Library Re-Purchases Controversial Book

A controversial book on transgender issues will soon be back on the Westport Library shelves.

Last month, after “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing our Daughters” was taken out of circulation, a group of residents accused the Library of “political censorship.” They asked the Library to re-purchase it.

The Library said the book by Abigail Shrier was rejected by the Purchasing Committee because it included misinformation about scientific studies on transgender issues, and omitted other information.

The residents called the decision “unacceptable and most likely unlawful.” 

Today — noting that the Library’s appeals process works as intended — executive director Bill Harmer says the book has been re-evaluated. It will be re-purchased.

The decision was announced in an email to Alessandra Gordonos, who made the original complaint. Harmer said:

In accordance with the Library’s Challenged Materials Procedure, the Library has reevaluated the book in question in the context of the Library’s Collection Development Policy.

As a result of this reevaluation, the Library has made the decision to re-purchase the book for the Library’s collection.

The Library is committed to its mission of empowering the individual and strengthening the community through dynamic interaction and the lively and open exchange of ideas.

In furtherance of its mission, the Library also is committed to the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, and The Freedom to Read Statement of the ALA Council and AAP Freedom to Read Committee.

The Library is committed to making available books and materials that promote diversity of thought and opinion, and deepen patrons’ understanding of issues.

I note that inclusion of any materials in the Library collection does not constitute or reflect an endorsement of any particular opinion, idea, or viewpoint by the Library.

The Westport Library first added “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters: to the Library’s materials collection in February 2021.

To the best of our knowledge, the book circulated only once, and was withdrawn in June 2021. In July 2021 and again in September 2021, you made separate requests for the Library to re-purchase the book for the collection.

After review, the Library’s selection committee decided not to re-purchase the book, due in part to the mixed reviews that the book had received during that summer — reviews that highlighted omitted information and misinformation from some of the results from the studies the author cites in the book.

The Library’s collection manager indicated to you that the Library had a selection of other recent books on this topic in our collection, and offered to borrow a copy of the book for you from another library.

The Westport Library’s collection is always in flux. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

In selecting materials for the Library’s collection, the Library follows its Collection Development Policy. The fact that this item was once in the Library’s collection and was then removed is not unusual, given space considerations and in keeping with Library best practices.

The Library’s collection, at any given moment, is always in flux. We are not an archive. Much of our collection comes in based on interest, and leaves — is replaced — when interest wanes. Out-of-date books, for instance, are removed by librarians, as are multiples of a book as its popularity decreases.

Library staff constantly reviews items in our collection against the Collection Maintenance criteria in our Collection Development Policy, to determine whether any items should be withdrawn.

The Library also has a Contested Materials Policy and Procedure to ensure that all patrons have an opportunity to appeal any decision reached by the selection committee — and to provide us with a complete system of checks and balances.

“Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters” has been reevaluated in accordance with the Library’s Challenged Materials Procedure. The book represents a current, diverse viewpoint on culturally significant subjects (gender identity and expression, gender dysphoria, being transgender, adolescence, and development) that are relevant to the community. The book and its author have gained widespread public attention and are relevant to the contemporary discourse concerning the subject matter of the book.

The Library recognizes that public response to the book has been divided; that the book endorses theories concerning gender identity and gender dysphoria that are controversial and disputed; and that the book’s accuracy and objectivity have been challenged.

In reaching this decision, the Library also takes into account the extent to which other materials addressing gender identity and expression, gender dysphoria, being transgender, adolescence, development, and related topics are available in the Library’s collection, as well as the Library’s commitment to providing materials that reflect a diversity of thought and opinion.

The Library’s collection includes more than 100 physical books, over 900 e-books, and other materials concerning these subjects, rounding out the body of information available to patrons and permitting patrons to educate themselves, test ideas, draw conclusions, and make their own, informed decisions abou what to read and believe.

The Library’s collection is dynamic. Materials in the Library’s collection are subject to ongoing evaluationm and may be retained or withdrawn by the Library as circumstances change or warrant. Decisions concerning the development and maintenance of the Library’s collection will continue to be guided by the Library’s Collection Development Policy.

I also reiterate that inclusion of materials in the Library collection does not constitute an endorsement by the Library of any particular viewpoint, idea, or opinion.

Thank you for taking an active interest in the Library’s resources. Please feel free to contact me directly with any further questions you may have

20 responses to “Library Re-Purchases Controversial Book

  1. If this book contains misinformation, incomplete or inaccurate reports of scientific data, or is otherwise faulty, why was it bought again? Was removing it a mistake? Unless I’m missing something, the library should have stood its ground.

    • With highly politicized issues, it’s very hard to determine what constitutes “misinformation” or just a very unpopular point of view that makes activists very angry.

      Best policy to protect free speech is not to censor even suspect or horrific points of view, unless it’s part of some sort of criminal scheme. I think I should even be able to find Mein Kampf in a university library it’s of historical value to understand Hitler’s mind.

      Should the library have censored “DPT – A Shot in the Dark?” It was an early anti-vax book that was reviewed positively in major media. Ditto for “The Great Power-Line Coverup” by Paul Brodeur of The New Yorker.

      Both made assertions — DPT shot causing autism, power lines causing cancer — that were generally refuted even by the science of the day, and have not been shown to have merit subsequently.

      Yet censoring them would deny an author the right to make an unpopular argument…and could backfire by making the public suspicious that the establishment was trying to cover up the truth.

  2. Thank you for your decision and thoughtful consideration

  3. Alessandra Gordonos

    The book does not contain misinformation, incomplete or inaccurate report of scientific data. The book contains accurate scientific data that goes against a certain treatment that is being pushed by activists. The attacks on the book were made by activists that want to prevent debate.
    Science progresses by debate of ideas. Some are proven correct in the long run, and some incorrect, but we cannot know which ones are correct until data becomes available.
    Recent data supports the book author’s position that promoting gender-affirming surgeries (transition) to adolescent girls without considering other possible underlying causes is not in their best interest, and those decisions should wait for legal majority.

  4. I think it’s pretty obvious you’re missing something: (1) the library “judged a book by its cover” and assumed it was full of “misinformation” because of the subject matter and (2) the library should not be in a position to take sides on a controversial topic and only allow information that furthers what the majority of the staff agrees with.

    • But it is absolutely a fair choice, given a limited budget, for the library to not choose to shelve propaganda that is not particularly science-based, when it comes to a topic like this one.

      You seem to want to define tolerance by the willingness of the library to promote the intolerance of others.

      The book isn’t new and the only publicity it seems to have received is based upon the author’s desire to gin-up angry conservative people with claims that her thesis is being suppressed. Someone should tell her it is largely being ignored.

  5. Edward Bonham

    People, it’s a book. If you do not like it, do not pick up and do not read it! Selective censorship.

    If you see something on TV you do not like, you change a channel. Same with the radio. Books? You observe the title, and move on while muttering whatever you want to yourself.

    Everybody wins.

  6. Erika Brunwasser

    Dangerous and damaging. Sad that such a progressive library full of rich programs and resources decided to leave this book on it’s shelves. It’s hard enough for LGBTQ kids in this town, or anyone who falls “outside the box”. Very disappointing. Misinformation is not information.

    • Really? I’d say given that Westport hosted a “family-friendly” drag show, if LGBTQ+ kids feel like life is hard in this town, it’s on them. Westport is a welcoming place that should embrace all viewpoints. What is very disappointing is how close-minded you seem to be. And another thing – since you say “misinformation is not information”: just because someone believes something, doesn’t make it true.

      • Alex Wennberg

        “Westport is a welcoming place” – hahaha. As long as you are white, straight and rich it will welcome you. Step outside your bubbles folks. Ask any young person who identifies as anything but straight and white, how easy it is to grow up here. I guess Compo must be nice this time of day because your head is deep in the sand.

    • elinalublinsky

      Have you read the book?

  7. Arline Gertzoff

    I would like to know which area libraries have this book .I have no agenda just curious.More than once the Library did not have a book I was interested in but they graciously got it quickly from another library.

    • Arline, all Fairfield County libraries except for Westport and one other offer the Libby app. Our library offers only Hoopla (the others offer both). One wonders why, with our resources, we don’t have access to Libby (library app for digital downloads, both text and audio) Well, it turns out that Libby offers Irreversible Damage and Hoopla does not. So the answer to your question is that all Fairfield County Libraries offer the book except for Westport and one other.

  8. If Harmer’s blather about being “committed to diversity” , etc, is in any way the truth, why in the name of anything holy was the book banned in the first place… I have a dime that says most of the “committee” did not read the book.

  9. Luisa Francoeur

    Chris, thank you for the link to the Psychology Today article. It explores the nuances of the book’s thesis and provides a good introduction to this subject matter.

  10. Here is a critique of the Psychology Today article (which I have read and found flawed). I do agree with the critique. See https://jessesingal.substack.com/p/science-based-medicines-coverage

  11. see the many articles that point out the problems with the Psychology Today article, the latest being: https://jessesingal.substack.com/p/science-based-medicines-coverage

  12. Katerina Medina

    This book offers a prospective on how damaging certain ideology is to those who cannot fully comprehend nor foresee the consequences of choices they make today. At the very least it should help people to make an informed decision.

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