ROCHESTER - In a press release from the city last week clearly intended to stifle dissent over the library's acquisition of Gender Queer, a novel that includes images of children having oral sex, the chief librarian insisted the book is intended for adults and placed in the adult section of the library.
But on Tuesday she admitted anyone of any age can check it out and take it home.
"Anyone can go anywhere (in the library) and look at any book," Rochester Public Library Director Marie Lejeune told The Rochester Voice. "Anyone can take out Gender Queer."
Gender Queer: A Memoir, by Maia Kotabe, recounts Kobabe's journey from adolescence to adulthood and the author's exploration of gender identity and sexuality, ultimately identifying as being outside of the gender binary, according to Wikipedia..
Gender Queer is among the graphic novel genre, which is especially popular among young people. The genre includes a comic book look, Lejeune said.
Some of the more offensive images in Gender Queer include what appears to be two youngsters engaging in oral sex, but there are also other images of sex acts in the book, which has been banned in many libraries nationwide.
Lejeune defended the library's inclusion on its shelves and said it's not the job of library staff to police who looks at what.
"I recommend that parents be involved in their children's borrowing," she said. "That is the job of the parent. Parents need to be involved in what their children borrow from the library.
However, Lejeune confirmed that anyone can check the book out, no matter how young they appear when they present the book at the main desk.
"Could they be under the age of 12?" The Rochester Voice asked.
"Yes," replied Lejeune who cited the principle of loco parentis, a Latin term that refers to the legal responsibility of a person or organization to perform some of the functions or responsibilities of a parent.
"We are not loco parentis," she said repeatedly.
Given that, she said libraries and librarians have no right to infringe on who can take what out of the library, no matter their age.
The controversy over Gender Queer began when City Councilor Jim Gray requested an agenda item be placed on the Sept. 6 City Council meeting to discuss the appropriateness of the widely criticized book.
Gray's request for City Manager Blaine Cox to discuss his findings on the book's appropriateness after conferring with Lejeune were rebuffed after City Council voted 12-1 to scuttle Gray's agenda item, with only Gray voting against.
The vote, which followed a 23-minute secret meeting, employed Robert's Rules of Order verbiage to eliminate any discussion.
"So we ended up not getting the report from the city manager," lamented Gray soon after the vote., "which was what I wanted."
According to Wikipedia the image referenced in the story that depicts juveniles having oral sex is of (the author's) girlfriend performing oral sex on em while e wears a strap-on dildo." (e and em are what are referred to as nonbinary pronouns).
Many libraries that received criticism have removed the books immediately, including in Keller, Texas, where Kathy May successfully led a movement for its removal from school library shelves.
"This is porn," she said on Lt. Col. Allen West's "Steadfast and Loyal" podcast earlier this month. "School districts across the country are getting this off the shelves."
May said she found many more books with disturbing subjects, but that Gender Queer was the most repugnant visually.
It should be noted that Gender Queer is not in any Rochester School libraries, according to Rochester Schools Supt. Kyle Repucci.
While it appears City Council used Robert's Rules to removed the agenda item, Rochester's City Charter, itself, may give detractors of the book some ammunition.
One section of the City Charter that seeks to regulate murals says they can be approved as long as:
"The mural contains no defamation, incitement, obscenity, illegal content, or images of child pornography. Obscene matter is that which the average resident of the City, applying community standards, would find, taken as a whole, appeals to a prurient interest and lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value."
Meanwhile, The Rochester Voice interviewed seven parents who were picking up their children at Rochester Middle School on Sept. 9, all of whom said they were outraged that the book was on the RPL shelves.
Gray feels that the City Council is, in fact, a legitimate body to weigh in on this subject, since they hold the purse strings to the library and appoint library trustees.
"We need the citizens of Rochester to come in and look at the book," he said earlier this month.