SALINE COUNTY, Ark. – The Saline County Library is responding to the controversial resolution that passed Monday night in the Saline County Quorum Court meeting.
The resolution addresses books in the library said to be too ‘obscene’ for children because of sexual content or imagery. It calls on the library to ensure that “materials contained within the children’s section of the library are subject matter and age appropriate.”
Saline County Library Director Patty Hector said the decision represents much more than a potential relocation of books.
Hector, along with others concerned, said this feels like an attack on the library for allowing books to be loaned that do not align with a certain political agenda. Those against the resolution pointed to books that deal with race or LGBTQ+ matters as examples.
Despite criticism, supporters of the new resolution like Mary Lewis maintain that this is to protect kids from pornographic content or books kids are simply too young to process.
“Any explicit material, anything that would be in a rated R movie,” Lewis said. “They [minors] should not have access to this.”
Those concerned about the resolution also said they fear this is the first of many attacks on the local library.
“This is a step,” Monica Davidson, who opposed the resolution, said. “There are a lot of ways this can go, and we have seen the way the way it can go in Craighead County where a library is not funded.”
Lewis said there is a lot of misinformation about the resolution and the intent behind everyone supporting it.
“We are not trying to defund our libraries,” Lewis said. “We love our libraries, we enjoy our libraries, and they do add a lot to our community.”
Lewis said she, too, feels that those on the other side of the issue could have an agenda.
“The librarians, they love their books, and they want that information in there, but, unfortunately, sometimes our kids are not equipped to deal with that,” Lewis said. “And sometimes people do have their own agenda.”
Hector argued that the library has a specific process books go through for review and approval before even being put on the shelves. She said books found controversial always have educational purposes.
“As Arkansas has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy, a book on sex education is appropriate for a library to have,” she said. “We have counselors and teachers use those books when a child has been molested or has suffered some trauma. It is a way for a parent or counselor to speak to them in an age-appropriate way.”
The quorum court’s decision Monday night comes just weeks after a bill in the legislative session passed, now known as Act 372. It amends the state code for endangering the welfare of a minor to include sexual material, and it removes the protection for library employees.
Bill sponsor Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Jonesboro) said it will create a specific process for parents to keep books they think could be harmful out of their kid’s reach.
“You go to the librarian, you go to the library board, and now you can go to the quorum court,” Sullivan said. “Only a local prosecutor can determine if its obscene and take it to court.”