Crawford County Library Board tables book review proposal, approves committee to review policy manual

Colleen Hoelscher, a member of the Crawford County Library Board, speaks during the Library Board's meeting Tuesday. 
(River Valley Democrat-Gazette/Thomas Saccente)
Colleen Hoelscher, a member of the Crawford County Library Board, speaks during the Library Board's meeting Tuesday. (River Valley Democrat-Gazette/Thomas Saccente)


VAN BUREN -- Libraries in Crawford County will be able to continue getting new books as they have while the county library system works to revise its policy manual.

The county Library Board voted to withdraw a proposal chairwoman Tammi Hamby made to amend the system's policy regarding collection development at its meeting Tuesday. The board voted instead to form an ad hoc committee to review the library system's policy manual in its entirety.

Hamby said there are several items in the policy manual that need to be adjusted, with her favoring fixing all these issues at one time.

"There's not a reason to piece it together," Hamby said.

Kaelin Schaper, another board member, agreed with Hamby, saying the board has already seen examples of discrepancies in the manual. Hamby said the board would work to address such discrepancies through revision, rather than rewriting the manual.

Hamby said after the meeting the people from within the library system who will comprise the ad hoc committee may be decided at the Library Board's next meeting in May. She estimated reviewing the policy manual will take "a good three to six months."

HAMBY'S ORIGINAL PROPOSAL

Hamby said March 8 her original proposal, which she presented at the Library Board's meeting Jan. 10, would have given the board -- or possibly another committee -- the power to review all books set to be purchased by or donated to the library system and decide whether they could be added to its collection.

As it was originally presented, the idea would have been to have the library directors and designated staff place any material to be purchased or donated on a master list. The library system director would present the list to the board prior to the board's next meeting, at which point the board would decide to approve, reject or table adding the material.

Hamby said the proposal would have made it so the decision of whether to approve books for potential purchase or donation wouldn't be based on the opinion of one person. She also specified reviewing books would've entailed those involved reading the synopses of the books, as opposed to the books in their entirety.

Hamby also said the Library Board wouldn't have used its newfound oversight to try to get rid of any books if it approved her proposal.

LGBTQ BOOKS

The board dealt with challenges from residents regarding multiple books at its Nov. 8 meeting, according to meeting material. They were all children's books with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning subject matter.

The River Valley City Elders, a local Christian community organization, requested people in a Dec. 13 newsletter to stand with Jeffrey Hamby -- Tammi Hamby's husband -- as he spoke to the Quorum Court on Dec. 19 regarding his concerns about these sorts of books being purchased with taxpayer money and displayed at the Van Buren Public Library.

"The library director and staff have chosen and stocked the library with radical sexual ideological picture books which run the danger of premature sexualization of prepubescent children," the newsletter states.

Jeffrey and Tammi Hamby had also outlined their grievances on the subject in a letter addressed to the Quorum Court, then-Crawford County Judge Dennis Gilstrap and current County Judge Chris Keith dated Nov. 10.

The Hambys argued the constitutional rights of parents and their religious liberties were being subverted by a "progressive woke ideology" driven by Deidre Grzymala -- the director of the Crawford County Library System at the time -- and her employees. They claimed this reported ideology was "normalizing and equating homosexual and transsexual lifestyles with heterosexual family units" without parental consent or the ability to not participate.

Grzymala said at the Library Board's Jan. 10 meeting each of the library system's branches had moved their LGBTQ children's books out of the children's section into a new area within their respective adult book sections, according to a recording of the meeting. This came after the Quorum Court discussed the library and a compromise regarding the material at its Dec. 19 meeting.

LIBRARY SYSTEM DIRECTOR

The board appointed Eva White as the library system's interim director at a special meeting Feb. 24. Grzymala left the position that same day as part of a separation agreement between her, Crawford County, the library system and the Van Buren Public Library. She began working as the library system director July 5, according to the Crawford County Clerk's Office.

Gentry Wahlmeier, an attorney for the county, has said he and Grzymala's attorney negotiated the terms for her "voluntary resignation," though he declined to provide details on the circumstances surrounding it. One of the terms of the separation agreement is Grzymala, the county and library system will not "criticize, denigrate or disparage" one another in certain ways.

The Quorum Court approved providing Grzymala $40,688 in severance Feb. 21, also in accordance with the agreement. The county will continue paying her health and dental benefit premiums through Sept. 1 as well.

The Library Board also went into executive session Tuesday and afterward voted to accept the "salary adjustments" it discussed during that session for White. However, in an apparent violation of the Freedom of Information Act, the board did not specify out loud what this included during the meeting.


Crawford County libraries and the Library Board

The Crawford County Library System is comprised of five libraries located in Alma, Cedarville, Mountainburg, Mulberry and Van Buren. On the Library Board, Kaelin Schaper represents Alma, Amanda Stevens represents Cedarville, Colleen Hoelscher represents Mountainburg, Keith Pigg represents Mulberry and Tammi Hamby represents the Van Buren library.

Source: Crawford County Library System website