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Library Board votes to keep controversial books, We the People of West Tennessee responds to vote

The Jackson-Madison County Library Board of Directors voted unanimously Wednesday, May 24 to move one book and keep another that was challenged by members of We the People of West Tennessee. 

Being You, by Megan Madison, and Looking for Alaska, by John Green were part of seven books officially challenged. Members of the group originally asked the library to reconsider dozens of books, but were asked to fill out the official challenge forms. 

Being You is a children’s board book about gender identity. It was originally located in the juvenile nonfiction section due to content, as board books are normally kept in the children’s section. 

The complaint for the book stated it would be “the cause of more confusion of our children” and said, “There are only two genders. Chromosomes tell the story. Doctors do not determine the sex alone!”

According to Librarian Dinah Harris, the book was bought through a subscription service with a book provider. It is located in a handful of libraries across the state, and it has been checked out eight times since 2021. She said four of those checkouts looked to be someone trying to keep it from other people. 

As said in an internal email, the person who made the complaint did not have a library card, which was brought up during the discussion.

“Are we really considering the complaint of someone who doesn’t even have a library card? So they’re just in our library just trolling for things to complain about. And they don’t even have a library card. They’re not supporting the library. They’re only coming in there to complain about things in the library,” Kortney Simmons, a board member, said during the meeting.

The JMCL board voted to move Being You to an adult section of the library. Board members also discussed creating a special section for educational materials parents can check out to read to their children.

“When you have a book that’s being challenged, and you don’t get rid of it, that pleases one group of people. But then when you move it out of the area where children can’t just stumble upon it, that should please the other group of people. It’s still available in the catalog either way, and the only thing that changes is the location of the book in the catalog,” Harris said during the meeting. 

Looking for Alaska will remain in the library in the same location. The complaint about the award-winning novel was written because it had “too much graphic sex.” The person asked the book be moved to an adult section and could be replaced with Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Currently, the book is located in the Young Adult section at JMCL. 

As the book was passed around, some board members read parts of the controversial sections. 

“The bottom line is that we all have different values and different things that we’re following, and each person has to decide that for themselves,” Harris said during the meeting. 

Statement from We the People of West Tennessee

While We the People of West Tennessee declined to comment on the original story by The Jackson Post, they agreed to write a statement about challenging local library books. 

The following statement was sent by Lori McManus, Londa Rohlfing, and Many Bates: 

“We want to thank The Jackson Post for bringing attention to this matter so that citizens can be informed regarding TN Law and how it affects the materials in our public library system and their display. Jackson is fortunate to have two wonderful locations in our own community which support activities, learning, and most importantly a love of reading for all ages. We are blessed to live in a State that stands strong on moral and ethical protections for children. Freedom of Speech is a cornerstone of expression guaranteed in our Constitution, which we strongly support. We encourage all citizens to do their own research regarding TN State Law and what is found in Jackson Madison County Library. Below you will find the applicable law and links to some previews of just a few of the books which break those laws. Rep. Chris Todd referred us to these laws back in Feb. of 2023 when we first began our investigation into materials at the library.”

The Post reached out to Rep. Chris Todd (R-Jackson), who says he spoke with members of We the People of West Tennessee about the laws. He also said he is encouraged to see people interested in holding the government accountable to keep children safe. 

The statement also directed readers to their website, wethepeopleofwesttn.com/tn-obscenity-laws. 

The statement continued to reference Tennessee Code Title 39, Chapter 17, Part 9, which relates to obscenity and the display of the materials that are for sale or rent. 

“There is even more applicable TN Law, but the above should make our point clear. We call on our public library to follow the codes of our State, placing all inappropriate material away from our children. Parents and families, this is a call to action. Protect and supervise your children as they are browsing in the library, just as any online activity should be supervised. Be aware that the complaint form at the library does not offer options for simply moving the books to adhere to TN law. We welcome your joining us to require that our laws be followed. Freedom of Speech is not at question here-book removal should not even be on the form, it is adherence to the laws of our State that we are requesting. 

“Please look at the books listed by [Julia] for yourself to determine if you could read these out loud with your child (It’s Perfectly Normal, The Bluest Eye, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Poet X, Thirteen Reasons Why, Being You, and Looking for Alaska).”

The statement, again, referred people to their website, and summaries of the books. The heading on the webpage says, “For you to understand our concerns, find below ‘summaries’ of just a few of the books to which we vehemently object as easily accessible to minors in our JMCL. Our goal is not to ban these books, but that they be clearly labeled as ‘sexually explicit’ and moved to a location where minors (under age 18) cannot access them, adhering to TN Law.”

“Again, we are grateful to The Jackson Post for publishing this column and giving us a chance to make this STATEMENT,” the statement ended. 

At this time, no other books at the Jackson-Madison County Library have been challenged. 

Julia Ewoldt, julia@jacksonpost.news



  1. I would like to start off by saying I’m the individual that filed a complaint and our library staff made the comment that I do not hold a library card. I was unaware that our public library was a card-carrying members only club as a taxpayer in Jackson Madison County I believe I have every right to go into the library, and look at books and do research doesn’t mean that I have to check a book out.

    I was made aware of several books that were in our library that should not be kid appropriate. These books have no business around our kids if our library management will not do something about this , then I believe is taxpayers. We have a responsibility in the right to do whatever it takes to get those books removed. I do believe that there is a law that prohibits books like this from being in public spaces around her children

    If a parent would like to have their child exposed to book such as this, I’m sure that just as they purchase other items on Amazon or eBay or other sites they can purchase one of these books for their children to read at home they do not need to be in the library where they’re exposed to all of our children.

  2. I just need to add one more item. I have a question I understand that our library staff has moved the books or a couple of the books one in particular with the title it’s perfectly normal, which has the age range of 10 years old and up. I understand that they’ve moved this to an adult section. I would like to ask the question how long do they intend on keeping that book in the adult section before they move it back after the eyes have been taken off of them I do not believe it’s enough to move the book to an adult section it needs to be removed

  3. I was one of the people who read one of the books mentioned in the reply to your article entitled, “Statement from We The People of West Tennessee.” I read the book and filled out the form of objection after being very disappointed that this book could be found in the children’s section of our library. Not a single member of the staff or board of the JMCL has contacted me to tell me I was overruled and that the book would remain in the children’s section. (I found this out in the article written by Julia Ewoldt in The Jackson Post.) I wasn’t asking for the book to be banned but was simply asking that it be kept from the hands and eyes of children. I still do not see why what I asked for was wrong and why I was overruled, because I wasn’t even invited to the meeting where these objectionable books were discussed. Apparently the library staff and board neglected to provide a method of feedback to their patrons in their process for challenging offensive materials in the public library.

    Further in this article, obscenity laws were mentioned and If our library is breaking any of these laws by clearly displaying obscene material to children, I think action needs to be taken by the funding bodies for our public library.

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