As the fight over inappropriate books in children’s sections continues, the New Braunfels Library Advisory Board is coming under fire for allowing these books targeting the city’s youth into its public libraries. 

Joeylynn Mesaros, a mother from New Braunfels, shared with Texas Scorecard a book called “Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws.” The book outlines ways people can “flirt with death” and varying other alternatives to suicide, including self-harm measures such as cutting. 

The author, Kate Bornstein—a “celebrated transsexual”—even admits that she cuts herself and is a masochist, saying, “I don’t cut myself because I hate myself or any particular part of my body, but I started out that way.”

“Cutting yourself is a valid alternative to killing yourself if you feel it is your least self-harming option,” the book continues. 

Additionally, the book talks about flirting with death, giving ideas of how teenagers can go about the idea.

“This is not a smart thing to do. But we all do it once. We’ll stick a screwdriver into an electrical socket or smoke in bed. Or we’ll stand closer and closer to the railroad tracks each time a train is coming,” reads the book. “It’s only barely an alternative to killing yourself. Try doing it via film or video game first, please. But if you must flirt with Death, I expect you to remember your manners and be a perfect lady or gentleman, regardless of your gender.”

Another book allowed on the shelves is “The Awesome Autistic Guide for Trans Teens. 

One gender identity they lay out is “Autigender,” which allows a person to align their gender identity with their autistic identity. 

The book also outlines the various ways in which someone who is gender-confused and identifies as “transgender” or “gender-divergent” can alter their physical body, including using sterilizing puberty blocker drugs and cross-sex hormones and using different pronouns and names in social situations. 

In a study from 2020, it was found that those who do not identify with their biological sex are three to six times as likely to be autistic. People who often identify as “non-binary” or “gender-queer” are more likely to report autism traits and to suspect they have undiagnosed autism. 

Allowing these books to remain on the shelves isn’t the only reason the board has come under scrutiny. 

The board was also voting on an agenda item to revise the policies and procedures of the library and collection development. Mesaros says this is in direct response to the community filing nearly 800 complaints about the graphic sexually explicit books that are allowed to remain in the youth section. 

“This is their way of not just doubling down but quadrupling down to say we’re not going to take your feedback. The things that they’ve proposed changing in the policies takes our voices away,” Mesaros told Texas Scorecard. “It removes community input almost completely. And they do it in such a sneaky way.”

The New Braunfels library policies under collection development state that the ultimate responsibility for the collection of books “rests with the New Braunfels City Council,” which then can be delegated to other people. However, Mesaros says the board is discussing changes to remove the city council and mayor as the deciding factors, leaving the decision entirely to the board. 

Additionally, the board is considering a change within the procedures for reconsideration of library materials. 

Mesaros said that under the current rules, there is no mention of whether the request for reconsideration of library materials form must be an original document per complaint. However, the form would now have to be an original document under the new rules being considered. The board also adds that if they deem the book appropriate, no one can complain about the same title for three years. 

Another rule up for discussion is that a resident must have a valid library card for 60 days before they can fill out a complaint form. 

“With these newly proposed policies and procedures, it’s as if the library board is working to eliminate community input almost entirely. They are also eliminating our options to appeal their authoritarian decisions,” said Mesaros. “The dictatorship behavior exhibited by the library board is as if they are a private institution versus taxpayer-funded and a government institution that answers to the people. They want us voiceless and unable to oppose their processes, which are adapted by the ALA [American Library Association].”

Mesaros says that the local citizen’s next mission should be to replace the city council members who have refused to listen to the concerns of its residents. 

“Our next mission is replacing the city council because the city council is above this [library advisory] board. It also appoints this board. And so we need the right city council members in to be appointing the right people to this board to vote the right things through and to do the right thing or to use their supreme authority in modifying what hasn’t been done right,” said Mesaros. “I think that we have to do our due diligence in holding the city council accountable as this process unfolds. The City Council is appointing the wrong people for the library board and then turning a blind eye to the way that those appointed are running the library, saying that it’s not their job and not their problems.”

Texas Scorecard contacted the New Braunfels Library Director, Gretchen Pruett, but did not receive a response before publication. 

Emily Medeiros

Emily graduated from the University of Oklahoma majoring in Journalism. She is excited to use her research and writing skills to report on important issues around Texas.