Hundreds show up to comment in Meridian Library District dissolution hearing
Close to 500 people showed up at the Ada County Courthouse on Monday evening, filling up two overflow rooms. They were there to debate the potential dissolution of the Meridian Library District.
In February, a group called the Concerned Citizens of Meridian petitioned the county to dissolve the district because it claimed it allowed children to access obscene materials.
The Ada County Board of Commissioners heard arguments from both sides. Public comments lasted more than three hours, with a very large majority of people speaking against the dissolution.
Mary Mosley said she could not imagine living in a community without a library and would consider moving out of Meridian if the library were dissolved.
“Parents are responsible for what their kids read, not the librarians. A few extremists should not have the right to deprive the entire community of their library, nor should they have the right to dictate what books we have access to.”
Following the hearing, the Ada County Commissioners could ask the clerk to hold an election asking residents whether or not they want the library to be dissolved. If residents agree with the petitioners, the library district would be completely dismantled, its materials and property would be sold and its Trustee board would be disbanded.
Any remaining money would go to the county’s general expense fund.
Opponents of the dissolution see this as an issue of censorship and parental rights.
“It's not only inappropriate for other parents to decide what our children should see, we should actually be insulted by it,” said Chris Ferguson in his comments.
Many talked about how putting this to a vote would be a waste of time and resources. Some commenters pointed out that Library Trustees are elected positions already, and voting to remove them would undermine the will of the community.
Proponents of the dissolution said they wanted new leadership for the district and focused their arguments on protecting children from content they say they should not be able to access freely.
“The library is already doing that. That's what the Dewey Decimal System is,” said Jason Mick, pushing back on petitioners’ requests to label materials as sexually explicit and segregate them in restricted areas. Others mentioned libraries carry items that reflect a broad range of perspectives, and materials are already categorized by age group.
People from both sides of the issue expressed how much they value libraries.
“Meridian loves its library. Meridian needs its library,” said Laura Morgan. “Meridian supports its library, and most importantly, Meridian loves its children,” she said, adding she supported the petitioners’ request to dissolve the district.
Morgan said the hearing was completely avoidable and came about only after the district board refused to work with parents who requested items be segregated.
Josiah Butterworth also supported the dissolution. “Any government agency that has lost touch with its people to that extent needs to be removed and replaced,” he said.
The meeting was adjourned at 10 p.m. without the board making a decision. They will reconvene at the Ada County Courthouse on Wednesday, March 22 at 6 p.m. to accommodate the many people who did not have time to comment.
Following the hearing, the commissioners will have 10 days to decide whether or not to put the dissolution to a vote.