The entire Shelby County delegation is backing a bill allowing the delegation to appoint the North Shelby County Library Board members after the 2023 drama surrounding a "pride" children's display.
House Bill 89 (HB89), sponsored by State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs), would amend the current local code to change the election of the North Shelby County Library Board, allowing specific state lawmakers to elect members.
Currently, the board is unique among similar bodies in the state. Most library boards are appointed by either the city council, county commission or a combination of both. Shelby County Library Board members are elected by the public. They are supposed to appear on a ballot. However, State Rep. Susan DuBose (R-Hoover) told 1819 News the elections are always uncontested, meaning members essentially serve on the board in perpetuity. DuBose said there has not been an election since 1998.
"We hope the selection of library board members every four years by the legislative delegation will actually give more residents in the district an opportunity to serve," DuBose said. "We also are expanding the expertise of the board by requiring one member to have a business located within the library district. For many years the business community within the library district has felt underrepresented. We realize the importance of selecting a board that will work with Shelby County officials, Commission, residents and business owners to properly oversee the collection of required district library dues."
HB89 would allow board positions to be elected by the members of the Shelby County legislative delegation representing the geographic area of the library district, which means only the State Senators and State Representatives in the district containing the library. It also mandates that one board member be a commercial property owner in the district.
The appointing members are Dubose and Mooney, along with State Rep. Jim Carns (R-Vestavia Hills) and State Sens. Dan Roberts (R-Mountain Brook) and Jabo Waggoner (R-Vestavia Hills).
The Shelby County Library was one of the first to start the statewide discussion on sexually explicit and LGBTQ+-promoting material meant for children.
In June 2023, the North Shelby Library Board voted to keep its "pride" display in its children's area as a large crowd gathered to speak for and against the display at its meeting. Multiple state lawmakers were in attendance opposing the display, including DuBose.
The display was in the room designated for the library's children's books and behind the help desk. It featured several supposed children's books about gay and transgender people, including "Calvin," which is about a female child who begins to identify as a male.
Kay Kelley, the president of the board at the time, said the display did not violate library policy and that to remove the display, the library would have to change its policy around censorship.
Nevertheless, those against the display argued that the library did not have to ban or remove the books altogether. Instead, it could simply move the books from the children's section, just as other books aren't included in the children's section.
In July 2023, the board placed a restriction on public comments, limiting speakers to two minutes at regular board meetings. Only residents who have paid library district assessments in full can speak, but other residents may leave written comments. Speakers must also notify the Library Services director four days in advance.
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