Crawford County board to consider proposal to review all books purchased or donated to county libraries

Victoria Jones browses books Friday at the Van Buren Public Library. The Crawford County Library Board will consider a proposal to amend the county library system’s policy regarding collection development at its meeting Tuesday. The change would give the board the power to review all books set to be purchased by or donated to the Library System and decide whether or not they can be added to its collection. Visit for today's photo gallery. (River Valley Democrat-Gazette/Hank Layton)

VAN BUREN -- Libraries in the Crawford County Library System may have to go through another layer of oversight to get new books amid controversy regarding their current collections.

The county Library Board will consider a proposal from new chairwoman Tammi Hamby to amend the system's policy regarding collection development at its next meeting Tuesday. The change would give the board -- or possibly another committee -- the power to review all books set to be purchased by or donated to the library system and decide whether they can be added to its collection, according to Hamby on Wednesday.

The board tabled the matter at its Jan. 10 meeting, according to the minutes from that meeting obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request.

Deidre Grzymala, the library system's then-director, put forward a new collection development policy to replace the system's current material selection policy. The proposed policy set criteria by which the library director, library branch directors and designated staff members could select material for the libraries by purchasing them through approved vendors or through donations, among other things.

However, Hamby, whom the board had earlier named its chairwoman, voiced her disapproval.

"The way this policy's written would allow basically any staff member to do book selections and order books, and I'm not going to vote for that," Hamby said, according to a recording of the meeting. "At their leisure, basically."

Hamby's proposal, as presented Jan. 10, would have the library directors and designated staff place any material to be purchased or donated on a master list. The library system director would present the list to the board prior to the board's next meeting, at which point they would decide to approve, reject or table adding the material.

Hamby said Wednesday her proposal would establish the decision of whether or not to approve books for potential purchase or donation wouldn't be based on the opinion of one person -- be it the system director or anyone else. She also specified reviewing books wouldn't mean those involved would have to read the books themselves, but rather their synopses.

"The director doesn't read them all either," Hamby said.

Hamby said should the Library Board approve her proposal, it wouldn't use the newfound oversight to try to get rid of any books.


The board dealt with challenges from residents regarding multiple books at its Nov. 8 meeting, according to meeting material. All were children's books with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning subject matter and included:

If You're a Drag Queen and You Know It

Pink, Blue and You

The Meaning of Pride

The Big Book of Pride Flags

Uncle Bobby's Wedding

Bye Bye, Binary

The River Valley City Elders, a local Christian community organization, requested people in a Dec. 13 newsletter available through its Facebook page to stand with Jeffrey Hamby as he spoke to the Quorum Court on Dec. 19 regarding his concerns about these sorts of books being purchased with taxpayer money and displayed at the Van Buren Public Library.

"The library director and staff have chosen and stocked the library with radical sexual ideological picture books which run the danger of premature sexualization of prepubescent children," the newsletter states.

Jeffrey and Tammi Hamby previously outlined their grievances on the subject in a letter addressed to the Quorum Court, then-Crawford County Judge Dennis Gilstrap and current County Judge Chris Keith dated Nov. 10. A Jan. 18 article from Talk Business and Politics identified the pair as husband and wife.

The Hambys argued the constitutional rights of parents and their religious liberties were being subverted by a "progressive woke ideology" driven by Grzymala and her employees. They claimed this reported ideology was "normalizing and equating homosexual and transsexual lifestyles with heterosexual family units" without parental consent or the ability to not participate.

"Parents should be allowed to educate their children as they see fit on ideas and beliefs about sexuality," the letter states. "Efforts to expose children to age-inappropriate content and make parental notification and opt-out difficult or impossible undermine parents' constitutional right to control their children's education on sensitive topics such as human sexuality. Public libraries should not become a place where children are exposed to radical sexual ideology."

The Quorum Court heard from multiple people about the library at its Dec. 19 meeting, according to the minutes from that meeting. This included Jeffrey Hamby, as well as Grzymala and Jami Anne Balkman, the Library Board's chairwoman at the time.

Craig Wahlmeier, justice of the peace for District 11, asked Grzymala if she would move the books in question out of the children's section as part of a compromise regarding the material, according to a recording of the meeting. Grzymala responded in the affirmative.

Grzymala said at the Library Board's Jan. 10 meeting each of the library system's branches had moved their LGBTQ children's books into a new section within their respective adult book sections.

Tammi Hamby said Wednesday her proposal to amend the library system's collection development policy isn't about "those specific books."

"It's about a lot of books that were questionable for our children," Hamby said.


December also saw a massive change in the Library Board.

Keith said three of the board's five members resigned that month: Balkman, who also represented the Alma Public Library; Mavis Lawson, who represented the Cedarville Public Library; and Joan Porter, who represented the Van Buren library.

Keith said he, as county judge, appointed replacements to fill the vacancies based on recommendations from various people, including residents and justices of the peace, as well as interviews with the candidates. Six people were considered.

Keith chose Kaelin Schaper to replace Balkman, Amanda Stevens to replace Lawson and Tammi Hamby to replace Porter. They were sworn in Jan. 10.

Board members are appointed for five-year terms, according to the library system.

Grzymala, who began as the library system director July 5, left her position Feb. 24 as part of a separation agreement between her, Crawford County, the library system and the Van Buren Public Library.

Gentry Wahlmeier, an attorney for the county, has said he and Grzymala's attorney negotiated the terms for her "voluntary resignation," though he declined to provide details on the circumstances surrounding it. One of the terms of the separation agreement is Grzymala, the county and library system will not "criticize, denigrate or disparage" one another in certain ways.

The Quorum Court approved providing Grzymala $40,688 in severance Feb. 21, also per the agreement. The county will also continue paying her health and dental benefit premiums through Sept. 1.

The board appointed Eva White as the library system's interim director at a special meeting Feb. 24.

White said at the time she hopes to bring the community together to work together for the library. She previously served as library system director from 1999 to 2012 and again from 2013 to January 2021.

"I want to see our library still prosper, and at this point, I don't see that it is," White said.

White declined to provide an opinion on Tammi Hamby's proposal Thursday.

The board's meeting Tuesday will be at 5:30 p.m. at the Van Buren Public Library.

  photo  Victoria Jones browses books Friday, March 10, 2023, at the Van Buren Public Library in Van Buren. Visit for today's photo gallery. (River Valley Democrat-Gazette/Hank Layton)

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