PELLA, Iowa- On Election Day, a referendum in Pella will allow voters to decide if their City Council has the authority to revise the policies of the Pella Public Library.
This includes giving the council the power to decide if a book should be restricted or banned inside the public library.
The ballot proposition asks voters if they support changing the structure of the Library Board of Trustees. Resolution Number 6442 is the proposed ordinance that would limit the board’s authority over library affairs, and allow the city council to revise library policies, rules, and regulations.
Earlier this year, Senate File 496 banned a list of books from public schools in the state because of their sexually explicit content. However, public libraries weren’t impacted by this legislation.
In late 2021, community members in Pella called to ban or restrict the book “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” written by Maria Kobabe. Councilmembers ultimately voted to keep the book in the adult section of the Pella Public Library.
A rough draft of Resolution 6442 was proposed, but ultimately rejected by the council in April 2022.
A petition with 735 valid signatures was then submitted to the City Clerk in May 2022. This petition requested a referendum for the ordinance.
Sam Helmick is the President of the Iowa Library Association. They said that while the ILA honors local governance for library structures, policies, and procedures, the association strives to promote intellectual freedom and autonomy.
“We do recognize that what affects one library affects us all, and as champions of intellectual freedom and autonomy and access, the conversations are taking place statewide and I think even in some cases nationwide,” said Helmick.
The conversation surrounding library autonomy and intellectual freedom is particularly rooted in Iowa because the Library Bill of Rights was written in Des Moines in 1938.