FOLEY — The City of Foley responded to a call to action from a concerned citizen asking for a closer look at what is offered to children and young adults in the Foley Library.
Stephanie Williams said some library books were sexually suggestive and inappropriate for children and teens. Williams spoke to a librarian who told her children under 12 had to be accompanied by adults.
Williams followed up with a letter to the city asking for change. She suggested giving book ratings similar to the movie industry so parents would be aware of what their children were reading.
“Please take a closer look at what is offered to youth at the Foley Library,” Williams stated in the letter. “More concerned residents will demand accountability and decency. More organizations are reviewing the placement of these questionable materials. Attorney General Marshall is reviewing the legal issues. You have the opportunity to lead the way back to making the community library a safe place of childhood dreams and adventures. Take it.”
Library director John Jackson told 1819 News his concern is the constitutional rights of the library's visitors. He also said he believes the offerings in the Foley Library reflect people in the diverse community.
“The most common opposition to restricting access by minors (persons less than 18 years, or the age of majority) to sexually explicit material is that it violates their First Amendment or free speech rights,” Williams responded in the letter. “While this may withstand challenge as to adults, it is a specious argument on its face as to minors who are treated differently under the law. They do not possess the same rights and privileges afforded to adults. Minors, or children, cannot purchase or consume in public alcohol or cigarettes; they cannot operate a motor vehicle subject to local/state age restrictions; they cannot execute contracts or own certain classes of property or be sued; they cannot vote; they cannot consent to most medical treatment; they are treated differently in criminal matters.”
The City responded with a letter pointing out a policy requiring children 15 and younger to be accompanied by an adult to check out a book.
“The City of Foley and the Foley Public Library recognize the concerns that parents and other members of the public have about the intellectual growth of their children,” the letter read. “This includes concerns about the material being read by children and about the free access to information guaranteed to Americans. Some parents may want their children to have access to some of these books and others may not. It is the parent’s prerogative and duty to decide what material is suitable for their children at any given stage in their lives.”
The letter also stated that a policy of the Baldwin County Library Cooperative is to offer books with a variety of views.
“The City of Foley leadership wants to ensure the Foley Public Library is a safe place that provides information to all members of its diverse community,” the letter stated. “We do this by taking steps to continually empower all families to uphold their beliefs for their children.”
The policy also states, “The presence of material in the library must not be construed as a personal endorsement of their contents by any member of the staff, the Library Board, or the County Commission.”
Mayor Ralph Hellmich said the City is evaluating policies.
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