FAIRHOPE — A large crowd turned out Monday for the Fairhope Public Library's monthly board meeting. Most of those in attendance were there to support the library amid controversy over books some say are inappropriate for children and teens. However, one mom from Prattville traveled three hours to warn library patrons not to bend when it comes to moving sexually explicit materials from the children's and teen sections.

Angie Hayden, a founding member of Read Freely Alabama, said there is more than meets the eye for those complaining about content.

"Read Freely Alabama was born out of the realization that representation, of not only LGBTQ people like my daughter, was on the line, the racial diversity was being rejected well," said Hayden.

Hayden said the ongoing fight is a waste of taxpayer dollars due to legal actions being taken, and she said that, in the end, it will all be fruitless.

"Despite Clean Up Alabama and Moms for Liberty being in the minority of my community, they have loudly threatened and bullied their way into taking over our library board," Hayden said. "A dedicated librarian, Andrew Foster and many of his staff were unceremoniously fired, and Prattville is now embroiled in at least one lawsuit so far."

SEE ALSO: Sexually explicit book removed from Prattville library after child on field trip was 'severely disturbed' by its content

Hayden called those who want to move inappropriate material from the children and teen sections "extremists" and suggested there should be no compromise because there is a conspiracy at hand.

"They are desperately trying to get a foot in the door, and once they do they will shove their way all the way in," Hayden said. "You must not let them, because this is not about books."

Despite some saying the books are "therapeutic" and that parents should watch what their kids read, several people said they want challenged books to be moved so children do not unknowingly encounter them. They say there is nothing therapeutic about what they have seen.

"The general consensus is not to combine trauma on top of trauma," said Madison Auer, a volunteer for The Little Tree Project, an anti-human trafficking organization. "That's something you need to go through without seeing someone else's trauma because those experiences are extremely traumatic and so very sad, especially when they happen to children."

"I don't think showing them pornography, which acts just like a drug, like tobacco does in your brain, is really the solution to helping them in that circumstance," she continued. "It's definitely not one of the tactics I've learned in my trainings for that … I'm just on the side of protecting children at all costs above protecting what adults want to write."

Auer said just before the meeting, she went into the children's section of the library and found books that contained pictures of genitals.

Local pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Walker said making changes would be against her rights as a U.S. citizen.

Dr Jennifer Walker speaks at Fairhope Public Library meeting Photo Erica Thomas Alabama News
Dr. Jennifer Walker speaks at Fairhope Public Library meeting. Photo: Erica Thomas

"It would be government infringement on my rights as a parent for other people to try to censor what my children can read," said Walker. "There is a reason that free speech is the First Amendment on the Bill of Rights, because it helps protect us from government overreach, trying to control what we can say and read."

Doug Greengard said that while there are differences of opinion, he believes there is a solution.

Doug Greengard speaks at Fairhope Public Library Board meeting Photo Erica Thomas Alabama News
Doug Greengard speaks at Fairhope Public Library Board meeting. Photo: Erica Thomas

"We live in a complex world and finding solutions and answers to some of these things is a challenge," Greengard said. "I would wholeheartedly agree but I know what pornography looks like and if someone says that there is not pornography available to children in that library, I can walk with you right now and show it to you very graphically."

"I'm not here to provide a solution to these complexities that we talk about," he continued. "I would not want my children to have access to some of these books that are in the library that use the F word over a hundred times that describe, in great detail, sex taking place between people, children, teachers having sex with students. I don't believe that's therapeutic."

After a discussion with Fairhope Mayor Sherry Sullivan, the board passed amendments to policies and procedures and added a policy on programming.

Library Board of Trustees chairman Anne Johnson read from the proposed changes.

"Library staff understand the needs of the youth they serve," Johnson read. "They are knowledgeable of their interests and their skills in creating rapport with youth of varied abilities."

To give the library staff more control over events, the policy will now be that only library staff will host events to ensure age-appropriate activities. The change will include storytimes and other events, except for holidays and special occasions, such as Read Across America Day.

Other policy changes included "tweaks" under the vulnerable child section and parental responsibilities and in the meeting room section. Those changes were not specified in the meeting.

Johnson also reminded board members they still have until the end of the month to contact lawmakers about several bills being considered in the legislature that would impact libraries.

To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email erica.thomas@1819news.com.

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