Monday, July 31, 2023

Brave Books Event this Saturday!


Brave Books has organized a nationwide library story time for children. See Kirk Cameron's video below the flyer for information on the August 5, See You At The Library event. Local citizens are hosting an event at all four Christian County Library branches. Children and parents can look forward to a story (or two!) of virtue, as well as a craft and snacks. 

You can also find information on our Facebook page.


Saturday, July 29, 2023

Letter to the Christian County Library


Sparta Library Branch


(A letter from a Christian County citizen was shared with us, and we were given permission to reprint it here. It is a gentle and truthful expression of what the citizen has encountered at the library while searching the bookshelves.)

To: Renee Brumett, Executive Director, Christian County Library, 

The Respected Members of the Christian County Library Board,

We are fairly new to the area and I recently spent some time in the Christian County libraries in Ozark and Sparta. I found the facilities lovely and librarians readily available as well as helpful. I also appreciate the facilities available to the community.

I spent several hours in each library in the younger children’s department and was quite concerned about what I found there. I reviewed over 100 books and titles in the bins between the two libraries and found the lack of Christian-oriented picture and board books in this area quite disappointing. I did not find any in the Sparta library, though I could have missed one, and I can’t say I noticed any in Ozark either. The only books I found with any religious tone were fact books about different types of religions. It is my sincere hope that some were currently out with patrons.

There seemed to be very few classics for parents to share. There were a considerable number of books that advocated for alternative genders, alternative families, or addressed social and racial issues. These often contained content that criticized or vilified those with more traditional and historical views of family, implying them to be wrong or portraying these positions as outside acceptable norms. Several were disrespectful of traditional positions of others if they were not aligned with what was presented. Normalizing without context comes with huge downsides and long-term consequences that do not seem to be recognized or addressed in any way.

Historical estimates of the LGBTQIA+ populations in the US range from 2 to 5% to the current popularity of gender identity fluidity and optimistic 7% of the 2022 Gallup poll.1 These are self-identified identities that tend to shift with maturity as these identities are most common among young adults who may be influenced by current trends, popularity, and peers. indicates that the Missouri population is 3.2% , dated May, 2023.2 I would suggest that the 3.2% for the entire state of Missouri is not concentrated in Christian County and believe that they may be over-represented in the materials I viewed.

Many of the books were full of beautiful images but often contained problematic content.  The apparent lack of available material that better reflects the families in our communities is quite concerning. It appears a more balanced or contextual approach to history would be appropriate as well – virtually all the books referencing race were about American slavery with no historical context (i.e., virtually every ethnicity, nation and tribe in the world engaging in it throughout history). There is more historical balance on Wikipedia.3,4

According to Census.gov5 6 estimates dated July 1, 2022, we have approximately 3.7% Hispanic or Latino population yet I only saw two books in one library in Spanish and am not sure I saw any in the other. Yet with a 1% population of Black or African American most of the books that dealt with race were focused on this population. There may have been one or two that referenced Asian. There may have been one book about Native Americans (First Nations or Aboriginal, as preferred) though Missouri has significant history in the area. The apparent lack of available material that better reflects the families in our communities was quite concerning. It seemed that a more balanced or contextual approach to history would be appropriate as well – virtually all the books referencing race were about American slavery but did not find anything that addressed slavery in a historical manner (i.e., virtually every ethnicity, nation and tribe in the world).

A cursory search for churches7 in Christian County yielded a count of 97 churches, searching Ozark, Nixa, Sparta, Clever, Billings, Highlandville and Republic. This number did not include 2 churches I am personally aware of (both with 50-100 regulars). Yet there seemed to be a complete lack of anything modern or traditional regarding two parent families or Christian-based. Given the statistics of Christian County, this imbalance in available books is concerning to me as it does not accurately reflect our county and local communities nor does it seem to meet the standard set by the American Library Association of inclusion regarding audience:

“Articles I and II of the Library Bill of Rights are clearly inclusive regarding audience (“allpeople of the community the library serves”) and materials (“all points of view on current and historical issues”). This includes both fiction and non-fiction materials regardless of format.”8

I am not advocating for banning material though I considered some not quite age appropriate or in an incorrect location. I believe that there is quality material available that could address these surprising lacks in the collections I viewed. A cursory look in the YA (Young Adult/Teen) section suggested that this section also had similar issues in the available materials. The Public Libraries are to reflect the communities they serve and appear to be using taxpayers money to normalize agendas that do not.

I appreciate the time and effort that the Librarians and the Library Board devote to our libraries and hope that these imbalances will be addressed in the near future.




Sources I am sure you are aware of include: 

Brave Books

Tuttle Twins


Answers in Genesis – from board books to science

Institute of Creation Research for Science

There are any number of series that focus on character rather than preference 



7 etc. 

8 "Religion in American Libraries: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights",American Library Assoc., October 4, 2016

Document ID: e40c0dfd-70f5-40e4-3d4c-14317cefa0b9

Thursday, July 27, 2023

What Would Your Answer Be?


 A local citizen asks the Christian County Library Board of Trustees a question regarding two sexually explicit books that children have access to in the library.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

What About the Libby App for Local Libraries? UPDATE!


From the Christian County Library website

By Gretchen Garrity

Libby is a library app that allows public libraries to offer cardholders digital materials like audiobooks, ebooks, magazines and videos. Download the Libby app on your phone or tablet, and voila, a wide world of literature is at your fingertips.

Any Christian County Library cardholder--including children--can download the Libby app. Libby is owned by a company named OverDrive (Steve Potash is the founder and CEO), one of the largest purveyor of ebooks and audiobooks in the business. According to an archived New Yorker article, An App Called Libby and the Surprisingly Big Business of Library E-Books, "It is the company behind the popular app Libby, which, as the Apple App Store puts it, “...lets you log in to your local library to access ebooks, audiobooks, and magazines, all for the reasonable price of free.”

OverDrive also offers Sora, a program geared toward students and available at participating schools.

One of Libby’s recent tweets helps promote the app through a Barbie film meme.

Another tweet explains that library cardholders can “stop paying for books and just download Libby.” But is that true for taxpaying citizens, even if they are cardholders? The axiom ‘There are no free rides’ may apply here, since taxpayers who fund the local public library are paying for the Libby app. For some public libraries, it can be quite an expense.

According to Daniel A. Gross, author of the New Yorker article, “To illustrate the economics of e-book lending, the N.Y.P.L. sent me its January, 2021, figures for “A Promised Land,” the memoir by Barack Obama that had been published a few months earlier by Penguin Random House. At that point, the library system had purchased three hundred and ten perpetual audiobook licenses at ninety-five dollars each, for a total of $29,450, and had bought six hundred and thirty-nine one- and two-year licenses for the e-book, for a total of $22,512. Taken together, these digital rights cost about as much as three thousand copies of the consumer e-book, which sells for about eighteen dollars per copy. As of August, 2021, the library has spent less than ten thousand dollars on two hundred and twenty-six copies of the hardcover edition, which has a list price of forty-five dollars but sells for $23.23 on Amazon.”

Looking at the license cost of $95 each, when a physical copy of the book costs $23 and change, one can see that a significant chunk of the budget for library collections can be spent on ebooks and audiobooks that are free to cardholders, but ultimately paid for by taxpayers.

Recently, OverDrive has been offering a program called OverDrive Max, which offers bundles and other perks for libraries, in order to help libraries with the cost of ebooks. And in June, OverDrive presented the American Library Association’s (ALA) annual meeting a preview of the data it has been assiduously gathering “ uncover best practices for lending efficiency. These include the utilization of multiple content access models and curation practices and their impact on reader engagement," said Susan Gross Ph.D., OverDrive's lead researcher.

It Gets Much Worse

But the costs associated with the Libby app are not the only issues. Children who have a library card in the Christian County Library system have what is termed an “all access” card. Like adults, minor cardholders have access to all materials in the library. As the library policy manual states, “We support the Library Bill of Rights and the Freedom to Read Statement in providing free and open access to our materials for all age groups. Children are not restricted to particular areas of the Library. Our staff does not monitor the materials that children choose. The responsibility for the reading or viewing choices of children rests entirely with parents or legal guardians. For more information, see Youth and the Library.”

Further, the policy manual states, “The Library cannot overrule the rights and responsibilities of individuals by deciding who does or doesn't have access to Library materials. Decisions about what materials are suitable for particular children should be made by the people who know them best -- their parents or guardians. Updated June 2023”

Under the Circulation Policy in the manual, “Patrons 17 years old or younger will be issued a Youth All-Access Library Card. A parent or guardian must agree to accept financial responsibility for the care and return of Library materials checked out to the child.” Parents must accept financial responsibility for library materials, but the library bears no responsibility of any kind as to what materials a child may view while in the library.

But let’s get back to Libby. What does it mean that a child can download and access the Libby app on their phone? Beautiful card stock advertisements are available at the check-out of the library and its branches, and Libby is advertised on the Christian County Library's website.

From the Christian County Library

A child can download the Libby app on their phone or tablet and then connect with the local library through Missouri Libraries 2 Go. A new world of digital books, magazines and information is opened to them. There are audiobooks, ebooks, magazines, even videos.

And just as sexually explicit and agenda-driven physical books are seeded throughout the children’s and teen sections of the library, so there are audiobook versions, and some ebook versions of the same books. Also many magazines are online for young eyes to see, like Cosmopolitan, a magazine that is known for its sex-driven articles.

And It Keeps Getting Worse

But that’s not all. The Libby app allows users to erase all evidence of their searches, including accessed books, videos, and magazines. Even tags can be erased. This is also true for the online’s Consortium of Ozarks Libraries Catalog.

Libby offers monthly webinars that help patrons learn their way around the Libby app and all its features. Before June’s “Pride Month,” Libby featured LGBTQ books and materials. They have even promoted a preview for  “LGBTQ+ books for kids: Be In the Know with Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.” Here is a 2022 promotion for audiobooks. And here is a promotion for diversity and inclusion indieflixs during this year’s Pride Month.

From OverDrive's website

 As a company OverDrive is typically Woke, aligned with the ALA, and prominently promotes social justice issues on its blog and for book recommendations. The ALA’s “Right to Read” statement is promoted here and here; while Social Emotional Learning is promoted here.

It isn’t only library bookshelves that are presenting a danger to childhood innocence, it is online and digital apps promoted by public libraries, and paid for by taxpayers. Using her minor child's library card, a local mom was able to download the Libby app and access books like "Thirteen Reasons Why," "Spin with Me," "Where the Crawdads Sing," and "Queerly Autistic." Over 43,000 titles were immediately available.

Hillary Clinton popularized the phrase, “It takes a village.” Apparently that is so, until you get to the library. Then parents are on their own, trying to navigate through a minefield of materials that seek to indoctrinate children into gender ideology and early sexualization.

If children under the age of 18 were given library cards that prevented access to view, read, and check out obscene and pornographic materials, one could make the argument that the village library is a safe place for kids. But right now, it’s a jungle out there, both for children and the parents who seek to protect them.

UPDATE: The State of Mississippi has now banned popular library apps for those under age 18! Read about it here. The article, of course, is slanted hard left, but it is heartening to see that citizens and legislators are not going to put up with the continued sexualization of minor children. Also, here's another article that addresses the issues with ebooks in our libraries.

Story Hour at the Christian County Library


Friday, July 21, 2023

U-Turn in Education


From U-Turn in Education's website

By Gretchen Garrity

In an October 19, 2022 article, Springfield News-Leader reporter Claudette Riley featured the parent group U-Turn in Education. Riley described the group as “...created to fight censorship, to ensure students can access a wide range of books in school libraries...”

See the setup there? U-Turn is pro First Amendment and pro students having access to books.

Riley featured a quote from U-Turn’s Elizabeth Dudash-Buskirk: “We’re standing up against fascism...And we stand for freedom of education and experience.”

See that again? U-Turn is against fascism.

Later in the article, a subhead says, “Conservative parents, minister voice support for bans.” And a little later another subhead states, “Opponents of book bans say choice shouldn’t be taken from parents, students.” Riley then quotes U-Turn’s Dudash-Buskirk again, “We believe parents have the right to decide what books and what movies and what expressions their children are actually engaging...Unfortunately, what no one has the right to do is to take away that choice to guide our children from every other parents or community member.”

And there you go, parents and Christians support book banning, but U-Turn is for rights and choice.

Inexplicably, another U-Turn member is quoted as saying, “It’s a parent’s right to decide what their children are exposed to...But it’s not some (other) parent’s right to decide what my child is going to be exposed to.” 

That quote just made the case for every concerned parent in America, but I digress.

Further on, the reader is then told that “marginalized” kids are being harmed by the culture war and silenced.

The press amplifies certain voices and suppresses others. Besides the obvious propaganda that censorship and book banning are a conservative thing, and U-Turn members are for freedom and education, the article candy coats what U-Turn in Education is truly advocating for.

Let’s take a turn around U-Turn’s website and see if they are for parent's rights and educational freedom for children.

Their front page boldly states they are "Supporting educational opportunities for all." If you click on their Resources and Videos button it is clear to see that nearly all the videos are about "educating" the reader/listener about so-called censorship and book banning.

What is never stated is that censorship and book banning are not happening (unless one happens to be a conservative on social media). What IS happening is parents rising up to tell schools and libraries that there are some books that kids shouldn't be reading without parental permission. The 20-minute video below details some of the books that groups like U-Turn in Education are advocating to be widely accessible to minors.

U-Turn is so committed to giving children access to "educational opportunities" that they advocate starting a Little Library (like the one below) to provide them.

A Little Library disseminating "educational opportunities"

Furthermore, U-Turn provides a Student button with links to the "Brooklyn Public Library that offers unrestricted free library ecards to anybody (not just New York residents) aged 13-21." That means no matter how much parents try to monitor their child's reading materials, U-Turn is there to make sure the kids have access to unrestricted library cards online.

And that's not all, there's a link to a website called the Banned Books Book Club, that features some of the "most important books of our generation." Go here to see the "important" books.

Additionally, U-Turn in Education received the "2023 Intellectual Freedom award by the Missouri Association of School Librarians." To add gravitas to the award we are informed, "Note that MASL was selected as the 2023 chapter of the year by the American Association of School Librarians, largely for their Intellectual Freedom work and support of the right to read.  MASL also received the extremely prestigious 2023 Horace Mann Award from the Missouri NEA (~32,000 members), which is part of the National Educators Association (~ 3,000,000 members)." These groups do like giving out awards to their comrades.

And lastly, U-Turn has published a letter that the Missouri Library Association (MLA) sent to the Nixa School Board in August of 2022. It's quite eye-opening in its advocacy for the "freedom" of minors to read sexually explicit books. Providing smut to kids is always about protecting "marginalized" communities and freedom and such. Really, it just comes down to corrupting the innocence of minors, which is a feature of Marxist agendas.

Just one last thing. Many people scoff at the idea our libraries and schools are Marxist indoctrination centers. But the president of the American Library Association, an avowed Marxist, wrote a whole paper called "Queering the Catalog." It is shot through with Marxist ideology as advanced through Queer Theory. Here James Lindsay defines Queer Theory:

"Queer Theory: Straight people whose “gender identity” and sex match (and those who pass as such) claim access to a special form of property called normalcy (by declaring themselves the normal ones and defining normalcy to mean like themselves). They create an ideology called normativity (e.g., heteronormativity and cisnormativity) to justify this. This allows them to structure society with structural or systemic homophobia and/or transphobia (or, generally, queer-phobia) that advantages the “normal” and exploits, estranges, and disenfranchises “queers” (anyone different, especially gays, lesbians, bisexuals, the gender non-conforming, transgenders, and the mentally ill). People can be made aware of the Queer Theory theory of societal production and become queer-conscious (“proud”) allies operating in solidarity on their behalf. If they seize the means of normative cultural production of society and Man, they will usher in gender, sexual, and sex equity that will eventually ripen into gender, sexual, and sex justice (a kind of social justice) through the inversion of praxis."

In the end, U-Turn in Education is not about protecting parents' rights to determine what books and materials their children see. They aren't about intellectual freedom. U-Turn is about making sure your kids are exposed to any and all books, regardless of your values or your desires as a parent. There's a popular name for that nowadays...

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Nixa School Board Vote Results in Book Retention



School board retains "Unpregnant" 

By Gretchen Garrity

 The issue of inappropriate, sexually explicit and obscene books continues to be at the forefront of local school boards in Missouri. At the July 13, 2023 regular school board meeting in Nixa, the board conducted a re-vote for the book Unpregnant, since it had not received a majority vote of “Remove” at the June 20, 2023 meeting.

The June vote resulted in a split: 3 for removal, 2 for restriction, and 2 for retention. Board rules dictate a clear majority must prevail. However, the July re-vote was more than surprising. Because school board member Linda Daughtery was out of town and unable to attend the regular school board meeting on July 13, 2023, the re-vote to determine a board majority vote for the book consisted of six members voting on the three options.

If Daughtery had been present, the vote would have resulted in Unpregnant being removed from the library by a majority vote of four to three. Jason Massengale changed his vote to “Remove” at the July 13 meeting.

But because of the missing board member and multiple voting options, a majority of the board was again not achieved. The stated goal of having a “Vote to Determine Board Majority” was not served, and the school board ultimately fell back on a review committee’s recommendation, which was to retain the book without restriction.

This happened despite a planned board retreat meeting in June to study the process of reviewing books.

Part of the issue for the school board is the manner of having three options for each book:

  1. To Retain without Restrictions

  2. To Retain with Parental Permission

  3. To Remove

This had a direct result of splitting the vote both times in such a way that a majority vote of 4/7 could not be attained, even though with a vote of 3-2-2 or 3-2-1 as happened at the July 13 meeting, there were more votes to remove or restrict rather than retain. This will be a problem going forward, and may result in school board-appointed committees determining book decisions, rather than elected board members.

The review committee that voted to recommend Unpregnant be retained without restriction includes at least three school district employees: Cheryl Huson, Chelsea Shoemake, Wendee Corya, and a community member, Ashley Johnson. Their vote was 4-0, with one member of the five-member committee not present.

School board president, Joshua Roberts, indicated in a previous news article, that review teams have been ridiculed publicly for their recommendations. Taxpayers, however, have a legal right to know who is making the decisions that affect public school students.

The committee’s report stated in part, “This book in no way promotes or advocates for abortion. The novel manages to take a highly stigmatized topic and bring it into the light, and in the process create a story that is both timely and meaningful. We recommend it be retained without restriction based on its fulfillment of library material selection criteria.

The report further states the book Unpregnant meets the “Objectives for the Selection of Library Materials” of enriching and supporting the curriculum, as well as meeting ethical standards.

Unpregnant, published by Harper Collins, is a book that came about as a way to make the subject of abortion more comfortable for young people. A review of the book describes it as, Seventeen-year-old Veronica Clarke never thought she’d want to fail a test—that is, until she finds herself staring at a piece of plastic with two solid pink lines. With a college-bound future now disappearing before her eyes, Veronica considers a decision she never imagined she’d have to make: an abortion. There’s just one catch—the closest place to get one is over nine hundred miles away. With conservative parents, a less-than-optimal boyfriend, and no car, Veronica turns to the only person who won’t judge her: Bailey Butler, a legendary misfit at Jefferson High—and Veronica’s ex-best friend.What could go wrong? Not much, apart from three days of stolen cars, crazed ex-boyfriends, aliens, ferret napping, and the betrayal of a broken friendship that can’t be outrun. Under the starlit skies of the Southwest, Veronica and Bailey discover that sometimes the most important choice is who your friends are.”

Nixa High School 

In a 2020 interview, Unpregnant author Jennie Hendriks said, “Much of the time when abortion has been presented in the media, it’s been focused on the choice—a weighty exploration of whether the person wants to become a parent. And always depicting the decision to have an abortion as fraught and dramatic can lead to feelings of shame. We wanted to write a story where our main character knew exactly what she wanted to do from the very beginning, her only obstacle was how to get there. As writers we never wanted to make light of the decision to get an abortion, but we were more comfortable poking fun at how difficult it is to actually get one...If you are underage, 37 states require parental involvement in the decision to have an abortion. And more laws restricting access are being written seemingly every day. So, to highlight the absurdity of this, we thought, why not write an absurd, boisterous, slightly insane road trip story?”

Nixa parent, Carissa Corson, who submitted a removal request for Unpregnant, spoke about the decision to retain the book without restrictions, “Offering books like "Unpregnant" rob parents of having very important and timely conversations that only parents know when their child is mature enough to have! I believe the board agrees with me and that’s why 5 out of 7 board members either voted to remove or place a parental restriction on this book. Parents, students, taxpayers and our community are feeling that it is unjust to have this book on the shelves of Nixa High School.”

Additional information below.

Video of school board vote on July 13

Nixa School District

Nixa School Board

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Make Your Voice Heard 


Monday, July 17, 2023

A Conversation with Rep. Jamie Gragg



Rep. Jamie Gragg

Right To Win Ozarks spoke last Friday with Missouri State Rep. Jamie Gragg (R) 140th District about a recent meeting he had with Secretary of State John R. Ashcroft.

How did the meeting go with Mr. Ashcroft?

Rep. Gragg: The meeting went fantastic. We were able to sit down with him and a few of his staff, including the state librarian, and shared with him a couple of the ideas I’m shooting for this next legislative session, bill wise. He was very excited about both of them. Of course his office can only go so far because it’s not their wheelhouse, it’s not what they do, and due to different office limitations they can only do so many things as well. But there were some good suggestions, good brainstorming ideas from all that were there. Rep. [Brad] Hudson was there as well.

What idea stands out to you about the meeting—what suggestions?

Rep. Gragg: Not to let too many details out that are still being hammered, [but] a paradigm shift of how things will be done, is kind of what we are looking at because right now the thought process—when you say ‘book rating system’--I know every library across the state and probably across the country is thinking, 'We don’t have the staff to do that. We have to create this whole monster for the thousands and thousand of books we’ve got. Who has the time, effort and energy to do that?' And I get that. I get that.

To me, anything worth worth doing right...that’s my mindset, but I also understand if you’re not quite on board and you’re given a herculean task you kind of shut down. And so I’m sure that’s kind of where they’re at, as well. [So] paradigm shifting it so that it becomes a standard from outside organizations instead of internal...because right now if you get a book from let’s say Random House it has been written as a children’s book--here’s the topic--and Random House will give it to the organizations that make the determination of where it’s listed and shelved at. Well we’re gonna go to these organizations now instead, so that it is more of a standard instead of something the individual libraries have to do.

Now is that like the ALA or the MLA that you are talking about?

Rep. Gragg: Oh no no no, that’s a four letter word. No we’re talking, uh, there are separate organizations out
there that assist libraries when it comes to layouts...

Cataloging you mean?

Rep. Gragg: Cataloging, yes, thank you, that is the word that was trying to come into my mouth but I couldn’t
spit it out.

There is a whole lot of ways of cataloging books they’ve largely, they’re starting to,
abandon the
Dewey Decimal System...

Rep. Gragg: Yes. This would be kind of sliding into that middle ground, so it’s after the publication but before it hits the library...every library uses some sort of cataloging system whether it’s this, that or the
other--ABC cataloging or XYZ cataloging system--so we’re going to see if we can slide into that
level. It will become more of a standard in the industry instead of saying ‘Libraries you messed up
this is what you gotta do now and we’re going to legislate it that way’.

So this is just my question about it because I’ve been doing a little dive into it, that...
every librarian can do it differently and it’s the wild west when it comes to cataloging and
classifying books.
And some will use the Dewey Decimal System in the adult section, and
they won’t use it in the children’s section, and there’s a whole huge amount of woke
Marxist ways of classifying and cataloging books so yeah, I mean its really..that’s a

Rep. Gragg: And you do find that more with your smaller libraries, unfortunately because you do have, you’ve still got volunteers in a lot of the smaller libraries. You’re gonna have one volunteer that she just loves the children’s section, that is her baby and we don’t mess with it because if we do that it messes with her system, or his, I don’t want to go in the wrong direction here. That is that individual section there and we’re gonna do it the way we’re gonna do it. And you see that. Your bigger library systems they tend to universalize their whole building because that way when children get older they’re not having to learn a whole new system to go the toddler section, to the children section, to the young adult section, and on and on.

Did anybody bring up the ALA or the kind of connections that are going on with the MLA?

Rep. Gragg: I did because after we’d had our brainstorming session, and we discussed various things that we can do—you know I like to have all the eggs laid out on the table and talk about all of them and all angles they can come from—so I said, “Okay guys, now we’ve discussed some tactics of what we’re gonna do, now let’s talk about the push back, the ALA. And they all stopped me right there and giggled. ‘We don’t care about them.’ So, the state librarian [Robin Westphal] gave me a little bit of hope. She said, “I think you’d be surprised how few libraries in the State of Missouri are actually ALA members. There’s not as many as you think.”

Now I don’t know what ‘Not as many as you think’ is to her. Is that 50%, is that 20%, 100%? I don’t know what that means. She definitely is one that understands the issues that are going on right now, and she’s on board with us. She thinks that there is definitely a problem. So it was very encouraging. And she has worked in libraries of all sizes. From the small two-librarian systems to the St. Louis library systems, so she has been involved in the whole gambit in the state. She knows the issues, she knows it’s a problem and she agrees with us that it needs to be fixed, and taken care of.

From her words to my ears was the ALA is not as strong in Missouri as the ALA has made it out to be. Now the MLA, we didn’t breach that one. But we will be learning about how maybe they are in the state and really kind of what it will take to put them in a pen if we need to.

Yeah, it’s kind of more of a reform type thing...Did you feel like Sec. Ashcroft had a good knowledge of the situation?

Rep. Gragg: More so than I’d even hoped. I was able to bring book binders with me, put together by Mary Hernandez de Carl here in Nixa, and she’s been wonderful about doing that. And I brought three extras with me, that she put together, and I put them on the table, and Jay was like, ‘Oh I know what’s in here. I’ve gotten the texts. I do not need to…’ And you could tell he was, it disgusted him enough what he has seen already. He says, ‘Please don’t ask me to open this up because I know what’s in here.’

And one of his other staff members opens it up and of course opened up probably to one of the worst pages and quickly slams it shut. And he’s an adult individual who probably would not be embarrassed by much, but the fact that what he opened it up to was enough. It was instantaneously bad. So they know what’s out there, they know what it looks like…Again, they knew more than I thought they would.

Let me change tack a little bit. Do you have any suggestions on what citizens can do right now to try and get this fixed? How we can assist our elected officials?

Rep. Gragg: You know, first and foremost letting voices be heard. What does that look like? I am a firm believer in you get more bees with honey than you do with vinegar. So when you’re voice is being heard, it doesn’t mean arguments, it doesn’t mean, you know, doing things to turn people the other direction. It means rationally saying these are my children, or these are my grandchildren. We are in charge of what goes into their brains. We should be the ones to make the decision, not somebody telling us what we have to put in their brains.

If I go to the library, the library should be built around the desires and the culture that the library exists in...not the East and the West coasts saying, ‘Hey Midwest, this is what you guys should be doing’. It should match your community, and the people that live here should be voicing their opinion to say, ‘This library has pushed us out. Instead of meeting the community needs and wants you’ve run us out and now you’ve got a niche that is taking the library and you’re meeting their needs.' 

The marketing in the library has gone bye-bye. It no longer exists. They’re not marketing to the community. They’ve pigeon-holed themselves to what they think we should have. Let their voices be heard. That’s the ultimate one right there.

What would you say to people who are afraid to engage because of push back from the left? For instance, the U Turn in Education group down here that’s been very loud, and they’ve even berated Commissioners Morris [and Jackson]…? And some of the local parents have been doxxed and so how do we overcome that…?

Rep. Gragg: First and foremost know that they don’t play by rational tactics. They don’t. It’s terroristic contact is what they do. And I’ve been a victim of that as well to some extent. I will say that some people, their gift is not to engage. And that’s fine. Their gift may be behind the scenes. Their gift may be planning and organizing an event or something like that. So don’t think just because you are with the [grassroots group] or the parents group that wants to make their library better. [It] doesn’t mean that you have to engage. So don’t think they have to by any means. Stand firm. Sometimes a quiet stance speaks louder than the words.

I’ll throw this out, I will give a church analogy. Some people are not meant to teach Sunday School. They’re not meant to organize fellowship suppers. Their gift is to pray. Their gift is to be the support that way. So everyone has a gift, everyone has a spot.

Do you have anything that you’d like to share, [any] particular point that you’d like to make?

Rep. Gragg: You know, just know that this has a very positive effect and by what I’ve seen happening right now, we’re turning this ship in the right direction. You can’t turn a big ship on a dime, by any means. It does take time, but we have positive direction going on right now.

Growing up, and this is a little back story here. One of my favorite Sunday School teachers was a lady named Louella Long. She worked at the library and she was one of those ladies who had her section and it grew to where she was a full librarian. This is not the same library that Louella Long used to be in charge of. And this is the same building, right down here by the park.

What we have done is we have taken that thought process of ‘These are the professionals, these are the folks taking care of our libraries, they’re doing a great job’, and we’ve become hands off. If there’s one thing that Covid did, it made parents see and pay attention to what their kids bring home now. I think that’s where this stems from, and I think it’s time that parents have their eyes opened. We took our eyes off the library for so long and trusted the professionals for too long. And now we see the damage done. We should never let our guard down. We should always have checks and balances in place, and this fight that’s happening right now, we’re taking it back, and we’re going to hopefully make sure that’s there’s constantly going to be checks and balances in place, and we’ll have a better library for it.

When did you become aware of this issue? A lot of politicians are not wanting to engage with it, but you’ve engaged...

Rep. Gragg: I’ll admit I was just as guilty as the average citizen around here. My kids are grown up and so the library is not as much as an everyday part of my life as much as it was when my kids were in the house. My youngest is 22 now. So, but I have grandchildren coming up...but when I was approached by this and I saw some of the books, gosh, it was before I was even in office. I’d say probably the middle of last year, so about a year ago, and I was shown some of the things that are in there. And I was like, “No, that can’t be real, that can’t be right. No, no no. And then I found it was true and it was right, and it really disturbed me, so…”

And so me and Mary Hernandez de Carl have actually been talking since before I took office in January, and we tried to get some stuff going last year, but it was really, we were on the wrong side of the Eight Ball, to get something for last legislative session in place, so it’s taken us time. Unfortunately, the library books are still in there. But we’re definitely gonna have it in for this year. So we’re working on [it] with that meeting with Jay Ashcroft and so forth.

And so, you said there’s three separate bills that are going be introduced in the new session?

Rep. Gragg: Well, there’s two for sure. I would like to formulate a third when it comes to organizations like the ALA and the MLA, but I think one of the going to be the rating system that we’ve discussed. The other one is our library boards by and large across the state are hand-picked from within. This is a tax-funded system here, where the people on the board spend tax dollars, so there is no taxation with representation. That goes against our model, our setup. If we have people spending tax dollars then the people who are putting the money into that tax base should have representation on how it is spent.

So, one of my bills will be that library boards have to be an elected board, much like your school boards. That way we, you, everybody else, your neighbors, your family that live here in Christian County have a say-so on who’s spending the money that they are paying into to fund our libraries. And that local elected board will make those decisions that we’ve elected them to do, and hopefully that will follow through with...outside organizations like the ALA and MLA who we are giving money to. We have more accountability because we’re electing people to make those important decisions for us.

Thank you so much for taking time with us this afternoon. We really appreciate it.

Rep. Gragg: Not a problem at all. I appreciate the time to sit down and take a breath, first and foremost, and to answer any questions people have. If I’m not sharing with you guys what’s going on and not hearing from you guys what’s going on, then I’m doing it wrong.

(Rep. Gragg's Committee Assignments include Children and Families, Elementary and Secondary Education, Healthcare Reform, and the Subcommittee on Appropriations--Education. He can reached at  (573) 751-2565 and

Contributors: Deborah Spindle, Gretchen Garrity