Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Man Threatens Legal Action Against City

Bentonville Resident Unhappy Because Of Sex Guide Book

Thursday, April 19,
By Richard Dean Prudenti

A Bentonville man asked the city to pay his two sons $20,000 and to fire the library director for including what he called "pornography" in the Bentonville Public Library collection.

"The Whole Lesbian Sex Book" by Felice Newman was removed from the library shelf after Earl Adams of Bentonville complained it is "patently offensive and lacks any artistic, literary or scientific value," according to a letter he wrote and faxed Feb. 16 to Mayor Bob McCaslin.

Adams said his 14- and 16-year-old sons, Kyle and Ryan, looked at the book while the 14-year-old was browsing for material on military academies. He requested the city pay him $10,000 per child, the maximum allowed under the Arkansas obscenity law.

"My sons were greatly disturbed by viewing this material and this matter has caused many sleepless nights in our house," he said in another e-mail to McCaslin earlier in February.

Library Director Cindy Suter initially relocated the book to a less accessible location as Adams requested in his first e-mail complaint. Then Adams asked Feb. 16 for the book to be removed and sent McCaslin a letter threatening a lawsuit.

"God was speaking to my heart that day and helped me find the words that proved successful in removing this book from the shelf," Adams stated Thursday.

Advisory board members voted unanimously April 3 to remove the book from circulation and find a similar resource book, if possible. If not, the book will likely go back on the shelf, Suter said.

Library Advisory Board member George Spence said he found the book crude and agrees it ought to be replaced with a suitable book on the same topic.

"A more sensitive, more clinical approach to same material might be more appropriate for the library," Spence said.

Adams said in an e-mail Thursday he will fight the book's return.

"Any effort to reinstate the book will be met with legal action and protests from the Christian community," Adams stated in an e-mail.

Adams asked to answer questions by e-mail because he said he feared being misquoted.

The city attorney said the book is not pornographic and the city won't pay Adams.

"There is not a valid legal concern here," Camille Thompson said. "In fact, (the request for money) made me question his motivation."

The flap about Newman's book happened shortly before Suter announced her intention Monday to resign effective May 31, but Suter said it had nothing to do with her decision.

Both Spence and McCaslin concurred that there is no connection between the two.

"I know Cindy, and she is not an impulsive person. She would not have done it without a lot of thought," McCaslin said. "Assumptions can get you in big trouble."

Suter said she needs to devote more time to her downtown business, Fusion Fine Art Gallery, which she opened in June 2005.

Suter has given most of her attention the last few years to planning the new Bentonville Public Library, which opened in October at 405 S. Main St.

Suter said the Library Advisory Board considered Adams' complaint as soon as it could and invited Adams to attend. He was not present at the meeting.

Spence, who also serves as the City Council's attorney, said the board discussed both Adams' complaint and the library's policy for reconsidering library materials.

"I thought we had a very intelligent -- I almost want to say 'high-minded' -- discussion about the book and about the policy," Spence said.

In addition to removing the book, the board asked that the policy be revised to give board members the final say on reconsideration of library materials. That decision now rests with the library director.

"In my opinion that decision should ultimately be up to more than one person," Spence said.

Spence said there was no "tug of war" over who should have final authority.

Suter supports the action.

"We had an excellent meeting and discussion. I've very supportive and pleased," she said.

Spence anticipates the City Council will have to approve the change.

Suter disagreed with Adams' conclusion that having Newman's book in the library pushes an "immoral social agenda," as he stated in his Feb. 16 letter.

The book is a sex guide deemed suitable for all public libraries, according to the Library Journal, which the Bentonville library uses to select materials.

Libraries must have a diverse collection to "meet the needs of all the people in the community," she said.

"My focus is to develop a inclusive collection and not an exclusive collection," Suter said.


Reconsideration Process

A formal complaint about specific material in the Bentonville Public Library collections sets in motion the following:

* A committee evaluates the item and recommends action

* The library director decides whether to keep or remove material

* The Library Advisory Board determines whether the reconsideration was handled according to the stated policies and procedures.

Source: City of Bentonville

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