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Red Deer public library faces some book vandalism but also gains literacy funds

Parents can choose what books to read to their children: CEO
Some children’s books on gender were destroyed at the Red Deer Public Library. (Contributed photo)

A funding injection, followed by book vandalism, made it a good news-bad news week for the Red Deer public library.

Staff welcomed an additional $12,000 from the provincial government for the library’s literacy program, which is seeing skyrocketing demand from Ukrainian newcomers.

But they were disheartened to discover some children’s books were vandalized by a person (or persons) who presumably did not agree with the pronoun and LGBTQ topics they addressed.

The library posted a photo for Freedom to Read Week showing two copies of pre-school books, including Being You (by Megan Madison, Jessica Ralli and Anne/Andy Passchier), with a torn cover and pages.

On one ripped page of a board book, simple text and cartoonish illustrations explain the pronoun ‘they’ is used by gender-fluid, non-binary people.

What’s most “distressing” about the attempted censorship is that the library’s shelves contain thousands of books with different perspectives, said the library’s chief executive officer Shelley Ross.

She stressed parents and guardians can decide what they want to read to their child.

“Please respect other people’s right to choose as well. Banning, hiding, stealing, or destroying materials in order to prevent others from accessing them interferes with intellectual freedom, which is an essential part of a democratic society and one of the fundamental values of libraries in Canada,” the library’s posting states.

Ross regularly hears various complaints about books or graphic novels that are too violent or shocking, and always encourages people to find other tomes to read.

“By and large, public libraries will have something that offends anyone… but children’s books often get people most excited,” added Ross, who believes most Albertans understand the right to select their reading materials is essential to our free society.

The torn books were re-ordered at a cost to taxpayers.

On a positive note, Ross was very pleased to receive $12,000 from the provincial government in order to offer more literacy classes to non-English speakers.

With more than 600 displaced persons from Ukraine now living in Red Deer, Ross said there’s huge demand for language tutorials, so the library is now offering some English classes for groups of about 15 students, as well as one-on-one instruction.

The additional money will allow the library to hire more English/Ukrainian speaking teachers to lead these classes, she said.

The library’s literacy program, which has received municipal and provincial awards, is still looking for volunteers for one-on-one tutorials. Anyone interested who can spare an hour a week, generally in the evenings, is encouraged to contact the library.