DIXFIELD — Several Regional School Unit 56 directors and a spokesperson for district librarians said last week that they are opposed to adopting a rating system for library books, in part because it violates state law.

Director Liz Kelly of Dixfield asked board members at the June 13 meeting if they were interested in “looking into a rating system for materials in our library. Specifically, materials of sexual acts, pictures of nudity that is available to high school and middle school students, things along that nature as well as violence.”

Chairwoman Barbara Chow of Dixfield immediately responded that the district has a policy on that issue and it’s not the directors job; they “delegate” that to the educators and librarians,.

Discussing the issue at their June 27 meeting, Kristin Arsenault, high school library technician, read a statement on behalf of all RSU 56 librarians, their staff and the local public library director.

“The purpose of this letter is to petition against a rating system for the school district,” she read. “Implementing such a system would go against professional practices of librarians across the country and may be considered a violation of students’ First Amendment rights.”

High school teacher Lea Nolette and Nicole Couture, who said she is from the River Valley area and has over 30 years as an educator and health care professional, also spoke against a rating system.


“Changing our library policy and adding some kind of rating system is ultimately a poor decision,” Nolette said.

She said she is “someone who struggled finding her identity in a small-town community and having access to stories that enhanced my world view while resonating with my lived experiences was something that was incredibly important to me.”

Couture said the district “should not be micromanaging the people who know more about their field than we do.” The superintendent, hired professionals and their librarians are among those who should be trusted for their expertise, she said.

Superintendent Pam Doyen said the board received a letter from Wynter Giddings of the Maine School Library Association addressing concerns about instituting a rating system in school libraries. She said the letter outlined “the professionalism of our current library staff. We are indeed fortunate to have Cindy Petherbridge and Kristin Arsenault at the helm of our libraries,” Doyen said.

Petheribridge is library media specialist for RSU 56.

Kelly said she wasn’t seeking a rating system for books. Her original questioning June 13 was “more in line with listening to people in the community and their concerns about different topics in the library,” she said. “It had nothing to do with any populations whatsoever” or the district policy on library media selection.


Director Larry Whittington of Dixfield challenged her comments, saying it was his understanding from her comments June 13 that she was seeking a rating system for library books.

“Well the answer is no,” he said.

Whittington said the recent Maine law, LD 1008, to establish the rating system for the books in school libraries did not pass so “you can’t have a rating system.”

Directors Bruce Ross of Dixfield and Carl Lueders of Canton acknowledged the district’s librarians should be entrusted with the decisions on book selection.

“I think our librarians are doing a great job,” Lueders said. “I think that they should be in charge of what happens in the library,”

Ross added, “We hire these people to oversee these programs. If we’re going to start questioning their abilities, we’re going to run into problems. So, I suggest that we let them do their job.”

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