Editorial: Don’t tell me what I can and can’t read

Published 8:45 am Tuesday, August 1, 2023

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Do we want our government to tell us what we can and can’t read?

In Davie County, it’s happening.

The Davie County Public Library is supposed to be a place where you can go in peace, a place where you can research to your heart’s content, a place where you can check out a book to read. Any book.


A book to read?

But what book are you reading?

If that book has anything at all to do with the LGBTQ-plus community, chances are that it has been challenged, meaning someone wants it banned. These folks who think they’re doing the right thing are filling out the paper work to have certain books banned from the local library. It’s their right.

What isn’t their right is some of the other shenanigans going on at our local library. Library staff members are being treated rudely. And that’s putting it mildly.

People are going into the library and re-arranging things, at times taking inappropriate books for the children’s area and moving them there. They’ve turned paper records inside out, stolen books, misplaced books. The list goes on. The sheriff’s department has been called. The ACLU has investigated. It’s not the civilized way to get things done, folks.

But a recent report is even more disturbing. A high-ranking county official ordered that a book be pulled from the shelves, claiming they are doing what a library patron wants.

What? Does this mean that any patron can request that a book be banned and it’s done? That’s not the way it works, or the way it should work.

The library has a form for patrons to fill out who disagree with a book on the library shelves. That form goes to the board of trustees for a final decision. The board has that authority because the library director gave it to them, which makes sense. The board of trustees is supposed to be a liasion between the library staff and the community, and that role suits it to a tee.

Let’s not forget that “community” means us all, even people who don’t look or think like we do. They deserve a chance to read what they want. Even those who do think like you deserve a chance to read those books. They don’t have to agree with whatever message is being sent, but they have the right to read them.

In my feeble and worn-out mind, the perfect library would make every book ever written available to its patrons – even have them on the shelves if possible. No book should be banned, and for sure, no government official should have the power to decide what we should or shouldn’t read.

Sure, there are books that children shouldn’t be reading. But that should be up to the parent, not the government. There are some books that I have no business reading. But that should be up to me, not the government.

And don’t forget. If you allow government officials – especially one government official – to have this power, the next ones in charge may not have the same opinions as you. Books you approve of could be next.

The decision on which books to actually buy for the Davie library’s shelves isn’t an easy one. It should be an array of all types of books for all people. If there’s a trend, call it out. But don’t trample on others’ rights to read what they want.

Who would have thought that an appointment to the Davie Library Board of Trustees would be controversial?

It became that when Jane McAllister was overlooked in favor of Brent Ward by county commissioners a couple of months back. It shouldn’t have been controversial, because noone has accused Ward of any library wrongdoing.

We do disagree with the historical way that the library board of trustees have been appointed. For years, the trustees made recommendations to county commissioners to approve, which until last year (About the same time book banning became popular nationwide.), the county approved. No board should be allowed to hand pick who they serve with. Make recommendations, maybe. But hand pick a board? No. A wise man once said he would put his worst critic on his board.

What is becoming controversial is that a certain segment of the population wants to tell us how to think.

And what to read.

No thank you.

– Mike Barnhardt