Chair Tonya Long then lectures audience for reacting
By Allen Edmonds
HARRISONVILLE – It didn’t take long for recent Cass County Public Library Board of Trustees appointee Diana Larson to let the county know where she stands on cultural issues.
Larson, of rural Drexel, was appointed to the board by the Cass County Commission last month to replace April Nourse, who resigned due to health issues. Nourse had been appointed just last year to replace long-time board member Mary Dobson, whom the commission chose not to reappoint. Last Wednesday’s work session was just her second meeting.
The session had been called to discuss Library Director Dan Brower’s decision to begin requiring signed parental authorization for juveniles to obtain a library card in response to the Missouri Attorney General’s recent ruling requiring libraries to have policies in place assuring parents approve of what their children are accessing at state-funded libraries. (https://missouriindependent.com/2023/05/31/missouri-rule-takes-effect-putting-library-funds-in-jeopardy-over-obscene-material/).
After Trustee Jessica Levsen initiated the discussion, expressing her opinion that Brower had “circumvented the intent” of the ruling, Trustee Roger Toomey warned the board that numerous entities were waiting for the right opportunity to sue the Library Board, “as soon as we screw up. There are national organizations watching the Cass County Library Board, and they’re ready to go,” Toomey said.
To which Larson responded, “that’s the problem with the world today. Everyone wants to bitch about it . . . they complain until they get their way. Look at the LGBTQ, what is that? Three percent? What a big mouth they have.”
The statement resulted in an audible reaction from the approximately 15 audience members in attendance.
Board Chair Tonya Long then chastised the audience for its reaction.
“If the public cannot refrain, I will have to ask you to leave,” Long said.
That brought another brief reaction from the audience, to which she responded, “this is actually a very difficult topic. It’s very difficult. Come up here and sit in our shoes.”
She said it was “easy” to have individual opinions on how the library system should operate, but it is the board’s job to take all opinions into account.
“So please, let us do that in a timely manner, because just like you, we have families to get home to.”
After considerable discussion with Toomey and Trustee Becky Klein in support of the library’s traditional role of providing the broadest selection of materials as possible, while relying on parents to supervise their own childrens’ selections, with Levsen and Larson advocating the library take a more active role in supervising what is available for children, a possible compromise was met.
Levsen suggested that rather than parents signing that they take complete responsibility for what their children access at the library, they sign a statement indicating they “understand” the new rule
Brower said he would check with legal counsel to see if that would be an acceptable solution before the board’s next meeting, which is June 26 in Pearson Hall at the Cass County Public Library’s Harrisonville branch.