By: Jacqui Higgins-Dailey
The second request for reconsideration I received in my position came from a child. I assume this is the case based solely on the penmanship of the form that was filled out. The title was The Life and Opinions of Amy Finawitz by Laura Toffler-Corrie. The young library patron was concerned about the maturity level of the content, specifically one section of the book that dealt with breasts. In the scene, the main character (Amy) is talking to her mother about her breasts. She tells her mother that she thinks her “boobs” are getting too big for her torso and she wants to have them reduced in size. Her mother tells her that she is crazy and to just try to exercise and Amy replies that exercise does not make boobs get smaller.
This title is shelved in the children’s collection and deals with normal body-changing. In fact, the protagonist in the book is speaking with her mother about her changing body – something that many parents would like to encourage. The young patron requested that the title be moved to the adult or teen section because of mature content. After checking out the book myself and evaluating it, I made the decision (as is usually the case) that the title should stay in the children’s section and replied to the request as such. The title had circulated many times and dealt with issues that are relevant to many children going into middle school.
I think the main issue with these types of requests – and I can assure you that most of the requests deal with perceived sex and/or sexuality – is that not all parents and children talk about sex and changing bodies at the same age. Some parents start discussing this material when a child is very young, well before they can read on their own, while others don’t discuss it until children are in puberty. It’s the right of any parent to determine the best time to talk about sensitive issues with their children but we need titles that talk about bodies from as young as pre-k picture books. It is up to the parent to determine what titles are appropriate for their children and this specific title is age-appropriate in the children’s section.
We want to make sure we represent the diverse range of readers we serve at Phoenix Public Library while also making sure we listen to our patrons and take their opinions seriously. Most of the time, they just want to be listened to and understand why we place a certain book in sections of the library that we do. This book would never find its appropriate reader in the teen or adult section. Encouraging families to review books together is a great idea for librarians who are involved in programming. Storytime is a great way to share with parents that not all the books we have are the perfect fit for them, but they do have readers and we do want to make sure those readers have the ability to easily access them by browsing.
Have you ever had to deal with a request for reconsideration that dealt with sex and changing bodies? What was the title and how did your library address it?
Jacqui Higgins-Dailey has been a public librarian for 10 years and has been an adjunct faculty librarian for the last two. She holds a bachelors degree in journalism and a masters in library science. She currently selects the children and teen materials as a collection development librarian for Phoenix Public Library. She loves to read, write, figure skate and travel.