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Library may rethink what books it buys

LAWRENCEVILLE - Library officials will reconsider policies on buying books, two months after firing the system's director amid criticism of favoring popular books over classics or nonfiction.

Board Chairman Lloyd Breck directed interim director Nancy Stanbery-Kellam to look into the matter at Monday's board meeting.

"We want to make sure we're serving as best we can all the needs across the board," Breck said. "That's been a recurrent theme that's come up. We may need to make some adjustments on the model."

Prior to the agenda, several residents addressed the board with requests about content, including nonfiction audio books and a classics section.

"I'm excited to see all these books come out in the history world and nonfiction," said Ken Craft, as he passed out a box full of titles. "One thing they all have in common is they are not available at the Gwinnett County Public Library."

Amy Gregerson said she has a hard time with home schooling her children because of the selection at the library.

She said the library had 20 copies of the latest Harry Potter book but only had four copies of "The Diary of Anne Frank."

"We won't have enough copies for the eight students in our middle school class," she said.

She also complained about the lack of a classics section, since she leads high school and elementary-level reading groups on the genre.

Judy Bailey, who described herself as a fiscal and political conservative, didn't comment about specific books but instead said the selection of popular books wastes taxpayer money.

"The library doesn't need to spend money on pure entertainment value," she said. "We pay for the parks and recreation department for that already."

But not everyone agreed.

Frances Ely said her 17-year-old granddaughter spent time reading some of the books that had been discussed harshly and she is now heading to college.

"The library has not hurt her. Neither have the 'Harry Potter' books," she said. "You have to prepare children for the whole world, not just your little world. ... You don't need to narrow the books down because that makes the noisiest crowd the happiest. I pay taxes, too."

Breck said he wanted to make sure policies were carefully studied to avoid any unintended consequences and said the library's job is not to supply text books to home-schooled kids.

"It's something we definitely need to look at because it's a concern of all our citizens," said vice-chairwoman Phyllis Oxendine.

In other business, library officials announced the selection for this fall's Gwinnett Reads festivities. Activities such as a knitting class, a living wills workshop and a guided tour of McDaniel Farm Park will celebrate the book "The Poet of Tolstoy Park" by Sonny Brewer.