What's at stake:
The specifics of how the committee will operate are not finalized yet and if the resolution is passed on Tuesday, county staff would be directed to draw up the review committee’s bylaws and guidelines.
Fresno County Supervisor Steve Brandau announced Thursday a proposal to establish a review committee for children’s books that he said contain “complex and controversial gender issues” and sexually explicit content.
At the upcoming Fresno County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, he will be bringing forward a resolution to establish a 15-person committee of Fresno County residents that would have the power to remove books from library children’s sections to be placed elsewhere in a separate section.
“Let me say right now, the book’s not going away,” Brandau said at a Thursday news conference. “This book is in the library; it’s going to stay in the library. There’s no banning of books, there’s no censorship. The book is still there.”
The specifics of how the committee on children’s books will operate are not finalized yet and if the resolution is passed on Tuesday — which would require approval from at least two county supervisors besides Brandau — county staff would be directed to draw up the review committee’s bylaws and guidelines.
On top of being removed from libraries’ children’s section, books selected by the review committee would not be available for children to check out — they would require a parent to check out.
“We’re not talking about thousands of books and we’re not talking about hundreds of books — it’s not even scores and scores of books — but there’s a good amount of books and I brought them today,” Brandau said at the news conference.
Several community members in attendance pointed out that all the books Brandau brought with him to the podium at the Thursday news conference discuss queer relationships, and they questioned whether there is an ulterior motive behind his proposal.
“There’s a national narrative against the LGBTQ community,” said David Warpness, a Fresno resident who attended the Thursday news conference. “I think he’s just kind of riding that wave. You look at his history, for years he’s been called anti-LGBTQ in the press.”
Brandau maintained that he does not intend to single out a specific community and that hos proposal is not political.
“This is not about trying to isolate people or divide people or to hate on people,” Brandau said. “What this is about is making sure our parents’ voices matter in the raising of their own children.”
Brandau also said that Fresno County Librarian Raman Bath’s resignation last week did not have anything to do with this week’s announcement.
“When Raman stepped down, I was concerned,” Brandau said. “So we asked directly through the CAO — does this have anything to do with what the supervisor’s doing?”
Brandau said his team heard back from County Administrative Officer Paul Nerland about how Bath’s resignation had nothing to do with the proposal, and that Bath had been considering stepping down long before this current matter.
Bath did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
Brandau’s proposal comes after a heated debate in Clovis this summer when Councilmember Diane Pearce objected to a range of children’s books at a Fresno County Public Library branch in Clovis during Pride Month.
At a Sept. 5 Clovis City Council meeting, Pearce tried to get her colleagues to approve sending a letter to the Fresno County Board of Supervisors, expressing concern over books at the Clovis library.
Almost all the community members who spoke during more than two hours of public comment that day disapproved of Pearce’s efforts. The Clovis City Council ended up not sending a letter to the Fresno County Board of Supervisors.
However, Pearce, fellow councilmember Drew Bessinger and Mayor Pro Tem Vong Mouanoutoua said they may individually reach out to county elected officials regarding the matter.