Misuse of books reported at the Sharpsburg Community Library

Sharpsburg police are investigating reported book tampering at the Sharpsburg Community Library, which library officials consider to be attempts at censorship.

Branch Manager Sara Mariacher said multiple books were hidden or removed from displays between February and mid-March. A police report was filed March 24.

“The library and its board of directors (are) taking this very seriously,” Mariacher said. “We are asking anyone in the community with information about who may have been involved in these incidents to please come forward. This is considered to be censorship, which is something the library does not approve of. ”

Police Chief Thomas Stelitano confirmed March 29 that a report has been filed and officers spoke with library officials. He said the incidents may have been criminal mischief caused by juveniles and declined to speak further about the investigation.

Mariacher outlined the incidents as following:

• On Feb. 9, someone hid “The 1619 Project” in a stack of cookbooks in a used book sale area. The book had been on display in the New Books section. The book by New York Times writer Nikole Hannah-Jones and the New York Times Magazine explores US history through the lens of the transatlantic slave trade and the Black experience.

• On Feb. 15, someone removed a children’s biography, “Who Was Martin Luther King Jr.?”, From a Black History Month display in the Children’s Room and replaced it with a children’s biography of Adolf Hitler. Mariacher said the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh was notified due to the antisemitic nature of the incident.

• On March 1, someone placed a complaint written in crayon on top of a stack of children’s books about anatomy and puberty in the Children’s non-fiction section.

The books in question were “Welcome to Your Period!” and “Bunk 9’s Guide to Growing Up,” puberty guides written for girls in upper elementary and middle school; and “Who Has What! All About Girls ‘Bodies and Boys’ Bodies, ”a picture book written for preschool children and their families that uses“ correct terms for body parts, ”Mariacher said.

Mariacher said the complaint claimed the books, which were all written for children, were inappropriate for anyone younger than 18. The letter used the phrase “do not read” multiple times. The writer also put that the letter was “not a joke,” said Mariacher.

• On March 2, two children’s books written by Black authors – “Ghost” by Jason Reynolds and “Black Brother, Black Brother” by Jewell Parker Rhodes – were being displayed for Black History Month. They were removed from their respective shelves and later found behind the Children’s fiction stacks.

• On March 10, “The Bare Naked Book,” a picture book written for preschool children and their families with body parts listed, was taken from a new book display and hidden behind the Children’s non-fiction section.

“At its core, the ability to freely exchange ideas is a hallmark of a healthy democracy and community,” said Brittany Reno, Sharpsburg mayor and library board member. “The unique experiences of Black people, women and LGBTQ + people deserve to be represented in reading materials accessible to our community members.

“Regardless of the viewpoints espoused in works, I strongly condemn efforts to censor literature and encourage community members to use conversation to talk through their concerns about children’s books that represent the diverse breadth of life experiences.”

Anyone with information about these incidents can contact Sharpsburg police at 412-781-0546 or the library at 412-781-0783.

Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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