SALINE COUNTY, Ark. – A billboard in Saline County is striking a nerve for some in town, and even across the state.
Those who support the sign that reads ‘Stop X-Rated Library Books’ say it is all in the name of protecting children, while those opposed say it is a political attack.
The drama surrounding the library started to heat up when the Saline County Quorum Court passed a resolution a few weeks ago that will allow certain books to be moved in the library if they are found too inappropriate for children.
Mary Lewis with Saline County Republican Women said now the goal of Saline County Republicans and Saline County Republican Women is to inform everyone coming into town what is going on in the county library.
“Our children do not need to be groomed,” Lewis said. “Our children do not need to see things that they are not allowed to see at movie theatres.”
The sign advertises a website, SalineLibrary.com, that lists several books considered inappropriate by the Republican groups. Lewis said those books are either sexually explicit or have messages that are not age-appropriate for kids.
“It is not about different orientations or things like that,” Lewis stated. “It is really about protecting our children from any kind of sex act.”
Patty Hector is the director of the Saline County Library and has been outspoken about her frustrations since day one of the battle with the library.
It is so maddening,” Hector said. “We have an award-winning library and all we deal with is hate…and FOIAs.”
Hector said books that come into the library are approved by a board and are there for educational purposes, sometimes even used by therapists for children who have experienced trauma.
“There is nothing wrong with those books, we buy books for everyone in this community, and every child should be heard and seen and supported and not marginalized because they are not white or straight or Christian,” Hector said.
The fight is striking a nerve with some in northeast Arkansas, like Dean MacDonald, as well.
Dean, along with others, have helped raise more than $3,500 to put another billboard up in Saline County that fights back against the current one.
MacDonald said based on his experiences in Jonesboro with the county library there, he is concerned about what he is seeing in Saline County.
“Over here in Jonesboro, we had our library defunded,” MacDonald said. “Our library’s budget was cut in half.”
Saline County Republicans have maintained that their intention has never been to defund the library, rather to move certain books out of arms reach of kids if they are found to not be age appropriate.
Still, MacDonald said a billboard to balance out the messaging is in the works. While the message is in the works, the theme is clear.
“How they can support the library, and how they can push back,” MacDonald said.