Censorship on certain children’s books puts Fresno libraries on a ‘slippery slope’ | Opinion

Huckleberry Finn, you’re on notice.

Don’t get too comfortable, Winnie-the-Pooh and To Kill a Mockingbird.

Now that the right-wing culture warriors masquerading as parental rights groups have a foothold in Fresno County, no literary classic in our public libraries is safe.

First, it was sequestering children’s books with themes and characters that don’t conform with a narrow conservative view.

Which the Fresno County Board of Supervisors accomplished Tuesday, in effect, by approving Supervisor Steve Brandau’s ill-considered “Parents Matter” library oversight committee resolution by a party-line, 3-2 vote.


Next it’ll be about expanding that committee’s powers to include the young adult section. And before long novels with coarse language, talking animals and depictions of non-white European histories will start to disappear from the shelves as well.

Think I’m overreacting? Not at all. This is the proverbial “slippery slope” that one county supervisor, Brian Pacheco, made reference to during what was otherwise a largely worthless discussion by the elected officials that represent the 1 million diverse residents of Fresno County.

Pacheco brought up several works he termed “masterpieces of children’s literature” — “Harry Potter,” “Charlotte’s Web” and “Tom Sawyer” among them — that have been banned somewhere in the U.S.

“Things can happen,” Pacheco said before correctly pointing out the county libraries already have protocols to ensure parents maintain control of what books and materials are accessible to their kids.

“I find this (resolution) a little redundant, and it’s a slippery slope that I don’t want to go down.”

Unfortunately, Pacheco’s three Republican colleagues — Brandau, Nathan Magsig and Buddy Mendes — just coated the slope with Crisco.

The other only Democrat on the dais, Sal Quintero, was of little use despite his parliamentary powers as board president.

The modestly sized room where Fresno County holds public meetings was packed with people wishing to speak. A line quickly formed that stretched out the door and all the way down the hallway into the Hall of Records lobby.

Quintero was having none of it and quickly limited public comment to 20 minutes. Ten speakers were given two minutes apiece to state their case, and that was it.

Public comment censored too

Need I point out that before the Fresno City Council tackles a controversial vote before a crowded chamber, public comment continues until every speaker (both in person and online) gets their chance to be heard.

Occasionally, that can take 2 or 3 hours. But Quintero can’t be bothered to listen to resident viewpoints for more than 20 minutes.

Quintero’s censorship of public comment is both insulting and ironic, considering the topic du jour involved censoring books.

Pacheco, the second supervisor to speak after Magsig, correctly sensed how the vote would go. That’s opposed to Quintero, who spoke last and incorrectly predicted he’d be the one to cast the deciding vote.

Talk about failure to read the room.

No one should be surprised that Fresno County’s small but loud band of right-wing culture warriors found a receptive audience in the Board of Supervisors.

After all, this is the same political body that’s suing the state for the right of an unincorporated community to keep its racist name. That passed a resolution calling for more oil production in the nation’s dirtiest air basin. That wants to heap even more industrial pollution on the backs of poor, rural residents. That muzzled its own public health officer during the pandemic.

These county supervisors, or at least a majority of three, have an established track record of conservative voting and virtue signaling. Tuesday’s vote was another step in that backward direction.

Brandau’s resolution may only apply to children’s section books. For now, at least. But now that the right-wing culture warriors are emboldened, who can say how far they’ll push.

The person in the most unenviable position is Sally Gomez, the newly appointed interim county librarian following Roman Bath’s surprise resignation effective Oct. 30. (Bath’s resignation and Brandau’s resolution are supposedly unrelated.)

Who’s going to want to work for a county library system where political cronies, as opposed to qualified librarians, decide what books remain on the shelves?