Ketchikan Public Library Advisory Board to take input on request to remove book on teen sexuality

the Ketchikan Public Library
Clouds hang low in the air behind the Ketchikan Public Library on Wednesday, August 17, 2022. (Eric Stone/KRBD)

A Ketchikan resident’s request to have a book removed from the local library’s shelves will face a public hearing on Wednesday.

The book in question is “Let’s Talk about It: The Teen’s Guide to Sex, Relationships, and Being a Human” by Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan. 

Ketchikan resident Tanya Hedlind submitted a request to the library earlier this year asking for the book to be pulled, citing what she described as “sexually explicit material.”

In her request to remove the book, Hedlind says the book “belongs in an adult book store.” She objected to portions of the book discussing anal sex, sexting and pornography, along with illustrations of sex acts. Her request and librarians’ responses were published online in advance of Wednesday’s public hearing.

“It is alarming … how biased, opinionated, and factually inaccurate this book is. This book is teaching misinformation on genders and the body. It is pushing a political opinion that only serves half the library audience,” Hedlind wrote in a letter to the library director.

Though her initial request called on the library to remove the book from its collection, Hedlind said in an interview on Monday that she’d simply like it to be moved to the adult section.

“I’m just a little concerned for the (teenagers) that read it, … because it’s a little much for their age,” she said. “I think it’s better off in the adult section, just because it’s pretty graphic visually, and there’s a lot of content in it that I just don’t feel is super appropriate.”

Random House, the publisher of the 240-page graphic novel, pitches it as a resource for teens to learn more about themselves, their identities and their bodies.

“Covering relationships, friendships, gender, sexuality, anatomy, body image, safe sex, sexting, jealousy, rejection, sex education, and more, ‘Let’s Talk About It’ is the go-to handbook for every teen, and the first in graphic novel form.” reads the book’s page on the publisher’s website.

The request to pull the book from the library’s teen nonfiction section first went to the library’s head of children’s services, Amie Toepfer. 

Toepfer then wrote Hedlind a letter, declining to pull the book. She said the library encourages parents to accompany their children to the library to select material they feel is appropriate for their family.

“This book was written for teens and can be found in the teen nonfiction collection of the public library. The catalog record indicates that this item is for teenagers who are 14 years of age or older and/or for grades 10-12. The library does not act in place of the parents and does not restrict access to library materials for minors,” Toepfer wrote.

Hedlind told KRBD that it’d be difficult for her to always accompany her children as they peruse the library’s collections.

“For some people like me, who are working moms, that’s not really an easy thing to do,” she said. “You kind of want the library to be a safe place that you feel your kids can go to, and you don’t have to worry about what kind of material they might stumble upon.”

Toepfer also pointed to reviews praising the book. The School Library Journal, a trade publication for librarians, called it “real talk about relationships and sex.”

“Every panel of this book, every anatomical drawing, every conversation over tea or in a tent, is loaded with crucial information about consent, respect, consideration, and boundaries,” wrote reviewer Paula Willey.

Hedlind appealed to Ketchikan Public Library Director Pat Tully, who also declined to remove the book.

“The Library is a place of knowledge, ideas and learning, and sometimes this can be uncomfortable, unsettling, and confusing,” Tully wrote. “Ketchikan’s community is very diverse, and what is offensive and inappropriate to one group of residents may be acceptable and useful to another group. The Library cannot make those distinctions for every family, and so it falls to parents to do so. What the Library can do is provide a wide range of books and other materials, so that people can choose from among them based on their interests and beliefs.”

Hedlind appealed again, this time to the Ketchikan Public Library Advisory Board, which is scheduled to hold a public hearing on Wednesday. 

After taking comments, the board is expected to discuss the request to pull the book. The board may also hold a nonbinding vote on a recommended course of action, according to Tully. The advisory board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Previous articleWhale Pass timber sale moves forward, leaving residents with questions
Next articleTalk of Alaska: New proposed PFAS regulations