FOLEY — The director of the Foley Public Library says he would not remove a book deemed inappropriate by some from the children's or young adults section because he is against censorship and constitutional rights.

Director John Jackson spoke with 1819 News after a story first published Friday about specific books found in the Foley library, which have prompted questions.

Some concerned citizens checked out several books from the children's and young adult sections that contained sexually explicit content and that they felt served as indoctrination of children to accept LGBTQ lifestyles.

"Any of the material on the shelves, children over the age of 12 can have free access to that, and we saw with our own eyes today some really disgusting and sick stuff," Foley resident Stephanie Williams said. "That will only serve to further confuse children and young people. From my perspective, it's clearly indoctrination. We have a culture that's crumbling and that’/s my particular focus. For one, our society is falling apart, so is our economy. But two, our culture is taking a plunge into a cesspool, and I refuse to believe that a majority of people buy into this."

Williams and others in Foley plan to continue their fight to protect children. Meanwhile, Jackson said it was his position to preserve freedom.

"I love the country and I love the fact that we have this document [the Constitution] that gives us the freedoms that no people have ever had in the history of humankind and we have to protect it," said Jackson. "It's very precious. We can't take it for granted."

Jackson said libraries offer intellectual freedom and the right to read. He said content in the library reflects the people in the community.

"Different towns have a different makeup, socially, professionally and their library should be a reflection of that," he said. "And I think ours is a pretty good reflection of each and every person in this community. That's what we strive to do. Certainly, there are always going to be people who do not like a particular book. That's always happen and it will always happen, but you have to make sure that each and every person is heard. That's part of our democracy. They should be heard."

Foley Mayor Ralph Hellmich told 1819 News he was unaware of the concerns until it was brought to him Friday.

"I know that our folks are having a get-together on this," Hellmich said. "I am not going to go so far to say that everything in our library reflects every value in our city because obviously there are things in the library that may not. We will be looking at this. One of the things that concerns me is I don't believe censorship is good in our country, but I also believe that parents have a right to make sure that the books that their kids see are appropriate."

Those opposing the books in the children's and youth section of the Foley Library have not called for a ban on any books, but they said they believe books should be rated similarly to movies and TV shows. Jackson prefers a less overt approach to the matter.

"I think that draws more attention to them than not," Jackson responded. "The more labels you have on books, certainly you could do that, but then I think you kind of enter into the realm of censorship at that point in time and whether or not the publisher or the writer of that book would allow that sort of label to be on the book, I don't know."

The legality of the matter is being discussed nationwide and statewide. The Alabama Public Library Service (APLS) heard from advocates Thursday who asked to separate from the American Library Association (ALA) due to what they call support for "pornographic" and "obscene" children's books. The board voted to seek an opinion from the Alabama Attorney General's Office.

Jackson said the Foley Library will comply with whatever laws are put into place, but he thinks the matter will end up before Congress.

"Both sides need to come together, and like I said, I'm not on one side or the other," he added. "I have my own personal opinions, but I leave them at the door when I come in here, and I'm here to protect our First and Fourth Amendment rights, and I am here to make sure that people have access to information that they want. Some of that information for other people isn't what they want to see, but I can't condemn one person not to have the information they need to serve another person. It all has to be given equally, and that's the position that I have to take as a library director."

Furthermore, he said it is not the library's responsibility to choose what children read. Children under 12 are not allowed to be unattended in the library. Johnson said for children 12 and under, it is the parent's responsibility to protect their children from content they deem inappropriate.

"That's a parent's duty, is to watch over their children, to guide their children on a path that they would have them follow," he said. "And that's why we need parents to play a much stronger role in their children's lives than they have."

When asked if he would remove a book from the children's or young adults section if he saw inappropriate material, Johnson told 1819 News he would have the ability to remove it but would not because he believed doing so would set a dangerous precedent.

"I have the ability to take it off the shelf, but I will not take it off the shelf because I will not be self-censoring," Jackson said. "I will not fall into the trap to becoming a censor and a book-banner because once you do that, where do you stop? You then become ruled by whatever anyone comes in and says they find offensive. I'm sure that someone could find content in virtually any book on the shelf offensive based on their personal beliefs, so once you start book banning, there's no end to it."

He said it is possible for full nudity and sexual content to be available in the young adult section, which is for those ages 12 – 18. He said those books are there because the location and sections books go in are determined by the Dewey Decimal System, not by library workers. However, library workers are the ones that decide which books are housed in the library.

The Foley Public Library is part of the Baldwin County Library Cooperative. Each library in the cooperative has access to books within the cooperative.

The librarian for each section of the library is responsible for choosing which books are housed in the library in Foley. Jackson said he chooses adult books while the children's and young adult librarians choose books for their respective sections. However, at this time, the Foley Public Library does not have a children's division librarian, so the librarian for the young adult section is currently choosing books for both young adults and children.

Anyone who finds content they believe is inappropriate for children can fill out a request at the Foley Public Library to have the book reviewed.

Hellmich said the discussion is just getting started in the "very conservative" city of Foley.

"I am aware now of some of the discussion going on, and we're going to have a better understanding of what's in the library now, and we are going to handle it in the future," he said.

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