A controversial non-fiction book about teen sex and relationships will NOT be relocated to the adult section of the Ketchikan Public Library. That was after the city council on Thursday voted to keep the book where it’s at. 

It’s a 240-page graphic novel called, “Let’s Talk About It: The Teen’s Guide to Sex, Relationships, and Being Human” by Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan. Some Ketchikan residents said the book was sexually explicit and pornographic.

At Thursday’s council meeting, about a dozen people spoke against the book, most saying it should be removed from the library completely. One of those was Riley Murdock who challenged the motives of library staff.

“This is straight up pornographic. It has no place being in the kid’s section of the library or the library altogether. If you want the book, go on Amazon and buy it. Knowing that this is being pushed by the library, the question really is, ‘Why do these people insist on exposing and grooming kids with this garbage?’ People that you guys put there.”

The book’s publisher, Random House, describes it as a resource for teens to learn more about themselves, their identities, and their bodies.

Charley Murray-Young spoke in favor of keeping the book in the teen section. She said she owns the book and supports it. Murray-Young said she understands it may not work for every family, but society is moving into a more inclusive age, and she wants all children to have the information that they need.

“I understand that there are a lot of parents back there giving me daggers and I’m the worst parent because I would give this book to my child. But I dare you to look at my three beautiful kids and tell me that I’m doing a bad job. So I want them to read books that they feel are appropriate for their children. But please don’t take away the books that I feel are appropriate for mine.”

The controversy over the book has been on-going for months. In February, ten people submitted forms to the Ketchikan library requesting that the book be removed from the building.

The request first went to the head of children’s services, Amie Toepfer. She determined that the book met the requirements of the library’s Collection Development Policy and sent letters to the ten individuals informing them of her decision to retain the book. Two residents then appealed to Ketchikan Public Library Director, Pat Tully who upheld Toepfer’s decision. 

One of those who challenged the book, Tanya Hedlind, then appealed to the Ketchikan Public Library Advisory Board requesting not that the book be removed, but that it be moved from the teen section to the adult section of the library. At a public hearing on April 12, the advisory board voted 6-1 to keep the book in the teen section.  

As an advisory committee, the board’s vote is non-binding. It provides advice to the library director and Ketchikan City Manager Delilah Walsh. At that meeting, Walsh said the decision to keep the book in the teen section could be appealed to the City Council.

Then that decision was appealed to the city council. At the council’s April 20 meeting, Councilmember Riley Gass received four hands support for the council to consider moving the book. In a memo to the mayor and council, Ketchikan City Manager, Delilah Walsh recommended that the book be moved.

At the June 22 city council meeting, resident Joshua Titus said while the book is not appropriate for the teen section of the library, the larger problem is that the library has become a distraction.

“This council, the city manager and citizens of this island have better and more pressing things to do than reign in the radical personal agenda of the library director. Homelessness, million in deferred maintenance and bond debt, the rapidly rising cost of living, housing and the economy are just a few examples of issues that aren’t getting the attention they deserve.”

Councilmember Gass introduced the motion to move the book to the adult section

Councilmember Mark Flora asked the Ketchikan City Attorney, Mitch Seaver about a memo Seaver issued on April 4 regarding the Constitutionality of moving a book. In his memo, Seaver stated moving the book to the adult section could violate the 1st Amendment. He reiterated that Thursday night, citing passages from a decision from the Northern District of Texas in 2000.

“Where 1st Amendment rights are concerned, those seeking to restrict access to information should be forced to take affirmative steps to shield themselves from unwanted materials. The onus should not be on the general public to overcome barriers to their access to fully-protected information.”

Gass asked the city’s attorney if moving any book could have legal ramifications, such as moving any children’s book to the adult section or a sports book to another section..

Seaver said  that it depends on the motivation for moving the book. He said moving a book because you disagree with its content is not permissible.

Councilmembers Flora, Janalee Gage and Jack Finnegan spoke about individual rights.

Councilmember Lallette Kistler said that the book would be a great resource for some parents to use with their children, but said it is giving teens information on illegal and dangerous acts.

“This book tells you, ‘Go out and have multiple partners.’ ‘Go out and explore.’ ‘Do friends with benefits.’ Really? That’s what life’s all about?”

She also said it gives inappropriate advice on sexting and exploring the internet.

After about an hour of discussion, the city council voted 4 – 3 against the motion to move the book to the adult section of the library, with Gass, Mahtani, and Kistler voting in favor of the move, and Flora, Gage, Finnegan, and Councilmember Abby Bradberry voting to keep the book in the teen section.

Also, Gass added a motion to add an additional step to the library appeal policy. Currently, the policy has two steps. An appeal first goes to the library director. If rejected, it can then be appealed to the Library Advisory Committee. Gass proposed citizens should next be able to appeal to the council which would make the final decision.

After discussion, the council added that after the advisory committee, an appeal could be filed with the city manager within 10 working days of the committee’s decision. If not satisfied with the manager’s decision, an appeal could then be made to the city council for final determination.  The motion passed unanimously.

Disclosure: Jai Mahtani is a member of KRBD’s volunteer board of directors. He is not involved in the newsroom.