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?
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 Old. It’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 Places, live 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 Life? This 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?