Book challenged by residents to remain at Westborough library

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Book challenged by residents to remain at Westborough library
The Library Book of Trustees has decided to keep the copy of “Vaginas: An Important Book about Vulvas, Periods, Puberty and Sex!” by Dr. Alison K. Rogers in the library’s collection. The meeting on March 29 was attended by more than three dozen residents, many of them members of Westborough Against Censorship. (Photo/Maureen Sullivan)

WESTBOROUGH – A book for older children about vaginas will remain at the Westborough Public Library, but in a different location.

During its March 29 meeting, the library’s Board of Trustees voted to keep the book “Vaginas: An Important Book about Vulvas, Periods, Puberty and Sex!” by Dr. Alison K. Rogers within the library’s collection.

The book will be kept on an upper shelf, according to Library Director Maureen Amyot.

The decision was the library’s response to a challenge to reconsider made by Katelynn Durfee and two other residents. The challenge was the first made in 13 years, according to Mary Johnston, chair of the Library Board of Trustees.

During the meeting, Johnston and Amyot described the process once the challenge was filed. Amyot said she spoke to Durfee, who filed the challenge because one of her children saw the book.

Durfee said the book contained “smut,” including a vagina with pubic hair and sexual intercourse.

Amyot spoke to the staff members who made the selection; she also read the book and the book’s reviews.

Amyot said it’s not unusual for parents to seek books about puberty. She said that the book, which is for children ages 10 and older, had received very good reviews.

“The book belongs in the children’s section,” said Amyot. 

As a compromise, she moved that book, and the rest of the children’s nonfiction collection, to an upper shelf so that younger children could not easily access it.

We the Parents

As residents filed in for the annual Town Meeting on March 25 at the high school, they saw the two sides of an issue that’s come to the national forefront – whether to ban or restrict books at public libraries.

At one table, Durfee stood with a copy of the book, and next to a book was a sign “Is this appropriate for ALL ages?”

According to Durfee, the mother of three children, who are 1, 3 and 5 years old, one of her children saw the book, which contains what Durfee called “graphic sexual content.”

Durfee and other volunteers distributed flyers on how parents may “opt out” of sex education classes, as well as information on wetheparentswestborough.org.

According to its vision statement, the group was formed “to ensure Westborough schools’ emphasis is on academic education that repudiates (or debates) the current ideologies infiltrating the educational system in America in such areas as social-emotional learning, sex education, and anti-racism curriculum.”

During Town Meeting discussion on the library repair project, Durfee voiced her objections about the book, and she asked whether the book could be placed in another area of the library.

Johnston issued the following statement after Town Meeting: “The collection housed within the Westborough Public Library is curated to serve all patrons that use our library. I appreciate that patrons of our library are using the Collection Development Policy’s process for reconsideration of a book within our collection. It is a thorough, healthy process to evaluate an individual books’ relevance, importance and merit to ensure that they belong within our collection.”

Westborough Against Censorship

About 20 feet away from Durfee, Brittany Jacobs, also the mother of young children, helped distribute information as part of a group called Westborough Against Censorship.

“An individual parent should not make decisions about what’s in the library,” said Jacobs.

Book challenged by residents to remain at Westborough library
One of the signs displayed by Westborough Against Censorship at the high school during the Annual Town Meeting on March 25. (Photo/Maureen Sullivan)

The group distributed information from the American Library Association about an increase in attempts to ban or restrict library resources nationwide.

“All this comes as the American Library Association released new data [on March 23] showing that attempts to ban books are at unprecedented levels, almost doubling since 2021, and 90% were part of attempts to censor multiple titles,” said Joshua Gordon of Westborough Against Censorship.

“Our group very strongly believes in freedom of speech, freedom of religion [and separation of religion and government], freedom of the press, and the right to read, and will oppose any attempt at removing this book and others,” he added.

The group also had on display several books that have been challenged in other parts of the country based on sexual or racial content.

For more information about Westborough Against Censorship, visit www.westboroughagainstcensorship.org.

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