Florida Library to Label YA Books by Age, Not Maturity

October 5, 2009

The city commission of Leesburg, Florida, has voted 4–1 to have the young adult literature section of Leesburg Public Library divided into physically separated age-appropriate groupings, creating a separate area for books targeted for high school students.

“It will be based on reviews to determine the intended audience for a book, not the content,” Director Barbara Morse told American Libraries. Each of these books will bear a “high school” label, and will be shelved in a space immediately outside the library’s young adult room.

Area resident Dixie Fechtel and a group of parents had also asked the commission to order the library to identify books with sexual content or drug use with a “mature audience” label, the Leesburg Daily Commercial reported September 29. That proposal was defeated by a 3–2 vote. It would have required library staff and a committee of parents to determine which books required this label, which drew concern from the library and municipal counsel.

Fechtel first brought the Gossip Girl book series by Cecily von Ziegesar to the attention of city officials some 14 months ago when her 13-year-old daughter began reading them. She, along with friend Dianne Venetta and parishoners from an area church, had identified four books they wanted labeled “mature” and more than 40 others they wanted reviewed. “Moving the entire section does not solve the problem,” Fechtel said. “We just want [the library] to work with parents and citizens a little more so we can create a safe space to take our teenagers.”

“I don’t think we should be the ones to start judging,” Commissioner Sanna Henderson said before the September 28 vote. “It’s going to open a big can of worms.”


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