A child's question about two princes kissing in a picture book prompted his father to complain and may spur the Shelby County Library to move the book out of reach of young children.
The library board this week rebuffed Dustin McCollough's suggestion that the book "King & King" is inappropriate for the library but may agree to move it to a section where his 8-year-old son wouldn't have stumbled across it.
It's one of the first formal objections in Central Indiana to children's books with gay themes, which have been challenged elsewhere in the nation.
"I'm not a big one for censorship, but it's kids we're talking about," McCollough said, adding that he'd be happy if the books were placed in a section of the library for adults.
Librarians say they're not in the business of keeping information out of patrons' hands but have to walk a fine line between stepping on parents' rights and serving the public when figuring out where to put books such as "King & King."
The book, written by Dutch author Linda De Haan, tells of a young prince who forgoes his female suitors for another man, with whom he falls in love and marries.
In a letter to the Shelbyville-Shelby County Public Library board, McCollough said the book should be removed or, at the very least, placed where only adults can find it.
"By him finding that book and asking why two men were kissing in it, I had to tell him about the two men being gay, which is something we disagree with and not what God wants," McCollough wrote .
After he complained to the library's director, the library moved the book from the young children's area to a section for children ages 8 to 12.
"King & King" has been checked out regularly since it was acquired last year and remains on loan to a patron, library Director Janet Wallace said.
The library board has no intention of banning the book and aims to make all books as accessible as possible, board member B.C. Williams said.
"Libraries have to tiptoe when it comes to anything that smacks of censorship," she said. "It is not the library's responsibility to censor what the children read, it is the parent's responsibility.
"Taking a book out of the library is anathema to us; we are totally behind Mrs. Wallace."
That closely echoes American Library Association recommendations that libraries make books available as much as possible. The organization suggests that libraries have policies to review controversial books.
Several other libraries have reported complaints about "King & King," said Beverley Becker, assistant director of the association's office for intellectual freedom. At least one library opted to keep the book behind the librarian's desk, although the library association discourages that approach, she said.
The Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library, which has ordered copies of "King & King" and its sequel, says it selects books without regard to whether "subject matter may be offensive to some patrons."
When the book and its sequel arrive, they will be reviewed by a librarian but will probably end up in the children's section or the juvenile reference book section, said Elaine Drew, the library's manager of selection services.
Books discussing homosexuality can be an important resource for children and teens, said Lydi Davidson, director of the Indiana Youth Group, an organization that works with gay and lesbian youths. It makes sense for libraries to have those books, she said.
"I definitely think that's appropriate," she said. "We have a portion of our population that is growing up needing to understand where they fit into society at that age."
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