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Petition requests Hamilton East Public Library change policy following John Green controversy

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Posted at 8:42 PM, Aug 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-16 09:35:58-04

HAMILTON COUNTY — The Indiana Library Federation (ILF) is weighing in on the removal of titles from the Young Adult section of the Hamilton East Public Library.

The issue has gained new traction this month after Indiana author John Green took to social media last week to criticize the library's decision to move his book, "The Fault in Our Stars" out of the Young Adult section.

READ | Indiana author John Green upset with Fishers library over removal of book from YA section

Hamilton East Public Library system, which has two locations in Noblesville and Fishers, has been reviewing books under their new policy since May.

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The policy had already been criticized by parents and others in the community, many who said it was not up to the library to decide which books their child should be reading.

The review has already led to over 1300 books being moved from the Young Adult section at Hamilton East Public libraries.

Chad Heck with the Indiana Library Federation, says they already have policies in place to make sure books are shelved properly, he says adding more red tape for librarians is unnecessary since research in done before a book is even brought in to a libraries collection.

"We have practices in libraries that evaluate these materials using publisher criteria and review sources in order to find out who the audience is for materials," Heck said. "That ultimately is up to the user and parents to make the decisions for themselves."

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Heck says there are several databases that librarians look at when considering where to place a book. He says these data bases review books through an unbiased lens.

"There are different kinds of review sources," Heck said. "Some of them are more in-depth then others but they are peers from around the country and the library and publishing industry that review these materials."

Booklist, Library Journal, and School Library Journal are just a few examples of peer reviews of books. Heck says, there aren't a lot of obscene materials published because it's illegal to do so.

"That would be our criteria, whether or not a material is obscene or harmful to minors," Heck said. "But we don't collect those materials in our libraries and often those publishers don't print those materials."

The newest criticism of the library's policy began on August 9 when a copy of the most recent list of books being moved from the HEPL Young Adult section was shared with Green.

Green took to social media to share his frustration with the decision to move his book which he says was written "about teenagers" and "for teenagers".

Green also expressed concern that the board was refusing to return his phone calls and emails following the backlash they began receiving after his public remarks.

"I'd be happy to talk privately with people on the boards trying to censor my books and hundreds of others, or with the Republican politicians in Noblesville and Fishers who oversee them, but none of them will respond to my phone calls or emails," he wrote in a post on X.

A petition now circulating on social media requesting that the board change their policy on the re-shelving of books already has thousands of signatures.

"We feel like the board isn't listening to us, number one," Kara Hwang, the creator of the petition told WRTV. "They are favoring certain view points, there are plenty of us in the community that believe parents should be able to choose the books."

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Following the criticism from Green and the backlash that led to on social media, the library board released a statement saying they had moved "The Fault in Our Stars" back to the Young Adult section.

In that statement released over the weekend, the board also said they would be reviewing their policy at the next meeting, which is scheduled to take place on August 24.

You can read the full current policy below.

“We are a public library. We don’t censor, we don’t ban and we don’t remove books from the library,” Dr. Ray Maddalone, Secretary of the Hamilton East Library Board of Trustees told WRTV during an interview back in May.

READ | Fishers library moves 'The Fault in Our Stars' back to YA section following backlash

WRTV has reached out to the Hamilton East Public Library Board for comment on Tuesday. They did not respond to our request for an interview.

Read the full statement from HEPL Board President Laura Aldering issued Aug. 13 below.

Upon reviewing the page(s) of “The Fault in Our Stars” book that were the basis of the Director’s and review staff’s reason to move the book out of the Teen section, I believe there was an error in implementing the Collection Development Policy and that this book should be moved back to the Teen section immediately. The Board of Trustees will discuss further what went wrong with the review process at the next public board meeting.