Opinion by Gus Richardson

On Thursday, Sept. 10, I had the opportunity to attend a local library board meeting. I was very excited to do so for three key reasons: 1) I got out of math class, 2) I’d never been to a library board meeting before and 3) the topic being discussed directly pertained to me. 

They were discussing two “questionable” manga, those being graphic novels from the “Prison School” and “Finder” series. These books were being brought up due to the fact that they contain sexual content that some people find problematic for a book (allegedly) marketed toward children. 

This I understood! I’m always a bit cautious around restricting books, but this seemed fair. If the content found within these books was truly sexual and truly being marketed to young children, I think that it’s a great idea to move that to a more adult section. 

However, once I heard the opposition’s argument and more of the facts, my opinion quickly changed. I learned over the course of the meeting that these books were in fact not in the kids’ section, but were instead put there by said opposition, with one ambitious member of this group bothering library-goers and forcing children to look at the images. I also learned of the opposition’s request to segregate these books into a special, age 18+ room which a customer would need to present some form of identification to enter. They claimed that if their demands weren’t met, they would instead petition for the library to remove these books from the shelves.

As a 16-year-old, this information was beyond upsetting. Why should a group of older adults who don’t know me or care about me get to decide what I can read? These are adults parenting children they’ll never meet. These are adults screaming out their opinions, with speakers having to be cut off for refusing to obey the rules of the public meeting and the entourage exclaiming their beliefs during other people’s time. These are adults placing themselves as just crusaders, and much like the crusade, caring not for those hurt in the process. These are adults acting like the children they claim to protect. 

When we ban books, we ban experiences, knowledge and information. We cannot quarantine or destroy that which we don’t agree with. When the Nazis burned library books en masse, we saw that as an atrocity. Why would anyone limit the opportunity for knowledge in such a permanent and primitive way? Yet Americans today fight to do that very same thing by banning books.

After this meeting, I was pretty depressed for a good few days. The disappointment I felt was immeasurable when all these people put so much passion into forcing their opinions on a captive audience. The lack of love for our fellow human beings I observed was crushing. I remember returning home feeling as though I had lost some faith in humanity. 

But once I reflected on the meeting over the coming week, I remembered all the quieter speakers, who calmly but firmly shared their position with the audience. Who, when even I personally disagreed with them, were still kind and understanding of the opposing side. So I want to leave this piece with a message: no matter how hard it seems, no matter how much ridicule they gain for it, the intelligent, the well-spoken and the loving will always win over the loud, the abrasive and the hurtful in the end. And we must fight to make this claim ring true, as I don’t want to live in a world where it doesn’t.