Ann Lhota said she’s been waiting on Alachua County’s libraries to purchase a book for 40 days.
In mid-August, Lhota, a Newberry resident, requested that the Alachua County Library District purchase “Clinton Cash: A Graphic Novel.”
The graphic novel — which sits at No. 6 on the New York Times best-seller list for hard-cover graphic books — is a story about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton that suggests she has used her governmental power to achieve personal gain.
It’s inspired by the book “Clinton Cash,” and because of the upcoming presidential election, Lhota stressed the importance of the related graphic novel’s content.
But soon after she made the request, it was denied by members of the library system’s staff charged with reviewing purchase requests.
Lhota said she offered to write a check to the library to pay for the book herself, but she was still denied.
After the denial, the library district purchased “A Child’s First Book of Trump,” a satirical picture book that mocks Clinton’s Republican opponent, Donald Trump, Lhota said.
So now she said she’s angry.
“We want the people to make the decision,” Lhota said of the library’s purchases. She said she’s talked to 20 to 30 people who have also requested the graphic novel.
“If you do not permit one specific book and one specific title,” she added, “then what you’re doing is not allowing the people who pay taxes to make the decision to freely read what they want to read.”
However, Shaney Livingston, the library district’s director, said “Clinton Cash” — the book but not the graphic novel — is already available to the public.
The graphic novel specifically hasn’t been purchased because it’s a retelling of the original book, Livingston said. Alachua County’s libraries have 11 copies of the book in four different formats: print, e-audio, e-book and CD
“What we try to do is make sure that we have a balanced and fair collection,” she said of the library’s collection policy manual.
Livingston said that of the 39 titles Lhota has requested in the past two years, the library district has purchased 35.
The library system started allowing patrons to make purchase requests a few years ago, Livingston said.
“Not all libraries allow their patrons to be able to put in purchase requests,” she said.
Though public libraries are government entities funded by taxpayers, libraries aren’t obligated to buy a book in all forms, said Clay Calvert, the director of the Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project at the University of Florida. (In this instance, those forms would be a textual book and a graphic novel.)
“The big rule that would be at play here is that the public libraries would have to be viewpoint neutral when it comes to the selection of books,” he said.
A library cannot discriminate against a book because of its political viewpoint, Calvert said. However, if the content is the same in both versions, the requirement of content neutrality is most likely satisfied, he said.
Meanwhile, Lhota said she has continued to push for the book’s purchase by emailing city officials.
“It’s called freedom of speech and intellectual freedom,” she said. “We as a community want to read this book.”