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Alabama Library to Require More Parental Supervision of Kids; Limit Book Access

New policies will require new library cards, age range stickers on young adult books.

Liz Delaney, chair of the Ozark Dale County Library Board of Trustees, speaks with reporters following a board meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 20 in Ozark, Alabama. (Stew Milne/Alabama Reflector)

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OZARK– The Ozark Dale County Library Board of Trustees Wednesday approved new policies that will require more parental supervision of children in libraries but did not explicitly remove or ban any books.

The approval came in a meeting that was far less tense – and far less crowded – than a special called meeting in August that followed challenges to books with LGBTQ+ content by local officials. The new policies will require more children to be accompanied by adults and limit children’s access to certain parts of the library.

Members of the board said Wednesday the changes would reaffirm the role of the parent and protect staff from potential legal liability.

“The only defense our librarians would have when a child checks out that book a minor checks out a book that may or may not have that kind of material in it is because their parents allowed them to do so,” said Christina Faulkner, the board’s secretary.

The board Wednesday voted on changes that were discussed at the August meeting about the potential accessibility of some books to minors. The initial informal complaint to the library focused on rainbow stickers on books with LGBTQ+ content, but the library Board of Trustees had mainly focused on potentially age-inappropriate sexual content.

The changes include:

  • Raising the age of children needing to be accompanied by an adult from 10 to 13.
  • Adjusting age ranges for sections of the library and adding age range stickers to books in the young adult section, based on publisher’s recommendations.
  • Signage saying all books may not be in line with parents’ wishes and offering assistance from staff for questions and concerns. The sign will also ask parents to monitor their children.

A three-member committee will consider where a book challenged ahead of the August meeting should go.

Public speakers in attendance thanked the Board for the work the library has done over the last several weeks. 

The young adult section of the Ozark – Dale County Library Wednesday, Aug. 30 in Ozark, Alabama. (Alabama Reflector/Stew Milne)

“I think the parental control, if that’s the right word, is it, you’ve done a fabulous job,” said Jim Hill, who said at the August meeting that he wanted books monitored.“And I want to say thanks. I’m not trying to isolate any group or, it’s not about me or another person, it’s about our children or grandchildren.”

Other speakers also expressed gratitude for the library’s efforts but said they were concerned that these compromises would lead to more and more concessions.

“You’re going down a rabbit hole,” said Gene Lynn. “You’ve done nothing wrong.”

Libraries across the country and state are facing challenges to books. The Prattville City Council earlier this month narrowly rejected a contract that would have limited the local library’s autonomy amid attacks on books with LGBTQ+ themes and books with sexual themes.

At the previous meeting, Board Liason Monica Carroll read a sexually explicit passage from “The Mirror Season” by Anna-Marie McLemore. The Macmillan Publishers website says the book tells the story of a girl following a sexual assault at a party. The book was one of two formally being asked for reconsideration by County Commissioner Adam Enfinger.

Adam Kamerer, who started a Facebook group that opposed the moving of books, said that he did not think it was appropriate that two board members had shared negative views of the book at the last meeting.

“I don’t believe any member of the audience was aroused or sexually excited when that passage was read,” he said. “We were certainly moved to an emotional feeling. We were disturbed, horrified and uncomfortable.”

Michael Cairns, vice-chairman of the board, later said that the board does not have authority to overrule the appointed committee’s decision about whether the book should be moved up to the adult section.

Later in the meeting, Carroll said that she valued different opinions and said they rely on the process.

“Without the process, we don’t know how you feel,” she said. “We don’t know about the books because we do not have the staff to read them all.”

The board was not given the names of the people who will review the book but received information on their backgrounds. They are a professor, a teacher and a lawyer.

At the end of the meeting, Cairns criticized those he described as “prominent” community members for claiming that the board members do not care about children.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said.

Also at the meeting, the board discussed the farewell reception for member Imogene Mixson, who served 30 years in two stints.

“When I have been asked the question about why I would serve so long, it was an easy question to answer because I always say the same thing, and it’s a repeated response,” she said. “It is such a wonderful place that provides resources and services to all the people of Ozark and all the people of Dale County of all ages from children through all the adult ages, including senior adults, with a strong commitment to work with partners and agencies and all of the funding agencies, all the volunteers, the Friends of the Library. Much of my life has been spent in libraries and I’ve loved them those days from childhood until this day.”

The library will be closed Thursday to work on the new system.

Alabama Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Alabama Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Brian Lyman for questions: info@alabamareflector.com. Follow Alabama Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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