Volusia Council changes mind on investigating whether it should vote on library books

News 6 investigation revealed process already in place for challenging books

Volusia County Public Library

Two weeks after deciding to investigate whether Volusia County councilmembers should have a say in which books are allowed in the public library, councilmembers have changed their mind.

The issue came up during the council’s meeting on April 18, where council members were scheduled to consider nominations to the Volusia County Library Advisory Board.

Instead, Council Member Jake Johansson challenged the board’s existence.

“I question the reasoning behind having this board, as well,” he told his fellow council members. “Is this more of a group of people getting together and chatting about how to make our libraries better? Can this not be done outside the constraints of a committee or a board?”

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That is when Council Member Don Dempsey asked, “How do we monitor what kind of books are actually being put in our libraries?”

He said he was concerned that children may have access to what he called “inappropriate materials.”

“How can we monitor the materials that are put in the library, so that if we have something that’s been controversial, that we could vote on it — or this board could vote on it?” he asked. “How do we monitor what’s been given to our kids?”

A News 6 investigation revealed there is already a process in place for residents to challenge whether a book should be in a county library, and there have been four challenges over the past two years.

On Tuesday, Dempsey reversed course during the council’s meeting.

“I don’t want to create a fear with the public,” he told his fellow councilmembers. “I don’t want people thinking — I mean, I know we voted unanimously to look at this, but — I don’t think any of us intended to create a book banning-type of scenario. We just wanted to see how the library was running. So, in order to alleviate a lot of this fear, I was going to move that we just remove that discussion from the future agenda. I’m not aware of any issues right now with the county libraries, and I would just like to leave it at that.”

Johansson, who had challenged the existence of the county’s library advisory board, insisted they keep his proposal on the table.

He wants to interview County Librarian Lucinda Colee during the next council meeting to ask if the advisory board is needed.

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About the Author:

Erik Sandoval joined the News 6 team as a reporter in May 2013 and became an Investigator in 2020. During his time at News 6, Erik has covered several major stories, including the 2016 Presidential campaign. He was also one of the first reporters live on the air at the Pulse Nightclub shooting.