Kenai City Council is waiting to accept money from the National Library of Medicine until the Kenai Library can provide the council with a list of books it plans to get with the grant.
The money comes from the National Library of Medicine Region 5, which is managed by the University of Washington and covers several western states. The Kenai Library won $ 1,500 from the library as part of a Collection Equity Outreach Award, intended to fund library collections nationwide focused on health equity.
But at Wednesday’s city council meeting, several commentators said they were concerned about accepting the federal government grant.
Dave Peck, of Kenai, expressed concern about the use of the word “fairness” in the description of the award.
“I think fairness can create division rather than unity,” he said. Kenai, or even the city council.
The ordinance says the city will focus on purchasing materials “for under-represented groups based on census data and informal community conversations.”
In her letter to the board, librarian Katja Wolfe said health literacy is an important factor in reducing health disparities. She said she plans to purchase books on topics such as personal care and healthy habits, as well as reference books on Medicare and Medicaid and specific medical conditions, such as cancer.
Board member Teea Winger said she was concerned about the organization providing the funding. The National Library of Medicine is a program of the National Institute of Health, administered by the federal government.
“When I looked at the National Library of Medicine network, the content they publish has nothing to do with the items we would carry,” she said. “All of their content was based on COVID, getting the vaccine – without going into too much detail, everything they posted was really COVID-related.”
City manager Paul Ostrander said decisions about the books are left to the librarian’s discretion.
“I wanted you to know that there are already over $ 60,000 in books that she buys every year,” he said. “And I think looking at each of them, title by title, and figuring out which ones are and aren’t appropriate, is a very slippery slope that we have to be careful about.
Council member Henry Knackstedt said he had checked out books from the library that had previously been banned from schools and libraries.
“I’d be careful if someone finds a title that they question and sort of rejects because of perception, kind of like Huck Finn or Tom Sawyer or any of them,” he said. -he declares. “And it’s kind of a slippery slope to go at.”
The board agreed to postpone the ordinance until the first meeting in November, until the librarian can come up with a list of titles that she will purchase with the grant.
Also at Wednesday’s meeting, the board approved a grant from the American Library Association for the Kenai City Library to partner with NASA on an education initiative.