Library board talks public comment policy, hears public comments on subscription controversy

T-R PHOTO BY ROBERT MAHARRY — John Worden, right, examines a copy of The Epoch Times newspaper while Ray Mitchem, left, looks on during Tuesday night’s Marshalltown Public Library Board of Trustees meeting. Both Worden and Mitchem offered words of support for the publication during the public comment period.

The Marshalltown Public Library’s Board of Trustees met for its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday night and discussed, among other items, potentially moving the public comment period to the beginning of meetings as the Marshalltown city council recently did.

MPL Director Sarah Rosenblum said she recently inquired with other libraries around the state about their public comment policies, and only North Liberty responded. She and board president Tonya Gaffney also consulted Robert’s Rules of Order, and Gaffney said it would be nice to have a more formal policy in place. Currently, the public comment period is held at the end of meetings just before adjournment.

The board did not take any official action on the item, but Rosenblum said she would work on a more formal policy and bring something back at a future meeting.

During her director’s report, Rosenblum referenced reporting about last month’s meeting in the Times-Republican and said she had received feedback from the public “all in support” of the board’s decision not to subscribe to the Epoch Times newspaper and American Rifleman magazine after John Worden of Green Mountain had requested that the library purchase subscriptions to both publications.

When the board opened the floor to public comment, Worden spoke up first and brought copies of both publications with him as an attempt to clear up “misrepresentations” that he felt were presented during the previous meeting.

“I don’t know how you can work that so that the discussion can happen in a debate sort of form, but the misrepresentation is just not good,” he said.

Responding to Rosenblum’s comment that she had conducted a deep dive into both publications, Worden said he had done deeper dives of his own as a subscriber, showing content in The Epoch Times and describing it as “packed with information.” He took issue with criticism of the paper’s science reporting, citing a report on the key ingredients in the three most popular COVID-19 vaccines and whether they were harmful.

“The paper doesn’t employ scientists. It employs journalists who gather this information, and they list all of their context and the footnotes that go with it,” he said.

As he began to discuss American Rifleman, Worden was informed that he had reached his three-minute limit. The next commenter, Ray Mitchem, also defended The Epoch Times and said he had never met Worden before but took an interest in the situation after reading about it in the T-R.

Mitchem then told the board he had read a story in The Epoch Times in which the CEO of Pfizer expressed concern about the effects of the vaccine on adolescents — specifically, the possibility of myocarditis — and related that his grandson had been hospitalized two days after he received the vaccine.

“I think we have to be careful not to put blinders on, and I think the public can choose,” Mitchem said. “The public should decide if (the newspaper) is something for them.”

Thus far, the board has not taken or considered any action to reverse the previous decision.

Elsewhere in the meeting, Rosenblum and Youth Services Coordinator Joa LaVille discussed efforts to hire and retain quality staff as pay has lagged behind places like Walmart and the Holiday Inn.


Contact Robert Maharry

at 641-753-6611 ext. 255 or rmaharry@timesrepublican.com.


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