library?” she asked. “The duty of the library is not to educate my children. That is my job and I take it very seriously. This is not about feelings. This is about what is right, true and beautiful. Books like this, and others like it, only serve to muddy our children’s understanding of the world and make it more complicated, ugly and polarized.”

Patti Barrow, a former assistant school librarian, also offered public comments that echoed Brents’ concerns. Having insight as to how books often get pushed by their publishers to promote sales, Barrow said every book should be investigated more thoroughly before being added to the library.

“Book sellers want to sell books and they have their ways of going around issues they are afraid might become a public enemy,” she said.

Calling the book’s images “child pornography” and “sickening,” Barrow added, “Those pictures are not fun. I didn’t think a 20-foot-long penis was fun at all.”

Representing the Friends of the Library, an organization that works alongside library staff on fundraisers and events, was Stacy Laird Sundgren, who expressed frustration that citizens might be insinuating that the library staff is pushing a social agenda.

“In all the years that my family and I have been involved with the library, I have never heard anyone speak of pursuing a political or social agenda one direction or another, nor have I seen the slightest evidence among the books of such a thing. Our local communities, our state, our nation and our world are composed of many different views and beliefs. Having books in our library that offer insights and information into opinions that differ from our own in no way promotes any specific agenda,” Sundgren said.

She added that Abshier and her staff work constantly and tirelessly to create a friendly, educational and safe environment for all children and adults.

“I can say to you with complete confidence that neither Dana or any staff member would purposely allow material into the collection that would be harmful. Our community is beyond fortunate to have such a dedicated, diligent and caring group of librarians working at the library,” she said.

The mayor ended the public comments by assuring the citizens that while he also believes the book to be pornographic and obscene, he is certain that the City will do all it can to rectify the situation so it does not happen again in the future.

“You don’t have to convince us. At the same time, I want to make a point that this council is concerned about the kids, not just Liberty kids but the kids in our community. We care about them and want them to be protected, have proper social guidance and parental guidance,” Pickett said. “I want to be defensive about any insinuation that this council, that this City, does not have a good feel for this or does not care in an appropriate and sincere manner about the children with which we come into contact. We want to correct the problem. If we have a problem in how our books are reviewed by staff and they aren’t screened, then we want to correct that. We want to protect our kids from the evils in the world that are out there and hopefully, as a group, we can all do that.”

7 COMMENTS

  1. I am not saying that I agree with the illustrations or where the book was found on the shelves but did any of you read the intro to the book and what it was about? The author states, “This is a book of questions from many different children. They wrote down their questions about bodies, puberty, love and sexuality and anonymously put them in a box with the promise that I would answer every question. A number of them -99!- have been collected here.”

    If you think that your own children do not have many of the same questions then you are sadly mistaken. If they are not asking you then they are getting their answers from other sources on the internet, many of which you definitely would not approve of.

    Here are the questions from the kids that the book tries to answer. I would think anyone would have to admit that 88 is pretty humorous.

    1 What’s so important about bodies anyway?
    2 Are there different penises?
    3 Why do girls have a vagina?
    4 How long is a penis?
    5 Are girls bom with a clitoris?
    6 How does a man get a vagina if he had a penis?
    7 What are the bags behind the penis?
    8 How many sperm does a man make?
    9 How big is a sperm?
    10 Why do bodies grow hair?
    11 How do voices break?
    12 What s a hormone?
    13 Why does puberty happen, and why does it last so long?
    14 Why is it called puberty?
    15 Is it possible not to go through puberty?
    16 How do you know when you’re a grownup?
    17 Why is it embarrassing to see someone else’s penis or vagina?
    18 Why do I get a stiff penis when I hear people talk about sex?
    19 Why do boys ejaculate and what is it?
    20 Why do you bleed from your vagina?
    21 Is getting your period annoying?
    22 When do breasts grow?
    23 Why do breasts hang down?
    24 Why do you get pimples?
    25 Is it weird going through puberty?
    26 Why do people feel desire?
    27 Why don’t people like talking about sex?
    28 Why do people kiss?
    29 What does it feel like to fall in love?
    30 Why does your stomach feel funny when you’re in love?
    31 How come it feels so weird to think about sex?
    32 Can children be gay?
    33 What does sex feel like?
    34 Can people die having sex?
    35 What makes sex fun?
    36 Can you have sex when you reach puberty?
    37 Is it bad to have kids when you’re a teenager?
    38 Is sex funny?
    39 Is sex so important?
    40 How many words are there for sex?
    41 Who invented the word sex?
    42 Who was the first person to have sex?
    43 Can you get diseases from sex?
    44 How do animals have sex?
    45 Can animals be gay?
    46 Do you have to be naked to have sex?
    47 How do a man and a woman have sex?
    48 How do you have sex if the penis is too big and the vagina too small?
    49 When do people actually have sex?
    50 What is homosexual?
    51 What does LGBT mean?
    52 How often do people have sex?
    53 Who is on top during sex?
    54 How do gay people have sex?
    55 What happens if you don’t feel like having sex?
    56 Is it embarrassing to have sex?
    57 Do you have sex before or after your wedding?
    58 Can you have sex with your bottom or ear?
    59 Can you have children without having sex?
    60 What is a sperm donor?
    61 Do babies get made every time you have sex?
    62 What’s a condom?
    63 Why can’t young children have sex?
    64 Can people have sex underwater?
    65 Why do people moan and groan during sex?
    66 What’s masturbation?
    67 What is porn?
    68 What is sexy?
    69 What’s a prostitute?
    70 What goes on in a sex shop?
    71 How many people have already had sex?
    72 What is sexual harassment?
    73 What is rape?
    74 Why do you sometimes have babies when you have sex and sometimes not?
    75 What happens if you’re pregnant and you don’t want to have a baby?
    76 Does being pregnant hurt?
    77 How big is a uterus?
    78 What’s the most children you can have?
    79 How long does pregnancy take?
    80 What happens to babies when pregnant women smoke?
    81 Can a grandmother have children?
    82 Can gay people have children?
    83 Why do people sometimes lose a baby?
    84 What do you look like before you are born?
    85 How long before you know if it’s a girl or a boy?
    86 Can a child have a disability before it’s born?
    87 What do babies eat when they’re inside the womb? Does the mother have to eat more?
    88 Can a baby fart when it’s inside the mother?
    89 Why do some twins look so much alike?
    90 Why does giving birth hurt so much?
    91 Why does the woman have to push when the baby comes?
    92 Can you have a baby out of your bottom?
    93 Does the vagina bleed when a baby is born?
    94 What is a caesarean section?
    95 How long does it take for a baby to be born?
    96 How do breasts get milk?
    97 Are kids born smart?
    98 Why is every person different, and why do some people look alike?
    99 Is it better to be a kid or a grownup?

  2. Nice Christian folks are removing sexually explicit books… You know… Like the Bible:

    Ezekiel 23:19-20
    19 Yet she became more and more promiscuous as she recalled the days of her youth, when she was a prostitute in Egypt.
    20 There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses.

  3. When I was in school LISD forced black kids to read and watch To Kill a Mockingbird.. They didn’t complain or have a problem with that racist book.

  4. 1. Truth – Where the mother said the book was found wasn’t where it had been originally placed. So, how did the book get there? Could the mother have placed it there to arouse the community?
    2. Truth – As soon as the mother brought the book to Ms. Abshire, she was thanked for bringing it to Ms. Abshire’s attention and Ms. Abshire apologized to the mother. From what one of the speakers said, the community wasn’t made aware of this! Was that not shared so that the community would be outraged and support the mother?
    3. Truth – The book was immediately removed from circulation. Did the community know that or were they left to believe that the mother’s concern wasn’t acted upon by the library?
    4. Truth – This wasn’t the first time that this mother has complained about books in the library of a non-sexual nature. The mother stated this in her address to the city council. This should be a concern of the community. She is trying to censure the public library, which should be for everyone to enjoy. What she deems appropriate for her family, may be different for others. The choice of what should be in a public library should be decided upon by the public, not a few.
    5. Truth – This book, even though I am uncomfortable with the material in it, was written by a sex therapist and was meant to be informational. It is NOT pornography, which is solely for sexual gratification.
    6. Truth – The book was placed in the location of the library recommended by the publisher. Should the book be located in a different section of the library? Yes!
    7. Truth – Parents should be involved with the selection of the books that their children are wanting to read to make sure that their selection is appropriate for their family. The children didn’t select this book. The mother did. She then proceeded to place it on the Internet to upset the community to support her agenda. Is this fair?
    8. Truth – Copyright laws were broken by the publishing of the material on the Internet without the author’s permission.
    Was the community who supported this family fully aware of the WHOLE TRUTH or was only selective information provided? One needs to do their research and not only believe what is presented on social media. As you can see, it can be quite skewed. Hopefully, this will be a lesson learned by all.

  5. After the city council meeting, I told my daughter that the bible verse that came to my mind was “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” My daughter turned to me and quoted this bible verse. “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone.” She was so wise! We need to come together as a community, support each other, and appreciate our differences along with our similarities.

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