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Monday, March 23, 2015

Four Seasons and Controversy in West Bend

While driving through West Bend in search of the Museum of Wisconsin Artists I caught sight of a mural across the Milwaukee River. (The west bend of the Milwaukee River is there somewhere, hence the town's name.)

The mural depicts folks enjoying the outdoors in the four seasons. Here in southeastern Wisconsin this morning winter returned and a few inches of snow are currently falling after a week of scouring the bare ground for signs of spring.  I won't be enjoying the outdoors today, it'll be the gym for me this week again.

A web search seems to indicate that the mural might have been sponsored by the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Washington County.  Upon a closer look at the people it seems likely.

Wikipedia provided me with an interesting nugget about West Bend.

In 2009, a controversy arose after a local couple complained to the West Bend Community Memorial Library about the presence of "sexually explicit books" and "books for youth on homosexuality" in the young adult section of the library. A petition called on the library to label the identified books as explicit; to move them to the adult section of the library; to install Internet content filters on the library's computers; and to "adopt a policy to attain balance in the viewpoints of selections (both affirming and opposing) that the libraries carry in issues sufficiently controversial within the West Bend community (i.e., homosexuality). Specifically, we request faith-based and/or ex-gay books affirming traditional heterosexual perspectives be added to the library."

The West Bend Common Council refused to reappoint four library trustees whose terms were ending.  One councilman complained that the library board was stonewalling the complaint, while another asserted that the library trustees were not serving the interests of the community “with their ideology.” The council's actions were widely criticized, and local citizens unsuccessfully sought to have the vote rescinded.  After a public hearing on the petition in June 2009, the library board voted to reject any restrictions on young adults' access to books in the library.

Here's a big cheer for those who stand up against discrimination and refuse to bow to the angry voices of a specific restrictive mindset.  The public library is for the PUBLIC and for KNOWLEDGE.  If there is a book whose point of view you don't agree with, don't read it.  Open your own library with your own funds if you want one that only reflects certain "values".  Personally I live under the value that people should be free to think and believe in whatever they want as long as they are abiding by the law.  I don't believe in psychics but I don't care if you do or if one sets up their business in my town.  Freedom is for all.

I hope those Big Brothers and Big Sisters take those kids to the library and encourage them to read books that show them the world and all the different voices of its people.  Being an only child I spent a lot of time reading and at libraries growing up and I suspect my voracious reading has a lot to do with my open attitude.

Linking up to Monday Mural.


  1. Nice folk arty style. Tom the backroads Traveller

  2. You do have a sharp eye for those murals. Mural vision!! I'm with you all way on your rant. If you want your children's reading censored, do it yourself but don't impose your restrictions, of any kind, on others. Well done West Bend. I too am an only child who spent hours and hours at the local library reading everything I could get my hands on including the adult books I was not allowed to check out like "Cheaper by the Dozen", can you believe that? We had a little o' do gooder librarian who couldn't limit books like To Kill A Mockingbird so she kept them behind the desk and you had to ask for them. Glad we've come a long way from there.

  3. Nice find! Free access to books!!

  4. The murals are folk-artsy cute ... thanx for posting them. Three cheers for books, all kinds and sizes and styles of books, wordy ones, children's fare, picture books, explicit or otherwise. When I moved to a new state a while back, I knew I couldn't take ALL my books with me. Parting with books was harder than parting with the city I'd come to love. I hope books never ever go the way of the dinosaur!