The Ozark Dale County Library pulled all young adult LGBTQ+ books from the shelves to review them after a complaint from Ozark Mayor Mark Blankenship. The books have been returned to the shelves, but the library is now planning a community meeting to hear from the public and discuss what actions will be taken in the future.
Blankenship posted on Facebook, “We have been trying to remove this trash from the kids section of our library for several months. We have been told several times it would be removed. It never happens, and the library receives three or four more books per month. I know most of you are too busy to attend this meeting, but you can contact your city council or county commission members and encourage them to cut their funding to the Dale County Library. If we cut the funding they will be closed and our children will not be exposed to this mess. It’s time the majority of the people stand up and address this liberal mess in Alabama. Thank you Mayor Blankenship.”
A quick search for LGBTQ+ books on the Ozark Library’s website shows two options in the juvenile section, more than 60 options in the young adult section, which is for ages 12 to 18, and seven options in the adult section.
Some books in the young adult section address issues facing teens who consider themselves “non-binary,” a term for those who do not consider themselves boy or girl.
“Two Boys Kissing” is a book based on a story about two gay teens who go on a kissing marathon to break the Guinness World Record. The two face issues such as “falling deeper into the digital rabbit hole of gay hookup sites” and “navigating gender identity.”
Some books also address anxiety and depression issues the teens face. Others are based on transgender and gay characters. There are 36 Christian books in the young adult section.
After receiving negative feedback on his position, Blankenship returned to Facebook and posted, “Not so complicated. Last night’s post is for Gay people and Straight people. Children should not be exposed to sexualized books of ANY genre in the public library. Live, love but do not push on children. Let them be little.”
The mayor has not returned a phone call from 1819 News.
Dale County commissioner Adam Enfinger said the controversy is over which books should be readily available to children, not banning books.
“This is not a move to ban or burn any books,” Enfinger said in a statement to 1819 News. “This is a request to move the books out of the 12 year old+ section in order to preserve the rights of parents to have a say in what their children are exposed to. Books that include depictions or references to sexual acts or behavior, heterosexual or homosexual, should not be in a section of the library designated for 12 year old children to read. They should be moved to the adult section.”
Council president Brenda Simechak released a statement supporting the library.
“I will not be seeking to nor will I ever vote to defund our Ozark-Dale County Public Library,” Simechak said. “The government has no business censoring content in a public library. A library’s purpose for existence is to provide access to information to all of its patrons. When the government deprives someone the right to receive information and ideas, they are practicing censorship. The government can’t argue freedom of speech, but then dictate content. The government does not get to forcefully impose personal beliefs on individuals.”
Simechak went on to say she visited the library herself, and she believes the content is age-appropriate.
“I will not literally judge a book by its cover,” she continued. “What I will do is support our public library. Our library is run and cared for by a small staff and dedicated volunteers, and those people serve our community. These people do not deserve this stress. I got a replacement library card for my old one and I became a friend of the library today, and I ask you to do the same. Become a friend of the library.”
The library’s board of trustees has called a special public meeting for Wednesday, August 30, at 10 a.m. The meeting will be streamed live on Facebook.
The library has set up a link for citizens to submit public comments and will read them during the meeting for those unable to attend. Comments are limited to three minutes.
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