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Mayor Wong was also caught in the maelstrom; he responded by instructing Anderson to cancel the book order. With the order canceled, offers of Sex gifts ensued, setting the stage for the hearing.
Anderson says he tried to explain his position, but "by the time we got down to the board meeting . . . I was so fed up with the whole mess."
About 200 people attended the hearing, and 22 spoke against Sex. Six people voiced support for putting the book in the library. Interestingly, Anderson says, only nine of the 22 Sex foes held library cards, compared with five of the six supporters.
The advisory board's hearing was unprecedented. Usually, complaints about library materials are handled from the bottom up, culminating with advisory board consideration. In this case, with city politicos involved, it flowed from the top down.
In every case preceding Sex, the advisory board has heard a recommendation on objectionable materials after the book was on the shelf and after a patron had read the entire book (a requirement) and filled out a complaint form. Under normal procedures, a subcommittee consisting of Anderson, two library staffers and two lay members from the advisory board will read the material in question and make a recommendation to the entire advisory board. The subcommittee has always presented a thorough, respectful response to the complaint and has always recommended keeping the material in the library. And the advisory board has always followed the recommendation.
"We've never removed a book from this library," Anderson says.
Until Sex, which wrought a unique case of literaris interruptus.
Most libraries get three or four complaints a year regarding materials on the shelves. The Mesa Public Library sometimes gets three or four complaints a month, largely because public input in encouraged, Anderson says.
A review of the complaints on file at the Mesa Library includes one regarding a children's book titled Stay Up Late, which, among other transgressions, employs the term "pee-pee."
Anderson rolls his eyes and says, "See what we have to live with every day in the library?"
He fears things might get dicier in the wake of the Sex episode.
"I have a sneaking suspicion that we're going to see the same people who have turned out in opposition to this book start censoring the library. They're just waiting for an opportunity.