Glen Ridge, NJ – A conservative group is trying to get six books banned from the Glen Ridge Library and residents are mobilizing to fight it. It’s a situation playing out in communities around the nation.
It all started on October 24, 2022, when the Glen Ridge Public Library received Request for Reconsideration forms for six book titles, from eight residents in five households, under the letterhead of the organization Citizens Defending Education (CDE).
The books being challenged are:
All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johson (YA BIO JOHNSON)
Here and Queer by Rowan Ellis and Jacky Sheridan (YA SOCIAL QUEER ELLIS)
It’s Not the Stork by Robie H. Harris and Michael Emberley (J PARENT 649)
It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie H. Harris and Michael Emberley (YA HEALTH PUBERTY HARRIS)
This Book is Gay by James Dawson (YA SOCIAL QUEER DAWSON)
You Know, Sex by Cory Silverberg and Fiona Smyth (YA HEALTH PUBERTY SILVERBERG)
According to the Library’s Book Challenge FAQ page on the issue, those submitting the forms felt the material in these books were inappropriate for the intended age group.
The Library Director responded to the individuals on November 7, 2022, stating that it was the decision of the Director that all of the titles meet the criteria of the Library Materials Selection Policy and that the books would remain in the Library’s collection.
In December 2022, the Library received a letter from the CDE appealing the Director’s decision. The appeal on these six titles will be heard by the Board at the February 8, 2023 Board of Trustees meeting. The meeting will be held in-person at the Council Chambers on the second floor of Borough Hall at 7:30PM. The meeting is open to the public.
Phil Johnson is the organizer of Glen Ridge United Against Book Bans, a dedicated group of parents, residents, clergy, and educators who are fighting the ban and bringing awareness to the issue with a petition, as well as yard signs and plans for a rally.
“It’s really a poor precedent to allow a few people in town to decide what people can read,” said Johnson, who says the CDE has used “dog whistle” words like pornography in its description of books on sex education.
Johnson says the CDE has been opposing sex education in Glen Ridge Schools and diversity, equity and inclusion efforts including LGBTQ representation, and has a seventh book challenge pending, a book called “Let’s Talk About It.”
“We call on our neighbors and community leaders to support the town’s professional librarians in making collection decisions that reflect diverse life experiences and provide a broad range of information that contributes to personal growth,” says Johnson.
Erin Ackerman, herself a professional librarian and parent of a Glen Ridge fourth grader, says, “We cherish the Glen Ridge Public Library and want our children to have access to materials that expand their views of themselves and others. Parents have the right to guide their children’s reading, but parents should not be making decisions for other’s children.”
Between January 1 and August 31, 2022, the American Library Association documented 681 attempts to ban or restrict library resources with 1,651 unique titles targeted — the highest number of attempted book bans since ALA began compiling these lists more than 20 years ago.
ALA President Lessa Kananiʻopua Pelayo-Lozada has stated, “The number of challenges we’re seeing reflects coordinated, national efforts to silence marginalized or historically underrepresented voices and deprive all of us – young people, in particular – of the chance to explore a world beyond the confines of personal experience.”
“The effect of a ban would be to suppress LGBTQ+ representation and access to books that allow children, teens and adults to understand their changing bodies. The banning of these books would send a clear message that our friends and neighbors who identify as LGBTQ+ are not welcome in Glen Ridge,” says Johnson. “Unchecked, the very process of targeting of these books creates an environment that makes it uncomfortable for people to be who they are.”
“Books, access to books and the freedom to read are essential for all members of the community, especially LGBTQIA+ youth and families,” says Barbara Simon/Spokesperson for Out Montclair and co-lead of Out Montclair Families. “LGBTQIA+-inclusive books are baselessly under attack by a small handful of people in Glen Ridge and other book banning efforts around the country. These challenges are drastically out of step with the growing acceptance of LGBTQIA+ people in and around Glen Ridge, acceptance and warmth we have witnessed and felt at Out Montclair events, collaborations and partnerships community-wide. Out Montclair exists to provide support, solidarity and safe spaces for every LGBTQIA+ person and our allies, and we unequivocally support our members who live in Glen Ridge as well as Glen Ridge United Against Book Bans as they work to ensure LGBTQIA+ people and books are represented on library shelves and are accessible to all in the community who want to read them. We urge every LGBTQIA+ person and ally to speak up for the freedom to read and for everyone’s right to be themselves, be safe and belong, including in the Glen Ridge Public Library, and everywhere they wish to be.”
Glen Ridge residents who want to oppose the proposed ban can sign the petition and are encouraged to write letters to the library board by February 6th, to the attention of firstname.lastname@example.org (Comments submitted in writing or by email must include the individual’s name and address, and clearly indicate that this is correspondence to be shared with the Board of Trustees.)
Glen Ridge United Against Book Bans urges residents come to the February 8th Library Board of Trustees Meeting to voice their opposition (buy a T-shirt to wear here)
For more information, visit facebook.com/GlenRidgeUnited