Garfield County Libraries to host Freedom to Read forum

Discussion prompted from recent efforts to restrict book access

Westley Crouch
For the Post Independent
The Ute Theater in Rifle.
Post Independent archives

Garfield County Libraries will soon host a community forum highlighting reading rights and the First Amendment.

Called Freedom to Read, the event is slated for 6-8 p.m. Oct. 18 at the Ute Theater and Events Center, 132 E. 4th St. 

“In recent months, some public library patrons have challenged various materials, believing they should be withdrawn or made less accessible,” said Jamie LaRue, Garfield County Libraries executive director and host of the community forum. “This event will include a brief presentation on the First Amendment and the Public Library, followed by a moderated public comment session, followed by a reaction panel.”

The moderated public comments period at the forum will be moderated by Raleigh Burleigh, editor of the Sopris Sun.

Speakers will be asked to sign in, and indicate whether they are speaking in favor of new restrictions on library use, or against. The library will then alternate speakers while time remains. It is anticipated that the library board will issue a statement at some time after the forum.

The forum was created in response to the September board meeting. 

“Many public attendees had expressed frustration that there wasn’t enough time to speak up about concerns regarding some library materials,” LaRue said. “In response, the library invites the public to a forum.”

Garfield County Libraries and the Board of Trustees have been under scrutiny by certain groups over the accessibility of Japanese Manga books, which can be found at all branches of Garfield County Libraries. 

Proponents of book restrictions and bans include community members such as Trish O’Grady, who petitioned for Japanese Manga books, and any books with an adult content warning, to be stored in a separate room. She also advocates for library patrons to show proof of age — 18 years or older — to access or check out any material. 

Others have gone further and are requesting that the books be banned entirely. 

Opponents of book restrictions and bans argue that public libraries exist to provide information to the community, where books should be accessible — not restricted.  

Many believe that it’s up to those in the community who visit public libraries to decide what they would like to access while visiting; not to tell others what they cannot access. 

The Board of Trustees monthly meetings are held on the first Thursday of every month at 2 p.m. The meetings rotate between different branches throughout the county. The next meeting will be on Oct. 5 at 2 p.m. at the Rifle Branch Library.

Book restrictions and bans are part of a larger national discussion. This forum will be an opportunity for community members to learn more about the issues, services and the purpose behind public libraries. 

Proponents and opponents of book restrictions and bans are expected to be in attendance. Garfield County Libraries encourages all community members who have an interest to attend.

If you go…

What: Freedom to Read forum
Where: Ute Theater and Events Center, 132 E. 4th St., Rifle
When: 6-8 p.m. Oct. 18
How much: Free

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