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To the best of our knowledge, the book circulated only once, and was withdrawn in June 2021.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.
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