GENDER QUEER May Return to Wake County Public Library Shelves



Always books. Never boring.

Last month, we reported on the removal of Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer from shelves at Wake County Public Library (WCPL). The decision was made without committee input, with an email from Deputy Library Director Ann Burlingame saying that defining something as pornographic was hard but “I know it when I see it.”

Library staff pushed back against the decision. Fifty-five librarians signed a letter demanding answers and the return of the book to shelves.

Now, thanks to the development of a new committee that will better clarify the processes and procedures surrounding book reconsiderations, Gender Queer is on its way back to shelves throughout North Carolina’s largest county library system.

All staff at WCPL received an email asking for volunteers to be part of the committee. The committee would be comprised of staff across all sections of the library, including children’s staff, a library assistant, regional libraries, and a member of administration. Ten total committee members — including more than one queer-identifying staffer — plus a member of the library’s collection development administration team, drafted a new procedure. Senior management provided input, and this week, the library board of commissioners were updated.

Once the final procedures for book removal are approved, Gender Queer will be reevaluated and it looks promising. The committee is looking to other large library systems across the US to ensure their updated plans align and reflect their own community needs.

“The library system created this process in 2005, and since then, national best practices have changed,” said Wake County Public Libraries Director Mike Wasilick to CBS 17. “We recognized it was time to modernize our procedures and ensure they’re inclusive, open and supportive of a public library that welcomes all.”

Certainly, the bad press, staff frustrations, and pushback from the community lit a fire and encouraged quick action. Other outdated information from the system, including the previously noted members of the board of commissions, has also been updated.

Gender Queer may be accessible to WCPL patrons as soon as Thursday.

Find more news and stories of interest from the book world in Breaking in Books.