Library board stifles community


BUCKHANNON — A highly anticipated meeting of the Upshur County Library Board was held in the library at 4 p.m. on Wednesday evening. Approximately 50 community members attended the meeting, standing in close quarters of Director Paul Norko’s office. The board handed out the meeting agenda, which was also posted online, and there was no item listed for discussion of the book titled Prince & Knight by author Daniel Haack that has caused upheaval among the community. 

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) organization issued a press release on Nov. 21 with the following description of the debated children’s book: “Prince & Knight tells the tale of a noble prince who is in line to take the throne. Together with his parents, they search the land far and wide to find a worthy bride, but the prince doesn’t find what he is looking for in the princesses they meet. While away, a terrible dragon threatens their land, so the prince rushes back to save his kingdom where he is met by a brave knight. Together, they defeat the dragon, and find love in the process.”

Some community members were under the impression that they would be able to speak during the meeting, that the book would be discussed, or that a decision would be made regarding the placement of the book in the library. To much dismay, the issue was not discussed until it was forced by a handful of community members, who did not exit the room when the board went into executive session for the Director’s evaluation, which is a personnel issue that required executive session. 

Community member Rob Allen questioned the board on protocols for their meetings and inquired why the community was not allowed to address their concerns when they were clearly there to do so, along with members of various press outlets. Dennis Xander, President of the Upshur County Library Board, responded, “You are more than welcome to submit written comments.” Xander continued, “We haven’t had a single conversation about this. We are not going to sit here for hours and hours and listen to people saying the same thing. We know pretty much what this is doing, and this will be addressed at a future meeting.” 

After several attempts to follow the rules of executive session, and with no compromise from the crowd, Xander then moved to end the executive session and adjourn the meeting. There was no second from any other board members to adjourn. Xander stated, “I am not doing this. You guys can sit here all day, but I am going home.” Xander exited and the remaining board members continued to meet behind closed doors, offering no comments on the matter at hand. According to Robert’s Rules of Order, when a motion is made to end a meeting, a second motion is required. A majority vote is then required for the meeting to be adjourned.

The book has not been banned from the library, according to Director Paul Norko, who said the controversial book remains available and was checked out during the Wednesday evening meeting. Community members were asked to submit their comments or concerns in writing by emailing the library at [email protected] or by dropping them off at the library, and the board will review all documents. Some community members said they felt as if they were misled by the board and that they, themselves, were being censored from giving their points of view. 

The fact remains, that the children’s book is still available at the library. Community members expressed they were upset for various reasons. Some want the book removed from the library completely, and others want the book placed in the adult section, while others do not want the book to be moved from the children’s section, for which it was intended. Director Norko stated, “Don’t take this out on the library. I have really come to love this community. I am originally from out of state myself, so I have lived places that are much more diverse, and there are issues that have to be worked out in Upshur County. Both sides need not to go to extremes, I want to offer civil discourse.”

The Upshur County Library Board will convene for their next meeting in January.  No further plan of action was offered at this time.  

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