UPDATE: Library Ideas Wins Appeal; iVOX Returned to Google Play Store

After Google pulled the interactive reading app from its store because of the inclusion of Dawn McMillan's I Need a New Butt in its collection, Library Ideas appealed and won. The iVOX app is available again in the Google Play store.

Update: On Monday, April 25, Google informed Library Ideas that the company had won its appeal and the iVOX interactive reading app was once again available in the Google Play store.

On Thursday, April 21, Library Ideas LLC, a Virginia-based publisher of books and multimedia apps, received a call from a customer who couldn’t access the iVOX app from the Google Play store. Looking into the customer issue, the company was surprised to find that the children’s interactive reading app was no longer available in the store.

But Library Ideas, LLC, CEO Brian Downing was “gobsmacked” when the company soon received an email from Google explaining that the app for children 2 to 8 years old had been removed because of the inclusion of I Need a New Butt by Dawn McMillan in its catalog of titles. According to to the email from Google, McMillan’s title was “sexual material” and "public sharing of nudity or gore." It even sent some screenshots of what it found not to be compliant with its policies, particularly those on "adult and sexually suggestive content."

 

McMillan’s book was recently in the news when Toby Price, an assistant principal at Gary Road Elementary School in Byram, MS, read the book during a Zoom read-aloud with students. Price was fired for “a lack of professionalism and impaired judgment” in reading the book that the district administration found inappropriate for its use of the words "fart" and "blew his butt apart and split it clean in two,” according to reports.

The title has been a part of iVOX's collection for about a month. After being notified of the action against its app, Library Ideas filed an appeal and is awaiting a response. SLJ contacted Google on Thursday and the company is looking into the issue, according to a spokesperson.

“We protested with Google,” said Downing. “We're going to notify all our existing customers what has happened and encouraged them to express their disapproval. … We've notified the licensor what has happened, and we are going to explore all our avenues, including legal remedies. No company is going to tell us what we can publish and what we can’t.”

One of the biggest issues for Downing and Library Ideas employee Pam Matthews is that by removing the app, Google has removed access to all of the collection’s titles, not just I Need a New Butt.

“If you don't like butts, don't read about butts. Fine, whatever,” said Matthews, who spent nearly seven years as collections manager at Cleveland Public Library before joining Library Ideas in May 2021. “But there's so much other content in there. We have a Caldecott winner in there. We have beautiful books in there. We have multilingual books that people aren't having access to. Anytime you deny access for one book—or even more books— it's a travesty, as far as I'm concerned as a librarian and as a person.”

Going through the courts can take time, but Downing says Library Ideas will not remove the book from its catalog, which means it will not be available in the Google Play store until the situation is resolved.

“Our product is available on any browser,” Downing said. “And it is available in the Apple Store.”

Despite the increase in censorship attempts across the country and the history with I Need a New Butt, Downing wasn’t expecting the title to create an issue for iVOX.

“I was absolutely shocked,” he said.  “Yes, it talks about butts, and it talks about farts. But if you want to make a four-year-old laugh, say either one of those words. It's a silly book. … God forbid, kids should find out that they have butts. Yeah, let's keep that from them.”

Matthew was appalled by the action.

“I am mad and sad—and intellectually and professionally really put out,” Matthews said. “Books like this are books that kids like. I have always, always, always been a proponent of getting kids books that they want to read. If a kid starts reading books they like, kids are going to be readers. And if kids are readers, they're going to keep reading. If they're reading, they're learning. ...

“I'll be the first to say the Butt book's not high intellectual content, but it can be the start of so much,” said Matthews, who did a quick search of “butt” on the Google app store and found other children’s titles. “It could be the difference between a kid loving to read and the kid hating to read.”

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Kara Yorio

Kara Yorio (kyorio@mediasourceinc.com, @karayorio) is news editor at School Library Journal.

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