Kathy Kysar: ‘Terrorism’ erupts during Mat-Su library book challenge

In a recent Library Reconsideration Materials hearing held at the Mat-Su Borough Building, a debate over two books, “Red Hood” by Elana Arnold and “Identical” by Ellen Hopkins, has sparked controversy and raised concerns about the appropriate placement of these books in the Young Adult section of borough public libraries. The meeting, which took place on January 18, was a tense and highly charged event that has since been described as “rowdy” and “unacceptable.”

Allegations have been made that shelving these books in the Young Adult section violates Alaska Statutes 11.61.128, 11.41.452, and 11.51.130, which pertain to the distribution of indecent material to minors, enticement of a minor, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, respectively. In a letter from Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor to Alaska School and Public Libraries, these violations were explicitly mentioned.

During the meeting, one librarian board member, Kathy Kysar, made a controversial statement by suggesting that those opposed to these books are engaging in “terrorism.” It is important to note that Ms. Kysar also mentioned the presence and remarks of retired school teacher and Mat-Su Borough Assembly Member Dee McKee.

Upon watching the video recording of the meeting, one cannot help but perceive what appears to be an exercise of control and bias by the Mat-Su Library System. The process of acquiring, retaining, and challenging controversial materials seems to be heavily influenced and controlled by the library itself, with biased librarians and board members on the hearing committee. Only the patron who challenged the book is allowed to speak, creating an atmosphere of righteous indignation rather than a mere rowdy gathering.

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To provide context for our readers, the content of “Red Hood” has been described in a recent Alaska Watchman article. As for “Identical,” a reviewer on GoodReads.com expressed strong reservations, stating, “There is no way I will ever want my kids to read this book… it will be a cold day in hell before I ever let them read this sick piece of garbage.” This reviewer highlights content involving sexual deviancy, promiscuity, sex-for-drugs, masochism, drug and alcohol abuse, self-harm, attempted suicide, and child molestation/incest starting at the age of nine. The book is said to glamorize and entice these acts.

The question arises: Where do we draw the line between freedom of speech and protecting our children from potentially harmful material? The Supreme Court decision in Miller vs. California is clear that obscenity is not protected speech under the First Amendment. While we value the First Amendment right to freedom of speech, it is important to consider the potential harm that certain materials may pose, especially to minors.

“The only valid censorship of ideas is the right of people not to listen.”

Tommy Smothers

We encourage our readers to review the evidence and watch the video recording of the meeting to make their own informed judgment. Was what transpired at the book hearing an act of terrorism or an expression of righteous indignation? For those who wish to voice their concerns directly, the Mat-Su Borough Library board will convene again on February 13 at 1 p.m. at the Talkeetna Library. This will be an opportunity for the public to address the board directly and share their thoughts.

In conclusion, it is crucial that we strike a balance between protecting our children and upholding the freedom of speech. The controversy surrounding the placement of these books in the Young Adult section has ignited a passionate debate, and it is important for individuals to engage in thoughtful discussion and exploration of the issues at hand. We encourage our readers to stay informed and check back for updates on this ongoing story.

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