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Huntington Beach considers library review board to determine which books are inappropriate for children

Huntington Beach considers potential library review board
Huntington Beach considers potential library review board 02:38

The Huntington Beach City Council is considering a potential library review board to determine which books are appropriate for children.

According to councilmember Gracey Van der Mark, the motion and potential committee aim to restrict access to library books containing sexual content to people over 18 years old — anyone under that mark would need a parent's approval to read them. 

"Children should not have access to these books," said Van der Mark. "If you're an adult go for it; you can read whatever you want. But, it is our job and our responsibility to protect children from material that could be harmful for them and if they're not mentally mature enough to read these books we shouldn't be exposing them and only the parents can decide that. The government should not be deciding if this is appropriate for their children."

The proposal has faced some opposition, like from retired librarian Barbara Richardson, who raised concerns about the board's definition of sexual content.

"Most of your high school students are under the age of 18," said Richardson, who devoted 32 years of her life to reading and storytelling at a local library. "When I looked at the resolution and I saw 'sexual content' — that is so broad and so vague. It affects just about all the books you can think of. If you think about sexual content, what does that mean? Dating? Kissing? Almost all of the classics I can think of have sort of sexual content."

According to the resolution, the city council considers some sexual images and writing in children's books in Huntington Beach library "obscene and pornographic."

"Well, there are books on puberty and discovering your body," said Mark Alvarado, who worked in a library for nearly 40 years. "The books are here. I'm not denying it but the book publishers have attorneys to make sure they're not violating any law of distributing pornography to children or they couldn't publish them. 

If the resolution passes it will include the appointment of a committee that will review all new children's books to be purchased for city libraries. 

While not technically a book ban, some residents are concerned this will be a roundabout way to get rid of books some people deem inappropriate. For example, if someone checked out a book and never returned it because they don't like the content, librarians may be unable to reorder it if the review board does not approve it.

"We're not banning books," said Van der Mark. "Not a single book will be banned."

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