A book in the Yukon Public Library has drawn complaints of transphobic content and is now the subject of the library’s catalogue review process.
Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters was the subject of complaints both on social media and directly to the library with detractors concerned its content amounted to transphobia. The complaints were spurred on by the book’s labeling with a “staff picks” sticker.
The library is reviewing the book’s position in its catalogue and has pulled the book out of circulation while it is under review.
Melissa Yu Schott, the director of Yukon Public Libraries said members of the public are free to participate in the reconsideration of materials process by filling out a form expressing their views at the library.
“The other thing I would say too, is for Yukon Public Libraries and libraries generally, the collection includes materials that represent the broadest possible range of ideas and points of view within the limitations of the collection, and that a particular item is in the collection doesn’t mean that the library endorses it but rather the library endorses free access to the item,” Yu Schott said.
She said that the reconsideration of materials process has happened before but this is the most high-profile one in recent memory. The reconsideration process for “irreversible damage” is already underway with some forms with people’s opinions already received.
“We recognize that the staff pick issue complicates matters, and that process will also be considered as part of the review,” Yu Schott said, adding that all library staff currently have access to the staff picks stickers. She broadly defended the practise as being about free access to information and promoting the library’s collection.
“I would say, libraries, the Whitehorse library, public libraries generally are welcoming spaces for all members of the community,” Yu Schott said.
She discussed the library’s showcases, displays and other programming that she said is aimed at providing a broad range of information and connection to ideas.
For Lane Tredger, a member of the Yukon’s legislative assembly who identifies as non-binary, it was the library’s welcoming atmosphere that made finding out about the book’s prominent display much more unpleasant.
Tredger found out about the book’s selection as a staff pick through a tweet and has since heard feedback from concerned constituents.
“It was really hard to see that book being promoted in that way in the library. In terms of response, what I think the library needs to do is have policy around which books they choose to promote through staff picks or through other means and I think they need to have policy saying that those books need to be in line with their values,” Tredger said.
The MLA said Yukoners should participate in the library’s materials review process if they have views to share regarding the book. They added that communication should go both ways with the library informing the public what it plans to do.
“I think at this point, a lot of people have been really, really upset by that and they deserve to know if it’s gonna happen again in the future and they deserve to know if the library is taking steps to make sure that it doesn’t happen again in the future,” Tredger said.
“I don’t personally believe in banning books. But for me, the line is when it rises to what the library is promoting. That’s where I think we need to really make sure those decisions are aligned with the values of the library.”
Tredger sees the ideas in Irreversible Damage as outside what can be debated. They described it as representing a movement that banned people from public spaces, prevents them from getting healthcare and “ultimately leads to people getting killed.”
“I really hope that it’s a learning experience for everyone because I think my experience at the library in the past has been a place that is really welcoming and that has done a really good job of this. So, I hope that this is a moment that they can learn from and that we can move forward from.”
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