Hamilton East library board could reverse controversial book policy with new member

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. — In a nearly three-hour, heated special meeting, some members of the Hamilton East Public Library Board signaled they may attempt to reverse a controversial policy that has landed the library in the national spotlight.

The collection development policy was revised in December 2022. It was changed to say materials in the youth, middle school and high school sections should be “age appropriate.”

Since the revised policy was implemented, staff have been reviewing all of the section’s books to make sure they are in compliance. Famous Indianapolis author John Green’s “The Fault In Our Stars” was one of the more than a thousand books moved out of the youth section since that review began.

Green brought national attention to the library after calling the policy “an embarrassment” and the relocation decision “political theater of the lowest and most embarrassing order.”

The controversial policy is not only costing Hamilton County taxpayers upwards of $300,000, but it cost former board President Laura Alerding her position. The Noblesville School Board replaced her with English teacher and author Bill Kenley.

Now that the board has a new makeup, board member Michelle Payne said the changes to the policy should be removed.

“We did a lot of positive things with the policy that don’t need to change,” Payne said. “It’s the one paragraph on pages three and four and appendixes a and b that have caused the issues we all agree need to be paused.”

Tuesday’s special meeting was Kenley’s first since he was appointed to the board. During a back-and-forth with board member Micah Beckwith, Kenley indicated he may be in favor of reversing the policy.

“I’ve had thousands of people tell me that what I need to do is to come in here and vote to end this policy,” Kenley said.

“I’ve had thousands of people tell me to leave the policy in place,” Beckwith responded.

“I’d be very surprised. Where are they from? Are they from Noblesville?” Kenley questioned.

“They’re from Hamilton County, all over buddy,” Beckwith shot back.

Kenley would be the deciding vote if the board considered reversing the policy.

Beckwith along with board members Tiffanie Ditlevson, Ray Maddalone and Alerding were the four who originally voted for the revisions. Members Craig Siebe, Andre Miksha and Michelle Payne voted against it.

With Alerding gone, it’ll be up to Kenley to decide which side to support.

Discussion amongst the board frequently resulted in members talking over each other, bickering or yelling at the library’s Executive Director Edra Waterman.

The board didn’t take any action on the policy at Tuesday’s meeting but said it would be discussed at their next regularly scheduled meeting on Sept. 28.

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