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Fort Worth ISD schools reopen libraries after pulling more than 100 books for review; businessman proposes software to help process

Books will be reviewed to determine appropriateness based on subject and grade levels in Fort Worth schools.

FORT WORTH, Texas — School started back at campuses like Amon Carter-Riverside High School in Fort Worth on Aug. 14, but the libraries across the district stayed closed to students. Since then, the district has pulled a long list of books from the shelves -- which are now under scrutiny. 

Melida Iserm serves as the librarian at Amon Carter-Riverside. It's a job she spent years preparing for in college, including earning certificates to teach classes as well. 

"So, to become a school librarian, you have to have a Master's degree, and you have to have a certification as well. So, it's not only just going and becoming a librarian and sitting in the library. You have to go through a whole process of learning the ins and outs of being a librarian, of also being a teacher," Iserm said. "We have over 6,000 books in here."

Iserm is responsible for the thousands of books, some of which, are being scrutinized by the district. 

Read related: Interim library director shares perspective after Fort Worth ISD shuts down all libraries so 'catalogs can be inventoried'

"We go through our whole process before purchasing books. We look at reviews. We look at the titles, at the age group that we have in each school," said Iserm. 

While the district libraries have reopened, there are some books students will not have access to, for now.

Currently, there are 118 titles under review to determine if they are developmentally appropriate. They include books like, 'The Pride Guide: A Guide to Sexual and Social Health' by Jo Langford, 'The Squad, Killer Spirit' by Jennifer Barnes and 'Almost Perfect' by Brian Katcher. 

A new Texas state law says by April 2024 book vendors must provide the Teachers Education Association (TEA) a list of materials they rate sexually explicit.

Steve Wandler believes his company's software is the answer to library book controversy. He's the co-founder and CEO of Bookmarked.

"We were originated in Texas," Wandler said. "We check for the books that are coming into the library, check for books that may be explicit or whatever."

Wandler said a few Texas school districts already use Bookmarked. In those districts, the software gives input to parents on which books their kids can check out.  

"If that book is restricted by that parent, the child gets a kind of a red 'X' on the screen and they need permission to check that book out," Wandler said. "The parent will get a notification on their phone." 

The Bookmarked software, if purchased by the parent's school district, would allow the parent to approve or decline a book upon check-out for their kids. Although Bookmarked is only in a handful of school district right now, Wandler hopes more districts will look into investing. He believes Bookmarked is a win-win for both school districts and parents who want to manage what books their children can check out at their school libraries. 

For now, Fort Worth ISD will continue with its own approval process, keeping the 118 books under review and out of the hands of students until further notice. 

See the full list of books that have been pulled below: 

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