FAIRHOPE — The Fairhope City Council heard from a room full of concerned citizens Monday about sexually explicit books in the teen section of the Fairhope Public Library. Some of the citizens addressing the council wanted books to be reconsidered, while most of those in attendance were speaking to support all books remaining on the shelves.
Brian Dasinger of the Faith, Family, Freedom Coalition of Baldwin County submitted a request for reconsideration of materials to the library.
"We have found several books shelved at the Fairhope Public Library in the youth/teen section that we feel are inappropriate to market to minors," the complaint reads in part. "Children under the age of 18 are still in a stage of developing their minds and these books seem to have little if no redeeming benefits. We fear that the impact of these books to young adults and juveniles may result in mental health issues and the unnecessary loss of innocence."
Books Dasinger said were available in the library include "Lawn Boy," "Lucky," "Sold," "Oryx and Crake," "Speak" and "Tricks." Those who oppose the books being available to children and teens say they are concerned about language, explicit sexual material including rape and detailed descriptions of rape and sex trafficking of children, details of molestation and profanity. Those concerns are recorded at BookLooks.org.
Dasinger said he is not trying to ban books but wants the ones considered inappropriate to be sequestered to the adult sections so that parents have the ability to check them out for their children.
"We do not believe in banning these books as they are protected by the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution," the complaint continued.
The Fairhope Public Library director has not responded to a media inquiry.
Dasinger addressed the council on Monday. While he spoke, saying some of the books were pornographic in nature, those in opposition moaned, whispered and giggled.
Dasinger also said his group has concerns about the teen librarian, who he said has shared her support on Facebook for masking, Black Lives Matter and other social topics.
"Her views do not represent the ideals of the majority of Fairhope residents," Dasinger said.
However, some residents said they were offended by the comment about masking and said the librarian's choices do not harm anyone else. Supporters of the librarian said Dasinger should have never used her name.
Dasinger asked the city to "clean up" the library and consider replacing the teen librarian.
Anne Johnson, the Library Board of Trustees chair, said she feels there has been a coordinated attack on the library due to the number of requests to review books. She said removing books is a form of censorship and said the board is unanimous in their support of allowing books for all citizens.
"No one person or group has the right to dictate what books and information people have access to," she said to the council.
Johnson continued by saying some of the books offered can help teens struggling with issues they may not understand.
Concerns among those who support the books staying on the shelves told 1819 News their concern is, "Where will it stop?" They want the librarians to make decisions on which books are offered. They also said one parent with a concern about a book shouldn't be able to make a decision for everyone else.
Dev Wakeley said he believes the argument brought to the council is the first step to book banning.
"What we heard people say tonight is that these books have no redeeming value and that they have no place in the public sphere," Wakeley told 1819 News. "They called some of the books obscene and that's different than saying, 'We don't want this book available specifically for children. Those things are what people start off with when they are trying to lay down a foundation for restriction speech."
Wakeley said he believes it is the parent's responsibility to protect their children from material they deem inappropriate.
"At the fundamental level, it's the parental responsibility to guide your children in the things they should consume," he added.
However, when read an excerpt from the book "Lucky," he said he would not want his child reading that book.
"Are you asking if I would allow my children to read that? No ... I wouldn't allow my kids to read that," Wakeley said. "... If you're asking me if I support content-based restriction without actually reading material, I of course cannot get behind that."
Resident Charles Wilson said an employee of the library spread falsehoods about why those who wanted the books moved to the adult section were there. He said no one wants to ban books and told the crowd they would not want their children to read some of the publications he has seen. As he left the podium, a man yelled, "Book Banner!"
Amanda Dasinger read an excerpt from "Boy Toy" after reciting a content warning. During the reading, people in the opposition coughed aloud, and some left the council chamber.
The council meeting can be viewed below. Public comment came at the end of the meeting.
City Council President Jay Robinson said the issue has nothing to do with the City Council, and he hopes those with concerns go to the library board of directors.
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