Blogger Elisabeth Gattullo Marrocolla

Where do I live? Finding a Home for Puberty Books

Where should I live?

Certain collections are associated with a little bit more parental angst than others, and books about puberty, changing bodies, and human sexuality often seem to fall into this category. Some parents see their value and appreciate their inclusion in the collection, while others are aghast that a children’s library would carry such material.

While librarians agree that books dealing with these topics are important to own in a collection, the trickier subject of where these books should live often pops up, usually after a child has checked out a book with a puberty or human sexuality theme their parent is less than thrilled about. Do we keep these books in our offices and only offer them to those who ask, or is that censorship? Do we file them with the rest of the books and deal with whatever fallout may come as it happens, or are we inviting an unnecessary headache?

What about me?
What about me?

At my library, we use a two-fold solution. There is a collection in the Children’s Library called F5 Parents. The Parents collection contains a “best of” selection of parenting books, such as Raising a Digital Child and Your One-Year OldIt’s also home to a group of picture books we call “Special Topics” that parents can check out to facilitate conversations with their children about issues such as new babies, potty training, adoption, illness, and human sexuality. The younger human sexuality books, such as Hair in Funny Placeslive here, as do books designed to be shared between a parent and a child, such as It’s Perfectly Normal

Meanwhile, our Kids Self non-fiction section, which debuted Fall 2013 as a part of our non-fiction reorganization, holds the puberty and human sexuality books that are squarely aimed at the 10-14 year-olds who are experiencing these changes, such as The Care and Keeping of You and Will Puberty Last My Whole LifeThis allows kids to browse for books they might find helpful, while providing parents with a dedicated place to go for the same topics.

Where does your library keep the puberty books? Do you believe librarians should be cognizant of parental feelings on the subject, or check books out to children who want them regardless of potential parental objections?


  1. Lisa

    We use Dewey at our library and simply shelves these books in children’s nonfiction under 612.6. The only time in 10 years I’ve received a complaint was regarding a book placed in a new book display particularly popular with preschoolers, and then the patron didn’t want the book removed from our department, just from that particular display rack. This is in a reasonably socially liberal town.

  2. Polly

    The libraries I’ve worked and volunteered in have all had them with the rest of the children’s NF, and we’ve never had complaints from anyone. Mind you, in none of these places has censoring been a popular pastime!

  3. Elisabeth Gattullo Marrocolla Post author

    While our library has never censored any book, as far as I’m aware, we do live in a more conservative area, so we try to balance our own sensibilities with those of our patrons!

  4. Kelly Doolittle

    Dewey rules here at TCPL, so they go on the shelf with the rest of the books. As far as I know, we haven’t had any complaints about this particular subject recently, but any time we do have complaints or questions about content we treat them all the same way – we respectfully tell folks they can write their thoughts and feelings down on a form, which we explain we will review and consider carefully. If they want feedback, they can request it and we will give it. This has worked well for us.

    Personally, I don’t think it’s necessary to let parents feelings on this subject override any typical, Dewey driven placement of books about puberty, sex or other “tricky” issues, as I see that as censorship. People are all so different – if we tried to shelve books according to who finds what acceptable and/or touchy, we could have some real shelving issues on our hands 🙂

    I think handling feelings and questions that might come up about these types of books with respect is the answer.

    Thanks – great subject!

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