ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Books including LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning and more) themes at the Abilene Public Library continued to be discussed before Abilene City Council during its last public meeting. Now, a member of the Abilene Public Library’s Board is being called out for possible bias.
Parents and other Abilene adults spoke their piece in the last two meetings. One local parent accused the library’s board of having an agenda for keeping certain books on the shelf.
“My concern is who our city council put on the Library Advisory Board. If you research that individual, you’ll see some of the agendas that they have,” Abilene resident and parent, Patrick Batten, told KTAB/KRBC Monday.
That individual Batten referred to is Jason Hernandez-Marshall. Hernandez-Marshall is an openly gay man serving on the board of the Abilene Public Library. He has been on the board since May 3, 2021.
“I was appointed to a position to be open to all,” Hernandez-Marshall said. “And speak for a community that may not be well represented.”
Batten said he’s not in the market to ban the three books brought into question, but said he’s curious about the removal process through the library.
Because the process of choosing which books come in and which books go out is heavily influenced by the library’s board, Batten said his concern lies with the process being carried out ethically while there is a board member with bias. The Abilene Public Library Board consists of six other members.
Another Abilene parent, Jennifer, spent her public comment time at the Abilene City Council Meeting Thursday, May 26 by reading from the pages of a book called This Day in June.
“I’m highly concerned that these sorts of things are available to children so young,” Jennifer said. “I’m not unsympathetic to these people in the [LGBTQ+] community, but I also think it’s my choice as a parent- to decide what my child learns.’
In Thursday’s meeting, however, Hernandez-Marshall and others with a similar mindset were able to make their voices heard.
“Public libraries should highlight many viewpoints and allow all families to be represented,” advised Hernandez-Marshall.
In that same wheelhouse, Jane Barring, a retired librarian and Abilene resident said education and reading materials should be up to the parents.
“The library is not a baby-sitting facility. Parents are responsible for what their children read,” Barring said. “When a child brings a book home that their parent doesn’t want them to read, that’s a discussion between them and their child… Not what other parents thing that’s good for their children.”
As Abilene City Council continues the discussion, Hernandez-Marshall expressed his wish that parents will continue to monitor what their children are reading.
“Parents are here to learn with their kids,” Hernandez-Marshall explained. “Read fiction, non-fiction, education material… But they also can’t keep other kids from learning those things.”
Books currently being questioned include The Bride was a Boy, Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out and This Day in June.
The Abilene City Council will meet again at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, June 23.