The Upshur County Public Library Board of Directors is reviewing whether to remove a children’s book from their shelves, after a local pastor asked for its removal. The book, Prince and Knight, depicts two men who fall in love. Pastor Josh Layfield brought the issue to the attention of library staff because citing moral concerns for people of faith who might happen upon it.
“This book could potentially be dangerous to people of faith that know what the bible says about such sexual immorality. And the reality is, books are windows, books are maps, books are mirrors, books train,” Layfield said.
The issue has sparked a debate among community members, and across the country. Several groups have urged the library to keep the book on its shelves, including The West Virginia Library Association and the American Library Association (ALA).
"The book in questions is written for children. It's a picture book. It's written in simple language. It's age appropriate, it's developmentally appropriate. The only thing that sets it apart is the fact that it depicts a same-sex couple," Debra Caldwell said. Caldwell is with the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom.
"It's actually written as a fractured fairy tale, the prince and knight end up together, and there's nothing sexually explicit and nothing wrong with that," Caldwell said. "There are persons in the community engaged in same sex relationships, there are certainly families with same sex parents. So there really shouldn't be a reason for this book to raise concerns."
"The whole purpose of public libraries is to provide choice and meet the information needs of everyone in the community. And so there will be families who want and need this particular book. Other families will object to it, or not find it suitable for their own family. And they're free to not read it. But the families who want to need it should be able to find it in public library, because after all, it's a shared community resource. And it should reflect the diversity of the community, even those who might be in the minority or not the loudest voices," Caldwell said.
At this time, Prince and Knight is currently still in circulation in Buckhannon (but is checked out until mid December), according to their online catalogue. The book is also available in the children’s section in other libraries across the state, including in Charleston and Morgantown.
According to Dennis Xander, President of the Upshur County Public Library Board of Directors, the board will be reviewing comments from community members. Xander said they will likely make a decision on whether they plan to permanently remove the book from their library sometime in 2020.