FAIRHOPE — The Fairhope Library's Board of Trustees met Monday and heard from the public about concerns over books that some say contain inappropriate material. These books, they say, are in the children and teen sections of the library, and they want them moved to the adult section.
Some concerned citizens have already gone to the Fairhope City Council to ask for city leaders to ensure obscene or pornographic materials are not being made available to children and teens. The council told the citizens the issue should be taken up with the library's Board of Trustees.
The citizens asking for the books to be reviewed said despite the narrative, concerns are not about LGBT issues but about sexually explicit material. They also reminded the board they are not asking for the books to be banned but rather moved to the adult section where parents can check them out if they want their children to read them.
"I believe and my group believes in the First Amendment and we would never ban books," said Brian Dasinger of the Faith, Family and Freedom Coalition. "So, please do not misquote me. We want to move books that we feel do not meet the Miller test from the children's section to the adult section. That is all we're asking for."
The board did not make any decisions on books being reviewed but heard from people on both sides of the argument.
Trustee Randal Wright told the crowd no books in the library meet the definition of "obscenity."
U.S. courts define obscenity using a three-pronged test known as the Miller test. Federal law makes it illegal to distribute obscene material, which can be included in images or words. Federal law specifically makes it illegal to distribute obscene material to minors. Visual representations, including drawings, cartoons or paintings, of minors engaging in sexual activity and obscene are illegal and distributing them is a criminal offense.
Library director Tamera Dean read a list of books from the teen section that were brought into review at the Fairhope Library.
Dean said she decides where books go based on guidance from the book's publisher, where the book is in other libraries, the Library of Congress and the OCLC.
Only one speaker received cheers from both sides of the aisle during public comment. Madison Auer volunteers for The Little Tree Project, an anti-human trafficking organization. She told 1819 News that when she initially heard complaints, she wasn't sure if there was anything to worry about, so she looked for herself.
"The books I looked at, I was like, 'This really is not good," she said. "I don't necessarily blame the library. I don't think we can say it's someone's fault because there's a lot of organizations out there that recommend books. And if you don't know, you just trust those organizations and you're just going with it and you don't have any reason not to until someone brings it up."
Auer said some of the material could be harmful to children.
"I have a passion for protecting kids which is one of the reasons I got into the anti-human trafficking because there are just so many terrible things that happen to kids," Auer said. "They're so fragile and so vulnerable. They don't know that they can stand up to something until they're taught that they can. They don't know they shouldn't be looking at something until they tell them they shouldn't look at it. Once they see those images or read those words, that is burned in their minds."
Doug Greengard heard from citizens who asked the board to allow children to enjoy the content. He requested those asking for this to look at the books themselves.
"There are graphic pictures of children engaged in sexual activity," he explained. "Showing body organs, showing boys with boys, girls with girls, and everything you can possibly imagine. And to your point, 'let them enjoy the content,' I would find that to be not even questionable. I would find that to be head in the sand, ignoring the issue here. Again, we're not about banning books but I wouldn't let my 13-year-old get a subscription to Playboy or Penthouse or any other pornographic material, nor should we allow our children to have access to it."
Those who found value in the books were local pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Walker and retired United Methodist Rev. Jenny Allen.
"I've been bringing my children to the library since they were very small," said Walker. "I have never seen anything that was inappropriate in the children's section. So, I would say any parent who is worried their child is going to stumble on something, I know what my children are reading and I talk to them about it. Parents who are worried their child is going to read something they don't want should also be talking to their children about what they're reading."
"Every parent is trying to teach their child values," Allen said. "It's the hardest thing we do as human beings, is raise people. And thank God at this point I am so proud of mine, but there were times. But I am so thankful for the librarians here. Their due diligence, the way you represent the city and sanity and I don't believe it's anyone's duty to demean someone because of what they believe because each one of us chooses what we choose to believe. God even lets us choose whether we choose Him, which is really a big deal. So, thank you for serving us so beautifully."
Allen added that the fastest way to get kids to look at inappropriate material is to tell them it's there.
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