In a pair of unanimous votes Thursday, the Billings Public Library Board declined to remove a DVD and a book as requested by separate library patrons.
One was the 2012 Australian horror-thriller, “Daddy’s Little Girl.” In a report to the board, Library Director Gavin Woltjer quoted reviews assigning the film to a subgenre of horror films known as “rape-revenge” films. “Scores” of online reviews “note the degree of violence in the film as gratuitous,” Woltjer wrote.
In his memo, Woltjer cited this passage in the library’s Collection Management Policy: “The selection process takes into account that Library users represent different points of view, some of which may be controversial. The collection will try to represent these views by offering, whenever possible, a balanced perspective of issues.”
The library purchased the DVD in 2016. Since then, it has circulated 42 times. In the U.S. and Canada, 127 other public libraries own “Daddy’s Little Girl,” but none other in Montana.
The library patron requesting the film’s removal called it “too disturbing,” advising staff and the board to “check it out” and “decide for yourself.” Woltjer and other library staff recommended keeping it in the collection.
“I find crimes against children abhorrent,” said board member Cheryle Fisher of Shepherd, “but I don’t think we should remove it.”
“I’m sorry that things like this occur,” said Stella Fong, who chairs the board, “but I agree with the recommendation from the staff to keep it.”
The other request for removal was over the book “Aghora II: Kundalini.” Woltjer said he has not read the book but called it “one of many perspectives along the religion/spiritual spectrum.” The man who wanted the book removed said it included a two-sentence statement about a yogi master “practicing on corpses." The man said the book teaches "an evil science."
The book has circulated seven times since its September 2016 acquisition. It’s held in 21 other libraries in the U.S., but none other in Montana.
Board member Roger Young said that “as a practicing Christian, I receive the Lord’s body and blood. Some people would look at that as gruesome.”
“It’s not up to us,” said board member Jennifer Quinn, “to be judging the content of a book.”’
“We need to be careful,” said board member Lloyd Mickelson, “about removing books because someone has an objection about it.”
After the votes, Woltjer called library collections “a tricky business.”
“There’s a lot in our collection right now I don’t agree with, and there are individuals out there who don’t agree with my viewpoints,” he said, telling the board he appreciated “you not taking this off the cuff, but bolstering what a library should do for the community.”
“These patrons took the time to voice their opinion, and I think that should be honored,” Woltjer added. They both "provided reasons why they didn’t want them, and I think that is commendable.”
Board members said they could not recall in recent years removing material based on a library patron’s complaint. From time to time the library reclassifies or relocates material based on patron concerns, they said. An example is moving a book from the children’s section to the teen shelves.