By Chris Paul
Residents gathered Wednesday night at the meeting of the Trustees of Leach Library, for what turned into a somewhat emotionally charged period of public comment.
Recent letters to the editor and posts on social media clued the community that this meeting would be noteworthy. Staff needed to fetch additional chairs multiple times due to the attendance.
A broad spectrum of concerns were raised by those attending. Resident Jonathan Esposito addressed the Trustees and Library Director regarding a conservative piece of nonfiction by a local New Hampshire author that the Library had declined to add to circulation. He also raised concerns regarding 91A compliance and what they felt was a lack of transparency in the Leach Library donation process.
Several other residents, including Shaun Faber and Moose Hill School Library Director Mary McQueeney, similarly echoed encouragement that the Library should work with citizens to be more transparent and inclusive in it’s processes.
The title of the donated work was “the Croydon Budget Battle” and author Ian Underwood & his wife and publisher Jodi Underwood were in attendance. Although not Londonderry residents, they utilized public comment to address disagreement with the book donation incident.
Resident David Walker read a letter on behalf of his elderly mother, a longtime Londonderry resident and retired schoolteacher, citing quotes from Ray Bradbury’s iconic work “Fahrenheit 451” and expressing concerns regarding book burning, book bans, and a lack of free flow of ideas in the public sphere. The letter also addressed minutes from past Library Trustees meetings, including calling out resident Maureen Hardy and library Trustee Christine FItzgerald by name. The letter took issue with these individuals questioning the Leach Library’s continued participation with the American Library Association. Residents concerned with this participation cited concerns regarding their tax dollars going to fund an organization with a self-described Marxist at it’s head, while other residents pleaded for the library to remain a part of what they feel is a vital network. Many echoed these concerns with cries for the Leach Library to not allow those who would seek to ban books to dictate what the rest of the community had access to.
Resident Maureen Hardy had an opportunity to rebut the Walker letter, clarifying that she not only did not seek to ban books, but herself has had difficulty ensuring that a donation of conservative works for children have been added to circulation as Director Matlin assured her they would be. Maureen noted that these donations appear to have been “slow walked” by the Leach Library. Director Matlin declined that this was the case, citing the volume of donations and the conditions of donated works as factors. Trustee Christine Fitzgerald who was also addressed by name in the Walker letter, was not allowed the opportunity to respond to what she stated were incorrect remarks made. Although Christine had the brief chance to note that she was operating in good faith as a Trustee, she was cut off by the Chair, Betsy McKinney.
With that, a resident could be heard calling “That’s my elected official and I would like to hear her speak” but to no avail.
Several other residents spoke both for and against Leach Library remaining part of the ALA, with further citizen discussion regarding the character of works available in circulation. Resident Sarah Faber remarked with some irony that Hitler’s notorious work “Mein Kampf” was available, but Ian Underwood’s “Croydon Budget Battle” was not, to which resident Margaret Saur made the statement that “Mein Kampf is a conservative work, you conservatives should be glad it’s available.”
The room cleared quickly after public comment, with the rest of the Library Trustee meeting proceeding.