FISHERS, Ind. – The Hamilton East Public Library ended a book review and relocation policy that brought controversy and national attention to the central Indiana community.
The “Collection Development Policy” required the review of all books in the teen section to make sure they were age appropriate. After the policy went into effect in December 2022, staff members had to review books for profanity, sexual content and violence; they were pulled off shelves and unavailable during the review process.
The board suspended the policy in August as it made national headlines. Local author John Green, whose young adult best seller “The Fault in Our Stars” was moved to the adult section, heavily criticized the policy, calling it an “embarrassment.” The book was later moved back to the young adult section.
According to previous reports, the library estimated the total cost of the review at $300,000 for staff appraisal and future compliance. Recent changes to the makeup of the library board signaled that reversal of the policy was possible.
The Collection Development Policy was on the agenda for Thursday night’s meeting at the Fishers Library. According to our media partners with the IndyStar, the board voted 5-1 to end the policy, with one abstention.
The board voted to adopt a plan from board member Michelle Payne, whose proposal noted that the library conducted a survey of 3,109 respondents between July 18, 2023, and Aug. 6, 2023. The survey showed 533 respondents agreed with the statement, “Stop book banning/censorship/improve board/trust librarians.”
The survey indicated that 44 respondents urged the board to “continue the new collection development policy/provide age-appropriate materials/remove ‘porn.’”
“The majority of public comments this board has heard at meetings plus the majority of emails we have received during the past year have indicated that patrons do not support the policy,” Payne wrote.
Her proposal promoted a “fresh start” in 2024 and said some elements of the original policy would remain, including a “parental responsibility” information campaign urging parents to be aware of and monitor what their children are reading and watching. It also promoted the expansion of the parenting section within the children’s zone.
Any books that were moved from the “Teen Zone” to the general/adult section could be reshelved at the discretion of staff.
“Essentially, make parents accountable and trust our librarians,” the policy said.
The IndyStar reported that Board President Tiffanie Ditlevson abstained from the vote, while board member Micah Beckwith voted against revoking the policy. Those voting in favor of ending it were Andre Miksha, Craig Siebe, Michelle Payne, Bill Kenley and Susan Crandall.
Controversy over the Collection Development Policy has embroiled the library board for months. In August, the Noblesville School Board removed Board President Laura Alerding in a 3-2 vote, replacing her with Kenley, a longtime educator with the district. Alerding was among the board members who approved the review policy.
Another library board member, Ray Maddalone, resigned in October. He had also voted in favor of the review policy; his resignation came after the state’s public access counselor ruled he and Alerding violated Indiana’s Open Door Law by discussing library business with board lawyers at a coffee shop.
Other business from Thursday’s board meeting included the resignation of Library Director/CEO Edra Waterman, whose last day with HEPL will be Dec. 22, 2023.
She accepted a position as library director for the Anderson Public Library. Waterman said she has “a long-standing and deep connection” to the Anderson community. She’ll start her new job on Jan. 8, 2024.
“I appreciate the support the Fishers and Noblesville communities have shown HEPL in my time here, and I am so very proud of what we have accomplished together. It has been my privilege to lead such a wonderful team,” Waterman said in a statement.
Waterman spent 12 years with HEPL.
Ditlevson announced she would step down from the board at the end of the year. The announcement followed a discussion of her handling of Waterman’s departure, with board members questioning why Ditlevson issued a press release on the matter even though the board and Waterman had decided to hold the announcement until the Nov. 16 meeting.