HILLSDALE, Mich. — Following the resignation of Hillsdale Library’s Director Bryonna Barton in response to proposed restrictions on the political and social content of library materials, residents came to the Hillsdale City Council to ask that the man proposing those restrictions be removed from the library board.
Library board Secretary Joshua Paladino sent an e-mail out prior to the board's May 20 meeting meeting, saying that Barton had begun to fill the library with critical race theory, LGBT-focused materials and sexually promiscuous books and displays.
He proposed not allowing the library to purchase materials that promote political activism among children 18 years and younger and stipulating that all children’s materials should be non-partisan with reference to contemporary American and international political ideologies.
He also said children’s materials should not promote, denigrate or refer to contemporary political movements including but not limited to Black Lives Matter, LGBTQIA+, critical race theory and QAnon.
Residents came to Hillsdale’s City Hall to voice their concerns about what is happening.
Hillsdale resident Tracy Powell said she was there Monday night to ask the City Council to remove Paladino from the library board.
“He has proven to lack the ethical framework to carry out the duties that he sort of told as evidenced by initiating slanderous statements and writing to masses that he encouraged to forward on to at least 100 more folks,” she said. “He, along with those enlisted have further perpetuated that slander. This has created a dangerous environment for those innocent of wrongdoing. Public servants trying to do honest work for our community, creating the liability to the city and yet another black eye for the city of Hillsdale.”
Martha MacRitchie, whose family name graces the library, wrote in a letter written to the council that, “I am proud of the fact that I was born and raised there and am a fourth generation resident. I have recently become aware of the proposal to restrict acquisition of some children’s books and possibly some adult books. I do not want to see MacRitchie Library stoop to becoming the community’s ‘Big Brother’ and decide what books can be read. If parents want to supervise or restrict their own children’s reading, they should do so but this should not be allowed at the expense of any other adult or child.”
But, Council members do not want to see Paladino removed and want the library board to focus on working together.
“We see this sort of stuff in government all the time where somebody brings forth something that’s questionable, maybe, or that people have some sort of passionate opposition to but the first thing we don’t always go to that is that person expressed their opinion so they need to go,” Mayor Adam Stockford said. “I don’t want to see that. I don’t want to be the person that sets that precedent.”
During the library board’s most recent meeting, board members voted to not recommend to City Council to remove Paladino from the board.
Paladino denies that he’s trying to ban books, saying he only wants to curate the collection carefully.
Stockford said he wants to see the community and the library board find a way to move past this issue.
“I understand why everybody is so passionate about this. I understand,” he said. “We’re talking about marginalized communities and we’re talking about sensitive subjects like the First Amendment and we’re talking about stuff that has to do with what I think is some manufactured culture war that’s taking place in America right now.”
Barton’s last day is June 9. According to Hillsdale’s library board agenda for this week, there will be a discussion of board President Scott Cress’ plans to resign.
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