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Banned In Iowa
DES MOINES, Iowa, July 23, 2002

In her book, teen advice columnist Sari Locker tackles such questions as: How do I tell my parents I got a tattoo? Should I get together with someone I met online? Can I get birth control without my parents' permission?

Her answers won't be available to teens in the library in the small eastern Iowa town of Dyersville, where trustees of the James Kennedy Public Library voted to ban Locker's book from its shelves.

Some of the contents of the book "Sari Says: The Real Dirt on Everything from Sex to School," were too sexually explicit, said Wayne Hermsen, library board chairman.

Hermsen said it's the first time a book has been banned at the library in Dyersville, a town of 4,000 some 20 miles west of Dubuque that is the site of the 1989 blockbuster movie "Field of Dreams" and home to the National Farm Toy Museum.

In the book, "Teen People" online columnist Locker fields questions from teens on issues ranging from fashion and peer pressure to how to talk about sex with parents and alternatives to intercourse.

"As a teen educator, I know that when a teen asks me a question about sex, they need an honest, accurate answer because otherwise they're going to be getting information from sources that are not positive-value based or encouraging sexual health," Locker, 32, said Monday.

Trustee Betty Anne Scherrman leafed through the book after it arrived at the library and asked director Shirley Vonderhaar not to put it on the shelves. That request was denied.

Scherrman then brought it up at a June library board meeting. The board voted 7 to 0 to ban the book, with two abstentions. A second vote July 10 made the decision unanimous.

Messages left with two board members weren't returned Monday. A third, Frank Mousel, said he'd read it but couldn't comment.

At least two other public libraries in Iowa - Burlington and West Des Moines - carry the book.

Maurice J. Freedman, president of the American Library Association, said two books were challenged in Iowa this year: Maya Angelou's "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" and Alvin Schwartz's "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" series.

According to the association, the most banned books from 1990 and 2000 across the nation included the "The Chocolate War" by Robert Cormier, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain and the "Harry Potter" series by J.K. Rowling.

The library association named Locker's book one of its 34 nonfiction "Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers 2002." Books on the list are meant to get the attention of teenagers who are not avid readers, Freedman said.

"My colleagues in the young adult library services association certainly would recommend it for library young adult collections. That's the point of it being on that list. That's a high recommendation," he said.

Other books on the 2002 list include, "The Greatest: Muhammed Ali," "Game Face: What Does a Female Athlete Look Like?," "Hip Hop Divas" and "MTV Uncensored."

By Miranda Leitsinger
MMII The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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