- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 6, 2005

DENVER — Robert Copley and his 12-year-old daughter were browsing through the local library’s Spanish-language collection recently when she pulled out what looked like a comic book.

It was, but it wasn’t exactly “Spider-Man.” It was a “fotonovela,” a Spanish-language adult paperback that included cartoons depicting sexual assaults, beatings, topless women, and ads for phone-sex and escort services on the back cover.

What’s more, there were thousands of them — not just at the Hadley branch where Mr. Copley saw the first graphic comic, but at 12 of the Denver Public Library’s branches.

“I was taken aback,” Mr. Copley said. “It wasn’t like they were in the adult collection — they’re just in the Spanish-language books where anyone can pull them off the shelf.”

The discovery of the pornographic paperbacks has fueled another round of attacks against the library, which is already under fire for its proposal to replace English books with Spanish ones at seven of its branches.

Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper last week asked the Library Commission to conduct an expedited investigation into the library’s decision to order the novellas. And critics noted that the novella purchases came at the same time library officials reduced branch hours in response to budget cuts.

“Given the limited nature of the library’s resources, these items are troubling, and we can only assume that they were purchased in error,” Mr. Hickenlooper said.

Head librarian Rick Ashton told Denver radio station KHOW-AM that the novellas may have been bought in bulk along with other items, and thus slipped through the system. Although he had not seen the materials, “they are probably not within our policies,” Mr. Ashton said.

The novellas gave fresh ammunition to those who have accused the library of catering to illegal aliens by planning to revamp seven of its branches to “Language and Learning” libraries with a Spanish focus.

Library officials have argued that the shift to Spanish is needed to accommodate Denver’s growing Hispanic population, which now accounts for 34 percent of the city’s population. But critics say the novellas are aimed at relatively uneducated illegal aliens, who may be attracted to comic books because of their poor reading skills.

“This is really lowbrow stuff,” said Fred Elbel, director of the Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform.

Library officials also have denied that the conversion from English to Spanish is already in the works, saying they would wait until they receive an advisory committee report and the blessing of the Library Commission.

But Mr. Elbel said a review of the “Language and Learning” branches shows that about half of their collections already have been converted from English to Spanish.

His organization plans to call for Mr. Ashton’s resignation at a press conference tomorrow at the Central Library.

“He’s the director of the library and is thus responsible for bringing in this pornographic material,” Mr. Elbel said. “He’s also responsible for the clandestine replacement of English for Spanish books without any direct public involvement or approval.”

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