There are a lot of things that library school didn't teach me, but one thing they did prepare me for was book challenges, that is, when someone points out an item in the library's collection that they don't feel should be there. Going by how library school treated book challenges, I expected them to happen all the time, not for it to take three years past my degree to get my first one.
Yesterday at Small Town Library a patron came up to the desk and said "I need to talk to someone about this book that I borrowed from another library." Small Town Library is part of a consortium that does interlibrary lending, so this seemed routine. I was ready to direct her to the circulation desk, thinking that she had damaged the book or that it was overdue or that it had arrived for her in bad condition, but then she said "I don't think it is appropriate for children."
It was a picture book called Who Are You?: A Kid's Guide to Gender Identity by Brook Pessin-Whedbee. It's really worth taking a look at the website, which shows the wheel a kid can use to identify their body (sex), identity, and gender expression. It seems like a well-done, thoughtfully presented book and it got positive reviews from Booklist and School Library Journal, which are standard sources that we used to buy books for our own collection. If I were the selector I'd be prepared to go to bat for it.
Fortunately, I didn't have to. The patron understood that it wasn't our library that had bought the book, and just wanted us to give her insight into the process of making a complaint. I explained that libraries generally have a collection development policy that professionals use, along with their trained judgment, to buy books for the library collection, but that they also generally have a process for addressing objections to items in their collection. I told the patron that she could go to the library that owned the book and they would probably ask her to fill out a form that would ask for more information about the book and about her views on it, and that that would start a review process for whether or not they wanted to keep the book in their collection, and either way would allow her to have a conversation with staff about her concerns.
I think I handled it pretty much by the book, but honestly it made me feel kind of slimy. I really wanted to say what poor Other Library's selector is probably eventually going to say: "This is a well-respected book about an important topic and we will be keeping it in our collection. If you are concerned about your own children seeing this book, remember that a child can't get a library card without a parent's permission and that you are more than welcome to monitor what your child looks at in the library and to set your own rules. Also, you're bigoted and I disagree with the grounds of your objection."
Hopefully she won't say that last sentence aloud, only in her head.