Lake Travis ISD officials discussed updating campus library websites and making it easier for parents to browse library books online at a recent meeting.

Over the past few months, community members have voiced both concerns and support for removing challenged books from district libraries.

The overview

Amanda Prehn, LTISD director of elementary curriculum and instruction, provided an update on the district’s library services at the Feb. 21 board of trustees meeting.

The district is working to adopt or consider some of the following changes to its library offerings, Prehn said, including:
  • Updating the district’s library policy to align with new guidelines from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission
  • Moving to a districtwide book reconsideration committee that is randomly selected instead of being appointed by campus principals
  • Streamlining campus library websites to include similar information
  • Creating videos for parents on how to use the district’s online library database to search books
  • Adopting new features from its book vendor to increase parental engagement
What they’re saying

Some board members suggested the district improve the process for parents to search library books online by specific topics known as tags. Parents may use an advanced filter to search books by age range, subject and author, and ask campus librarians to restrict their child’s access to certain topics, Prehn said.

“There are some pretty robust search tools within our database that [are] easy for parents to navigate and use,” Prehn said. “We want to make sure that we're putting that information out there, so everybody can easily access that.”

Prehn gave an example that a parent could restrict their child from reading any books about cats; however, Place 3 board member Erin Archer asked if the library system could flag more serious topics, like suicide. Board President John Aoueille requested a list of all current book tags.

“The tags—that's the key to making our parents in our district comfortable,” Aoueille said. “The big tags are going to be gender fluid. They're going to be violence. It’s going to be explicit materials. It’s going to be language. It’s all of those things that our parents are asking us for.”

The context

LTISD is one of many districts across the state that is grappling with how to review library books and respond to book challenges from community members in light of a new state law. House Bill 900 banned public schools from having sexually explicit books and required vendors to rate their books based on sexual content before selling them to school districts.

Although the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily blocked the requirement for vendors to issue book ratings in January, districts must still follow new state library collection standards banning sexually explicit books, according to previous reporting by Community Impact.

In November, district officials proposed a new library policy banning harmful or obscene material with an emphasis on parents’ roles in selecting their students’ books.

In case you missed it

The district launched an online form last year allowing parents and community members to challenge books and see books under review. Five library resources were challenged from December to January, Prehn said. Decisions on two of the books were appealed and will go to the board of trustees for a final vote, she said.

Since December, many community members have attended board meetings to speak against the district banning books after the board of trustees voted to remove and transfer three books from campus libraries at a Nov. 15 meeting. The board's vote reversed the decisions of a reconsideration committee and district administrators to keep the materials in campus libraries.