Amid calls to ban book, Carver County library board votes to keep it on shelves

The Carver County community showed up in full force Tuesday night to ask the Carver County Library Board not to remove a book from its collection.

The book in question, "Gender Queer: A Memoir" by Maia Kobabe, was named the Most Challenged Book of 2022 by the American Library Association. The association said the graphic novel, which also doubles as an autobiography, was challenged 151 times last year due to LGBTQ+ content and claims that it's sexually explicit.

On Tuesday night in a packed room at the Carver County Government Center, more than 20 people spoke at the podium in favor of keeping the memoir on library shelves.

"If you ban this book, you've sent a message to the LGBTQ+ people in Carver County that they are lesser," said Carver County resident Ellie Krug.

"Let professionals do their job. If you don't like it, don't read it. If it makes you uncomfortable, maybe you should examine why that is," said Carver County resident Liya Oertel.

In July, Waconia resident Erin Busse asked the library system to remove the memoir from its collection. At a library board meeting on Aug. 8, she told city officials she had seen the book displayed on a low shelf at Waconia Library where a young child could find it, and she was especially concerned with drawings of sex acts.

"I see some of you are choosing not to look. Kids who pick up this book wouldn’t have that choice. They would just come upon this image," Busse told board members on Aug. 8 as she flipped through the book.

Jodi Edstrom, the Carver County library director, sent Busse a letter saying the book should remain in the collection, but Busse appealed the decision.

"We've been very intentional that our collection development policy is built on those principles of intellectual freedom and equal access for all and diversity," Edstrom said.

The library board members were given time to read "Gender Queer." At their meeting Tuesday night, board members listened to public comment then unanimously voted to keep the book in circulation.

Edstrom said the memoir is part of the adult nonfiction collection and is also available as an e-book. She said about 25 people submitted public comment via email, and every email she received supported not banning the book.

The challenge comes at a time when book challenges more becoming increasingly popular. The American Library Association documented 1,269 demands to censor library books and resources last year, the highest number since the organization began compiling data more than 20 years ago.

Several people who spoke to the library board Tuesday night said they identify as part of the LGBTQ+ spectrum. Others noted that they wished their family members had this coming-of-age tale when they were growing up.

"If ‘Gender Queer’ lets even one person know they are not alone – that their experience is completely normal and not something to bring shame – then keeping this book available to the patrons of Carver County Library is vital," said Carver County resident Sarajo Wentling.