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Saline County Library board hears debate on book relocation

The Library Board votes to table a resolution to move some books to a restricted section, if ordered by a judge.
Josie Lenora
Members of the Saline County Library Board vote on Monday to table a resolution to move some books to a restricted section, if ordered by the county judge.

Officials with the Saline County Library heard debate Monday on a policy giving the county judge the authority to relocate books currently found in the teen and children section.

The Saline County Library System encompasses libraries in Bryant and Benton, just outside of Little Rock. Representatives from Saline County Republican Women and other community members spoke in favor of removing books they believe contain explicit content; in particular, graphic novels teaching sex education and books with LGBTQ characters.

Speaking in Monday's meeting, Jerry Andrew Davidson did not name a book he found offensive and instead gave a speech criticizing library employees.

“To the members of the library board concerning the obscene pornographic books directed at children, you appear at best apathetic and at worst proud and deceitful,” Davidson said.

Many of the public commenters described the books in their remarks as “obscene.” Library Director Patty Hector says no book legally deemed to be obscene would be found in the Saline County Library.

Former library employee Jordan Reynolds said she community in her fellow employees during her tenure. She held up the sexual education book “It's Perfectly Normal.”

“What about the ten-year-old boy who has close-minded parents? He is discovering his sexuality and has a crush on his best friend, a boy. He feels alone sinful, and unloved," she said.

Reynolds says these “controversial” books can make racial and sexual minorities “feel less alone.”

Librarian Jordan Sandlin said she wanted to work in the profession from a young age. In her comments, she talked about the harassment she is receiving for doing her job.

“I want us to think about how librarians and the other people that work here are doing their best,” she said. “And we are people, and the last thing I expected when I dreamed of being a librarian, was being screamed at and called a pedophile or a groomer.”

Anne Gardner spoke in favor of the resolution. She was concerned about a book called: “Sex is a funny word,” which she came across while browsing the library with her granddaughter. She was upset the book contained the words “vulva” and “penis.” She said she wants the book “moved to a special section of the library not open for all.”

“On page 151, this book introduces words in big letters: lesbian, gay, bisexual, asexual, homosexual. If someone wants to view this material over the age of 18, let them if you must. But don't leave it out like it’s something special. It's not."

The Library Board voted to table the resolution until the next meeting. They did pass a resolution requiring those who decide to challenge a book to read the whole book.

Josie Lenora is the Politics/Government Reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.