After eight months of careful consideration, Winkler City Council brought forward a resolution Tuesday night pertaining to South Central Regional Library's (SCRL) policy regarding the placement of specific books classified as 'children's literature.'
Mayor Henry Siemens says the resolution is the culmination of many conversations, presentations to Council, and their own research, which led them to a place, as partners in the library, to take a leadership position and state they have a concern.
As a council, he says they also recognize this is not their responsibility to do, although they have legislated authority to appoint two members to the SCRL board.
"Past that, any change that happens, needs to come from the library board," said Siemens. "So, we appoint two members to that board. We as council have some concerns, and we'll ask our board members to bring those forward, in an effort to grow the library system, to help the library become stronger, to help it become a place that's available for all residents."
At Tuesday's meeting, Councillor Don Fehr was appointed as the council rep on the board, and the process will begin shortly on appointing a community member to serve as well.
The City's resolution instructs their two appointed board members to exert influence as members of the SCRL Board of Directors to create a policy, whereby graphically sexually explicit books be moved from the children’s section to another section of the library as appropriate so that children will not stumble across them, but they remain available to parents who wish to use them as an educational resource.
The resolution passed, with only Councillor Marvin Plett opposed.
"We want to be crystal clear. We're not looking to ban books," added Mayor Siemens. "We recognize a book that I may like, may not be for everyone, and a book that someone else likes, may not be for me. Our goal here was to take a look at graphically, sexually explicit books, and have them available to those parents who wish to use them as teaching resources, but not to have them in the children's section to have children accidentally stumble across them."
There's absolutely no mention of funding in the resolution whatsoever, Siemens added.
"We wanted to show support to the library. To let them know that they're a valued community resource. We're proud of our library. It's one of our nicest facilities in town, and they provide an extremely valuable service to many members of our community. We, in fact, encourage everyone to go take a look at the library and to go."
Siemens also acknowledged the "tremendous staff" that looks after the library, but the council is still left with this one concern with regard to policy.
Earlier this year, Winkler City Council received a petition from residents within the South Central Regional Library area, and at Tuesday's meeting Council received another petition. Siemens said the petition received on Tuesday was specifically from a group of businesses who expressed some concern. "We accepted that petition, it's in our minutes noted as received."
Siemens added the petition received on Tuesday is a general petition, meaning no action is required from it. However, it does indicate there are a significant number of businesses that have concerns, and the number of signatures does carry some weight.
Below is the resolution which passed at Winkler's City Council meeting on Tuesday.
WHEREAS; Winkler City Council recognizes and appreciates the tremendous value of a strong public library system for the health and wellbeing of our community ;
and WHEREAS; Winkler City Council believes that parents should be primarily responsible for the teaching and education of their children and the resources used in such teaching and education;
and WHEREAS; Winkler City Council supports the South Central Regional (SCRL) Board’s strategy of ensuring educational resources are available to assist all parents in these teachings;
and WHEREAS; Winkler City Council has grave concerns around the availability of graphically sexually explicit books in the children’s section of the Winkler Library;
and WHEREAS; Winkler City Council recognizes that responsibility for policy and operations of the Winkler Library has been legislatively granted to the SCRL Board by the Province of Manitoba;
and WHEREAS; Winkler City Council requested that the SCRL Board develop policy specifically around the display of graphically sexually explicit books in the children’s section of the Winkler library;
and WHEREAS; the board of the SCRL Board considered this request and replied that their policies have been reviewed three separate time in the past year and, based on those internal and external reviews, feel those policies to be robust and complete;
and WHEREAS; Winkler City Council remains concerned around the lack of a policy specifically around books available in the children’s section containing graphically sexually explicit topics;
and WHEREAS; it is the desire of Winkler City Council to support and assist the SCRL Board in maintaining and growing a strong healthy library that serves all members of our community;
and WHEREAS; Winkler City Council has the legislated authority to appoint two members to the SCRL Board;
therefore BE IT RESOLVED THAT; City of Winkler Council instruct these appointed board members to exert influence as members of the SCRL Board of Directors to create policy whereby graphically sexually explicit books be moved from the children’s section to another section of the library as appropriate so that children will not stumble across them but they remain available to parents who wish to use them as an educational resource.