When a child pulled "Daddy's Roommate" from a shelf in the kids' library, he began a conflict that touched on censorship, homosexuality, divorce and who chooses books for the library.
"Daddy's Roommate" uses simple terms and illustrations - showing Daddy and his roommate, Frank, eating, working and sleeping together - to tell the story of a gay, divorced father.The newspaper in this farming and Air Force community hasn't seen so many letters to the editor on one subject in recent memory.
Similar disagreement over the book has occurred this year in Roswell, N.M., and Springfield, Ore.
"In most cases, (librarians) say it's the most controversy they've had about a book in memory," said the book's publisher, Sasha Alyson of Alyson Publications in Boston.
Library director Therese Bigelow likened the Goldsboro furor to the controversy surrounding the publication of "The Joy of Sex" in 1974, which wound up behind counters in many libraries.
"People change. We could probably order a book like that now and not hear a word about it," she said.
An opponent of the book disagreed.
"It's not an issue of censorship. This is plain common sense," said Dr. Joseph Ponzi, a pediatrician who wants the book out of the children's library. "This book is fairly offensive to 98 percent of parents with kids."
It all started when one of Joe and Karen Grant's children plucked the book from the "easy reading" section of the children's library. The Grants filed a formal complaint. After a review, Bigelow moved the book to a section of the children's library dealing with juvenile social issues.
Grant said the book's seemingly simple message is deceiving and implies approval of divorce and homosexuality. And he thinks "Daddy's Roommate" really doesn't help the child of a gay father.
"I think it would probably help him accept his father more, maybe, but at the cost of denying his own emotions about the whole issue. And that might be of benefit to the father, but is it a benefit to the child?" he said.
Some say the book has no place in the library. Others want it moved to the adult section so parents, rather than children, would see it first and could decide if it's appropriate.
"I just feel very strongly that a library ought to be a safe place for children to go and visit, and you ought not have to worry about big social issues that are breached unintentionally," Ponzi said.
The issue went to the library board, which decided 7-2 last month to keep the book in the juvenile social issues area.
Delmus Bridgers, a city councilman and member of the library board, said the book is not as graphic as a lot of television.
"If that would be the worst thing we've got in this town, I'd be tickled to death," Bridgers said.