OZARK — Members of the Ozark Dale County Library Board of Trustees plan to vote on a policy change at their next meeting to add parental consent requirements for kids to read explicit books currently in the "young adult" section of the library.
Many Dale County residents attended a board of trustees meeting Wednesday to argue for or against the policy change. The topic has been percolating in the Wiregrass town for several months but has reached a boiling point over the past week.
Ozark Mayor Mark Blankenship said on social media recently, "You can contact your city council or county commission members and encourage them to cut their funding to the Dale County Library. If we cut the funding they will be closed and our children will not be exposed to this mess. It's time the majority of the people stand up and address this liberal mess in Alabama."
Dale County Commissioner Adam Enfinger made official requests via a form Tuesday to remove two books from the young adult section of the Ozark Dale County Library. Enfinger pointed out he is not asking to ban the books but simply move them to the adult section.
The board meeting on Wednesday lasted for about four hours, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with a 20-minute break for lunch at around 11:30 after attendees started briefly shouting at each other. The meeting had about 200 attendees.
Ozark Dale County Library board meeting pic.twitter.com/Lp12cvBOhJ— Caleb Taylor (@CalebTTaylor) August 31, 2023
Mike Cairns, vice chairman of the Ozark Dale County Library Board of Trustees, said Enfinger's official requests were the first ones the library had received in its history.
"It's your responsibility as our public that if you find any offensive material in any book to fill out a form because no one ever has in the history of our library. There's a right way of doing this and a wrong way of doing this," Cairns said at the meeting.
Monica Carroll, a liaison for the board of trustees, read aloud from a section of one of the books on which a complaint was filed. The section was a graphic description of a young girl giving oral sex.
"I'm begging the community. Come help us. We have a process. That's all I have control of is the process. Come read these books. Fill out the form. Help us get this mess off our shelves," Carroll said.
Winston Jackson, a member of the Ozark City Council, said, "We all need to learn how to live with one another."
"I emphatically oppose all efforts to censor any books, materials, collections, programs, or services being offered by the Ozark Dale County Public Library. Additionally, I will never vote to defund our public library or libraries within our schools," Jackson said.
Blankenship said at the meeting he'd been told previously by library staff such books would be moved to the adult section of the library.
"Nobody said anything about forms. They said they were going to move them to the adult section. Nobody ever contacted me again," Blankenship said. "The next thing I know we've set a public hearing which we're having today and nobody had the decency to call me and tell me we were doing that. That's what sparked all this. I've read through these books. You can go look at them online. You don't have to come up here to look at them. You can pull up parts of them and read through them online. There's no way any of you will look at these books…what Monica just read to you is embarrassing that we have that where a 12-year-old kid can read that stuff. It's crazy. It doesn't have anything to do with LGBT books. That just happened to be the books the guy sent to me, but I'm telling you it is terrible when you read this stuff, and we do not need them in this library."
The board discussed beginning a new policy that would move sexually explicit books out of the library's children or young adult sections to a different area, requiring parental permission for kids to read the books. Board members said they wanted the policy to be reviewed by an attorney before being voted on at their next meeting.
To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email caleb.taylor@1819News.com.
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