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With a new member, the Hamilton East Library board might change its controversial book policy



Noblesville, Indiana – Some Hamilton East Public Library Board members hinted they could try to overturn a divisive policy that has thrust the library into the public eye during a contentious, nearly three-hour special meeting.

In December 2022, the collection development policy was updated. Materials in the categories for young people, middle schoolers, and high schoolers now need to be “age appropriate.”

The staff has been checking all of the section’s books to ensure compliance ever since the updated policy went into effect. One of the more than a thousand novels that have been removed from the young adult area since that review started is “The Fault in Our Stars” by renowned Indianapolis author John Green.

Green called the policy “an embarrassment” and the relocation decision “political theater of the lowest and most embarrassing order,” which garnered the library widespread attention.

In addition to costing Hamilton County taxpayers more than $300,000, the divisive policy also cost former board president Laura Alerding her job. She was replaced by novelist and English teacher Bill Kenley by the Noblesville School Board.

Board member Michelle Payne argued that the changes to the policy should be undone now that the board has a new composition.

“We did a lot of positive things with the policy that don’t need to change,” Payne said. “It’s the one paragraph on pages three and four and appendixes a and b that have caused the issues we all agree need to be paused.”

Kenley participated in his first special meeting as a board member on Tuesday. In a discussion with board member Micah Beckwith, Kenley made it known he might be in support of changing the rule.

“I’ve had thousands of people tell me that what I need to do is to come in here and vote to end this policy,” Kenley said.

“I’ve had thousands of people tell me to leave the policy in place,” Beckwith responded.

“I’d be very surprised. Where are they from? Are they from Noblesville?” Kenley questioned.

“They’re from Hamilton County, all over buddy,” Beckwith shot back.

If the board thought about changing the policy, Kenley’s vote would be the determining factor.

The four board members who first voted in favor of the revisions were Beckwith, Tiffanie Ditlevson, Ray Maddalone, and Alerding. Members Michelle Payne, Andre Miksha, and Craig Siebe abstained.

Alerding’s departure leaves Kenley in charge of selecting a side.

Board members frequently talked over one another, quarreled, or yelled at the executive director of the library, Edra Waterman, at board meetings.

The board indicated they will review the policy at their next regularly scheduled meeting on September 28 but took no action on it at their meeting on Tuesday.